Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Li'l Rhody Runaround 2012

Yesterday was the latest installment of my favorite race of the year.  As usual, the Li'l Rhody Runaround served as my family's Thanksgiving get together.   I awoke the day of the race feeling nervous and a little foggy from the previous night's dinner.  My goal for this race was to attempt to break 50 minutes.  I wasn't really sure if this was possible as my PR (from last year) was 52:38.  I knew I would be faster than that, but how much faster could I reasonably expect?  I ran the course as a tempo run a few weeks ago in 51:40.  I ran that very hard and hoped that the excitement of the race would make me even faster. 

I arrived at the race with Greg and Jen about an hour early.  I chatted with fellow WTAC members and other familiar runners.  Greg, Muddy, and I eventually headed out for the standard Li'l Rhody warm up down Sanctuary Rd to the campground and back.  The weather was spectacular - sunny, not much wind, and the temperature pushing 50 degrees.  The trail was leaf covered but dry.  Upon returning to the parking area, I found my wife (running her 3rd Runaround) and before we knew it, we had to line up at the starting line. I tucked into the front and waited for the gun. 

I attempted to not go out too fast at the start.   I was still running closer to the front than ever before, but the pace seemed controlled, and I was surrounded by the people I expected to be near.  I could see Greg side by side an unknown runner up front and there were just a few runners behind them and ahead of me.  As we moved along Sanctuary Road, Tom Gruczka passed me (last year's #3 but he said he wasn't in great running shape this year) and I believe Jeff came up along side of me.  Just as we were about to hit the Kimball single track I surged ahead of them to see how everyone was feeling on the trails.  Apparently everyone was doing just fine as they stuck right to me.  As we emerged from the woods and entered the campground, Tom went ahead of me again, but I kept him close.  I knew Jeff was on my heels and Muddy was lurking as well.  I was already questioning my speed at this point - I didn't feel fast and I had a lot more to go.  We entered the woods again and I maintained my position a second behind Tom, but now I had someone itching to pass behind me.  I kept waiting for a pass and I even thought about moving to the side, but decided to stay on my line and let nature run its course.  Just after the GPS 2 mile mark I was passed by Muddy (I thought I recognized his breathing).  Just like in years past, I initially wanted to stick with him, but I would have to work too hard, and he looked really smooth.  He made another move around Tom before the technical rock gardens and bridges.  I didn't mind being behind Tom watching his crazy jumps and maneuvers through these sections.  Impressive stuff, but this was a race, and when he slowed just a bit on the first little climb after Klondike, I decided to surge up the hill and go for the pass.  My move worked well and I surged again on the next climb and really put some distance between us.  I could see Muddy up ahead and a couple of other guys.  I had a few daring jumps and one pommel horse move of my own through this stretch of trail leading to Buckeye Brook Road.  These diversions kept me smiling and on my toes rather than focusing on how much I was hurting.  At the road, I could see Muddy and the others again, and I was happy that Tom and Jeff weren't that close behind me.  As I re-entered the woods, I listened for cheering behind me to see how far back they might be.  Soon I was passing Glenn and Gina watching from the ledges above the trail.  I tried to work harder as they encouraged me on.  I felt a little sloppy through this technical section, and my feet were slipping on the leaves.  I ran up the rocks and then noticed someone was gaining on me.  It was Jeff!  This is the area of trails that he typically slows down on, so I was panicked he was either feeling much better than me or I was really slowing down.  I didn't like the feeling of being chased.  I motored up the long hill.  I temporarily forgot about Jeff when I got a glimpse of someone new ahead of me.  I was bummed when I saw this person open it back up once on the other side, and my fear of Jeff again was my main focus.  I pushed on through the technical single track.  I felt like I made good work of the rock gardens, but was slipping a lot on leaves.  My steps felt inefficient.  I tried to run the uphill section to the road hard, hoping to separate from Jeff.  I hit the road and just let my body go as fast as it liked.  I didn't push it at first.  This is where track workouts make a difference.  My pace was good and controlled.  As I pushed the uphill section I could see that I had a comfortable lead on Jeff now.  I was actually gaining on the group ahead of me, but there wasn't enough race left to catch them.  I began sprinting the downhill and as I entered the picnic area, Greg and Glenn were screaming at me to run harder.  I knew this was a sign that I was very close to my goal time (I never looked at my watch the entire race) so I dug down and sprinted faster than anytime in recent memory.  I could hear my mom and kids cheer for me as I rounded the last curve and saw the clock turn to 50:00.  I crossed the line in 50:04, feeling great about my run.  Two and a half minutes faster than last year! 

I watched and chatted with everyone as they finished their races.  My wife looked good finishing 5 minutes faster than last year.  We walked down to registration to get some refreshments/warm up near the fire.  What a great event.  Thanks WTAC!! 


Below was the data from my GPS watch.  The splits in the woods are off (high), but I was happy to see my first mile (on gravel road) was not too fast and that the last section of road I ran at 5:20 pace. 

Mile 1 -29ft  
Mile 2 -22ft  
Mile 3 29ft  
Mile 4 -10ft  
Mile 5 -1ft  
Mile 6 33ft  
Mile 7 30ft  
0.71 mi -47ft  


  1. Awesome write up! That was fun out there. I love your comments about "fear" because I felt the same way the ENTIRE race.

    Looking forward to crushing souls at Christmas 10K with you guys in a few weeks!!

  2. Great report. I'm glad you did so well - all your preparation and hard work has paid off!

    Looks like my foot troubles are probably ligament related so as long as I stick to roads I should be fine to keep running. Maybe I'll see you at the Newport 10k...

  3. I love your write-up, Jonny! Fantastic race out there. I hope me "chasing" you in some small way contributed to your awesome finish time. You killed that last mile!

  4. Hammett domination at Lil Rhody!! No surprise. Great race Jonny!