Monday, July 27, 2009

Bele Chere 5K - Race Report

Bele Chere is best avoided. Go do it once, people say, then make arrangements to be out of town next year . . . and every year thereafter for the rest of your life. Could the same be said for the Bele Chere 5K, billed as the largest NC road race west of Charlotte? I was about to find out as I joined the 1,300 plus runners who lined up in the shadow of McCormick Field.

The Asheville Track Club races are "gun start, chip finish," so it behooves you start as close to the start line as possible. All 1,300 runners are thinking this when the gun fires. And we’re off. Up Charlotte Street for about 1/3 mile, and up, up, up the hill on Beaumont Street, crossing Biltmore Avenue to Hilliard Street, then slightly downhill on Asheland Avenue and I'm at Mile 1 in about 7:42 gun time. Right on pace, but it feels harder than it should.

I spread my arms on the steep downhill of Asheland Avenue, and make the right turn on to Phifer Street and begin climbing the dreaded Phifer Street hill. Mile 2 is a long, steady climb, and it’s discouraging. No longer on pace to go under 24 minutes, I press on and pass the clock at about 16:00. That’s about 8:18 on an all-uphill mile. We're now running through downtown and empty fair vendors who will soon be selling kettle corn, Cajun sausage, lemonade, BBQ, cotton candy, and smoked turkey legs. We take a sharp right at Pack Square, probably 2.4 miles or so, and then we have a steady downhill to Mile 3. I'm into it now and, once I know I've survived the steep downhill that was the initial steep uphill, I put in a respectable effort in the final straightaway. I cross the line somewhere between 24:12 and 24:15, for a last 1.1 in about 7:38ish pace.

That time is over 10 seconds off my PR, but it still pleased me. In my opinion, the hills added 20-30 seconds conservatively. But I still ran negative splits (except for mile 2!) and put in a quality effort. I placed 5th in my age group with an overall placing of 295/1247. In 8 weeks, if I can find a flatter course, I think I could challenge my PR.

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