Sunday, March 7, 2010

Jay Holder's Race Recap: Corporate Cup Half Marathon

I am not going to play it cool. I was pretty pumped to win the Corporate Cup Half Marathon Saturday morning. I am not one of those runners who acts like winning is old hat. For me, it's not. Granted, I have had more than my fair share of running accomplishments in Charlotte and am thankful for and feel blessed to have each one of them. But, the last time I was the first guy to cross the finish line was June 1, 2003. I entered some tiny 5K with my dad in Lyons, NY. So to be the winner of a fairly large race in Charlotte is a pretty big deal for me.

Going in to the race, my goal was sub 1:15. Spoiler alert. It didn't happen. But, the race was a great experience/lesson physically and mentally. When the gun went off, four guys took off in front of me heading up College. It was Compton, Beigay and then two other dudes I didn't know. I knew Compton and Beigay were running relays, so I had decided before the race to keep a safe distance from them. The other two's plans were unknown. Were they running relays too? Were they running the 5k OR were they running the half too and unaware of Compton and Beigay's plans? Planning for the latter, just in case, I kept them in sight so they didn't open up too big of a lead on me. I figured, if they are going out that fast for a half, they are either really good, or setting themselves up for a disaster. It was good planning on my part. I went through the first mile in 5:20. OK, that's a little fast. When we hit the 5k point, Compton and Beigay were done, and the other two guys were the top two finishers in the 5k. Drats. Now, I was alone. Megan said she could tell I had an "oh shit" look on my face when I came through and realized what had happened.

I am hoping I am getting all my lonliness in now. Salisbury was five miles of me talking to myself, and this was setting up to be 13.1 of the same. I know my next two races, I'll have plenty of company (4 miler and Boston).

Heading up 3rd, I stole a few glances behind me. Open road. Hovis and Linz were a ways in front, on the second leg of their relay. I was half expecting Megan, on the second leg of her relay, to come flying past me. Spectators kept cheering, "you're in third" which I knew meant I was in first. We climbed up Providence to the intersection of Providence and Providence, Queens and Queens (for all you non-Charlotteans, yes this is a real intesection of four roads with two names. It's like that Seinfeld episode where Kramer is at the corner of First and First. "I'm at the nexus of the universe"). At this point, I was curious as to whether we would cross onto Queens and jughandle around or turn left right onto Providence. On the preview run last week, I had rather insistently told Spada there was no jughandle. I ate my words as I ran into the jughandle. Jocelyn and Dana blew by on their bikes with some supportive cheers.

Thomas Eggar was the first familiar face as I climbed toward Wendover. ('Climbing' will be a word I use a lot in this recap, since the race features some of South Charlotte's/Uptown's nastiest and longest hills). He had Gatorade and Gu, but I wasn't ready yet. I turned on to Wendover with a plan to ditch my gloves at mile 7. The only problem was, I didn't see mile 7 marker. So, a cheap pair of gloves landed in the middle of the road at the intersection of Wendover and Sharon.

The whole 7-10 mile portion of the race was nice because of all the club support. I think I touched on this in my Winter Flight recap, but the support from the Charlotte Running Club is INCREDIBLE. Our members come out in the cold just to stand on the street and cheer. Granted, I haven't been a part of many other running communities, but the one we have here has got to be as good as it gets.

At mile 8, I ate a mint chocolate Gu and nearly vomited. It was too thick, but then I turned toward the second relay point to a big crowd of Cheers. That's where Lauren was with Paul, Breland, Ben, Mo, etc. However, I knew what was coming next. The dreaded Colony hill. Thankfully, as I got to the base, Aaron came running out the woods to escort me up the hill. That was good because i needed someone to keep me positive on that trek.

After that, it was just me and Michael Greene. He was riding the pace bike in front of me, after Jocelyn apparently sent him back to keep me company. The only thing was, I could only see the back of his head, so I had no idea who I was talking to. That was until he held out his water bottle for me to take a sip of, I and sped up to grab it. Then, I felt dumb! Running down Queens, Matt stopped by on the bike too. I asked him where the next runner was, and he said he wasn't sure who it was, but the gap was enough for me to relax. I took advantage of the opportunity and let off the throttle a little bit. I knew the Moorehead climb was coming.

Turning on to Moorehead meant the end was near. I run up this street several times a week. No big deal. At this point, I knew unless something terrible happened, I was going to win, so excitement was carrying me in. I got a big cheer from Amy Ayrault near Euclid. Crossing over the bridge toward College, I could see the end. In the final stretch, there was a big crowd of supporters. Larry and Kathy were yelling loudly, Tonya and Kate had signs. Ben was running next to me with a bag. One more little uphill and then it was across the finish line. There was no tape to break, but I did get a high-five from Tim and Ashleigh. 1:15:28. I didn't hit my goal, but was truly proud and thankful for another solo effort on a hilly course. Wait, solo effort sounds wrong. I may have run by myself most of the race, but I run every day with some of the most supportive people I know, and had support on the course every mile. As soon as I got my chip off my shoe, I turned around to run back toward Lauren who was running the relay. My plan was to run her in. My favorite part of this experience is that she was as excited as I was. Her CRC relay team of complete strangers finished 3rd! At the awards ceremony, we were both pretty happy to get our trophies. She did a jump in the air, even!

I have to take some time to rave about the organization of this event. The course was very clearly marked. The water stops were plentiful. The police were friendly. The Childress-Klein YMCA and Event Marketing Services did an AWERSOME job putting it all together. It will definitely be on my calendar next year. Gotta defend the title, right?

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