I’ve done races in Virginia Beach, Myrtle Beach, Raleigh, Jacksonville, and even nearby Morehead City. But this is the first one I’ve done in my hometown. So for me, it felt like a homecoming. It was a chance to mingle and visit with a lot of local runners and friends I’ve met over recent months. And it was an opportunity for my family to come out and join in the fun. I won’t say my mother’s age in a public blog, but suffice it to be mentioned that bragging rights are important tokens of respect within her quilting circles.
So this 10K was important to me. It was important to me to perform well, at least, well for me. I was still trying to contain my ego after astounding myself at the Dismal Swamp Stomp in April. I had been trying to prepare myself mentally and physically for this event. But I was worried. The streets in Beaufort have been a mess. A sewer project has dug up nearly every street in town.
And it was hot. Hot is one of the characteristics of the Beaufort Road Race. Some races have hills. Beaufort has hot. If fact, ironically, hot is one of the things that makes the Beaufort Road Race popular. There are not many other races this time of year. Runners that want to race come great distances to this little coastal town to run through its historic streets.
Hot and I don’t get along. I don’t sweat. I can overheat if I’m working out in the full sun on a 78 degree day. I had been training in the early mornings and late evenings to try to avoid the heat. Usually, though, I couldn’t go farther than about two miles before the heat started zapping my strength. I could start out at a good pace, but my speed would taper down until I was crawling along. The weekend before the race, I had somewhat of a breakthrough, however. For the first time this summer, I used ice packs while I trained to keep me from overheating. It worked so well, I was able to get in over 25 miles one morning. There was no question that I would need the ice packs for the Beaufort Road Race.
The other factor that worried me was my general energy level. During the Dismal Swamp Stomp I had plenty of energy. During my previous two 10Ks, my energy level was somewhat off. Although the Jacksonville 10K was a PR for me, I was somewhat weak at the start and feel like I could have done much better if I had just had more energy at the outset. I’m still sticking with my theory that I need to time my fuel intake to be about 15-30 minutes before the start of the race. Longer than that and the energy isn’t there at the start.
On Friday, I picked up my T-shirt and bib number. I checked in with the timer to make sure he had my personal timing chip number in his database. My teammate and I took one last opportunity to recon the course. Beaufort has been digging up their streets for sewer repairs. I was glad to see that most of the spots that had previously been dug up were now paved. I was disappointed to see that a new repair had Ann Street dug up. I felt like it probably wasn’t a problem unless I got tied up in a throng of runners and couldn’t maneuver around it.
I got to bed early Friday night and up early on race day. We had even recon’ed a parking spot the night before. We parked at the courthouse in a spot that would be in the shade of an old live oak during the heat of the morning. I got on the handbike and went out for a warm up ride, trying to emulate my activities in preparation for the Dismal Swamp Stomp. I was particularly interested in riding through a turn at the end of Hill Street. The street drops down to Front Street and I was worried about going to fast to make the turn during the race.
I was able to make the turn without any problem so I took that detail off my worry list. One thing on my worry list was starting to bug me. I felt like I had no energy. The temperature was OK but it was still early. I headed back to my van and my teammate to fuel up before the race. There I got a fresh ice pack around my neck and took my Snickers and a new energy drink concoction. I was hopeful that the sugar boost would kick in by the time the race started.
At the starting area, I began seeing many friends from recent running events and many friends I’ve know since childhood. There didn’t seem to be any other wheelchairs in the area but then that’s not been uncommon in my experience. The 10K and 5K were scheduled to start at 0800 and the chairs and baby joggers were to start at 0755. I didn’t understand why the baby joggers were scheduled first but I was about to learn. The one-milers were still finishing up and we seemed to be getting a late start. One of the event coordinators gave me a quick briefing and finally the timer showed up to start the race.
Mile One (8:31) Ugh!
The race starts out through downtown Front Street and runs past the shops and boat docks. As they started us I immediately learned why the baby joggers were up front. These folks were FAST.
I spooled up to about a 7:30 pace but in just a minute I was looking at all the baby joggers from the back. A minute later I was out of energy and was dragging along at about a 10 minute pace. There was a slight headwind coming off Taylor’s Creek.
Mile Two (8:17) Spooling up
After a few minutes my energy started to pick up. I think I was psyched at the start when the baby joggers got such a fast start. Now I learned why. These folks were only running the 5K. After I passed the 5K turnaround, I was all alone again. But not for long, I figured. The elite racers usually pass me about mile two so I an eye on my mirror as I extended down Front Street. Mile two is probably the most scenic of this course as you go down Taylor’s Creek across from Carrot Island through a stretch of road covered by the canopy of old live oaks.
The fastest males passed me and I moved over to the side to give them plenty of room. Then I saw the distinctive figure of Heidi Tucker approaching in my mirror. A little dip in the road gave me enough of a boost in speed to pass a couple of elites as we approached the boat ramp at the end of Front Street.
I remember thinking, “Only in Beaufort!” Every race uses course monitors at intersections to keep traffic from interfering with the runners. At the end of Front Street, the Beaufort Road Race course passes between the public boat ramp and its parking area. As I approached the boat ramp, I was hoping that there would be course monitors to keep us from getting run over by boat trailers.
I passed the boat ramp without incident and turned toward Lennoxville Road. I lost the nice breeze off Taylor’s creek that was keeping me cooled down. I had an ice pack around my neck, but it was half melted. Heidi passed me about mile 2.5. I shouted in encouragement to her and watched her fly by.
Mile Three (7:31) Chasing Heidi Tucker
On Lennoxville Road, the slight breeze was a tailwind. My energy level was good now. I think about eight runners had passed me and I felt like I could go faster. I could see Heidi about a quarter mile off in the distance. I started exerting and decided I was going to catch her. Slowly, I began passing some of the runners that passed me. I passed mile three and felt good and turned onto Ann Street.
On Ann Street heading west the road was somewhat uneven so it was not as fast as I had hoped. Oh well, at least the recent roadwork was paved. I kept my sights set on Heidi, whom I knew to be to be a fast runner. By mile four I was within a half block and felt good.
Mile Four (6:31) Pouring it on
As I slowed to turn on Live Oak Street and then Broad Street I lost a little ground. I was still not getting overheated so I cranked as hard as I could. I was slowly catching up with Heidi. I could see my teammate a block away down Broad Street. She shouted to me when I passed; quite excited that I was so close to the front-runners.
I finally caught Heidi right before the turn onto Orange Street. We exchanged support. The turns onto Orange and again onto Ann Street slowed me down enough that Heidi passed me again. That was probably a good thing because I seem to go faster when there is someone in front of me.
Mile Five (6:19) Chasing Heidi, again
By mile five I was fired up. Heidi was well in front but I knew I had enough energy to catch her again. The live oaks that line the street kept down the headwind and provided ample shade. By now the sun was hot. The race was living up to its reputation as a scorcher. My ice was all melted but I was soaking wet so I was still getting plenty of cooling. My only problem on the whole course was at the intersection of Hill and Front Streets. Initially I was afraid the descent on Hill Street would make the bike too hard to control at the corner. Since I had already ridden through the turn I wasn’t worried about speed so I decided to get the most out of gravity that I could.
At the bottom of the hill, walkers were returning from the 5K turnaround. I yelled to warn them, hoping that they would have the sense to get out of the way. No luck. They just ditty-bopped along, side by side, blocking half the street. Oh well, wheels yield to heels. I jammed the brakes, swung wide and lost all that precious momentum. I think I uttered a few choice words under my breath. Sorry.
The stretch to the finish was uneventful. It was, again, a scenic view of the sailboats anchored in Taylor’s Creek. I had a tailwind and once I got spooled up again, I was able to chase Heidi to the finish. My family was downtown to boost my spirits. I caught Heidi about a block from the finish. I didn’t want to pass her in case she poured on a final kick. I didn’t want to be in her way as the course narrowed. Besides, even with a five-minute head start, there is nothing wrong with finishing beside Heidi Tucker. Did I mention she was the first place female? I got closer behind and yelled, “go, Heidi, go!” all the way to the finish line. I hope she didn’t think I was trying to get her to move out of the way.
Finish (45:33) Yee Ha!
This was a new PR for me. I was very happy with my first participation in this race. Overall I was the sixth person to cross the finish line. When you added in my five-minute head start, my time put me at fifteenth place overall in a field of 143 finishers. I’ll take it.
Hope, Inspiration, and a Promise.
I live in a nation that lets me run down the street with hundreds of others on a hot July morning just for the pride of doing our best. We can do that because there are people out there 24/7 to protect our liberty. However, protecting that freedom comes at a cost. For twenty-eight thousand men and women wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, that cost will be a life with a disability.
Life with a disability isn’t a life full of despair, it is a life filled with Hope. Share hope with men and women that have sacrificed so much for the liberties we take for granted. Join our cause and donate to Hope For The Warriors. Be there for these heroes and their families in their most difficult battle, their fight for recovery and rehabilitation. Your generous tax-deductible contribution to Hope For The Warriors will help them know that they do not stand alone, they stand beside grateful and compassionate Americans such as you.
My participation in events such as this are dedicated to the honor and memory of service men and women wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families. I raise money with my campaign, 2008 Miles of Hope, through donations to Hope For The Warriors. I’m not a wounded warrior, I’m a grateful beneficiary of their sacrifices. Learn more about Hope For The Warriors.
Please donate to my fundraising campaign to support wounded heroes, 2008 Miles of Hope. All the money I raise goes to Hope For The Warriors. This phenomenal organization provides Warrior Wishes, Direct Needs Grants, and Spouses’ Scholarships. Now they have embarked on the creation of a Hope and Care Center, a rehabilitation and wellness facility for wounded heroes.
You can easily make a donation to Hope For The Warriors by using my secure credit card donation site:
Or donate by check. Download our donation form, fill it out, and send it to me with your donation to my address on the form:
Join me at the Virginia Beach Rock And Roll Half Marathon August 31!