I wasn't sure what my goal was for this race because I wasn't in my usual half marathon PR shape. I'm still getting over an upper right hamstring/pirformis pain and tightness. I've been able to train more since my last race on January 1st. I've gotten my mileage into the upper 50s. I've been able to do some shorter tempos but nothing long and sustained at tempo pace yet. I did have a really good 15 miler with my training partner Jarrod with the final 10 at 6:33, 6:31, 6:30, 6:28, 6:26, 6:28, 6:31, 6:24, 6:22, 6:16 on January 31st. We followed that up with a good progression long run on February 7th where we did 4 easy at 7:14 pace, 4 at 6:29, 6:29, 6:26, 6:29, 1 easy, 3 at 6:16, 6:14, 6:15, 1 easy, 2 at 6:07, 5:56, and 1 easy. Those two long runs gave me some needed confidence.
I wanted to do this race because I've always done it. I've won it twice and ran my 1:19:33 PR there even in the wind. This race is known for its wind but this year the wind was the best it's ever been. It was still a headwind on the Morehead Waterfront and coming back from the Circle, over the bridge, and back to Morehead but it wasn't as bad as it typically is.
I was starting to catch second place as we started up the Atlantic Beach Bridge shortly after mile four. I decided I was going to own the bridge and the island and run it like Sonny Hyman would have and would have wanted me to run it. I picked it up some going up the bridge, caught and passed 2nd place, and started focusing on running David down who was still leading the race. I ran mile four in 6:15 and mile five was coming down off the bridge and flat again in Atlantic Beach. I ran miles five and six in 6:07 and 6:16.
I wasn't gaining much on David but I was pulling away from the guy I passed for second place. After we did the loop on Bogue Sound Drive we ran down Fort Macon Road. It was a little headwind again. The turnaround was shortly after mile eight. I ran miles seven, eight, and nine in 6:15, 6:12, and 6:15. I saw Katherine after the turn around and she was running side by side with a guy and she was looking strong and smooth. I checked my watch and she was on PR pace.
I was staying consistent on my splits and I wasn't having any pain or tightness. I was feeling pretty good just without my usual half marathon speed. Mile eleven was tough as we ran directly into the wind down the causeway and up and over the Atlantic Beach Bridge. David was still staying the same distance ahead of me. I ran mile eleven in 6:34.
We came off the bridge, turned right onto Arendell, right onto 21st, and left onto Shepard. I did a quick look behind me and saw that Katherine and the guy she was running with were running me down. That 6:34 on the bridge did not help me and the bridge is usually my strongest point. I focused my attention back on David ahead of me. It took me a little while to realize David was starting to fade as we got closer to mile twelve. I kept telling myself I could catch, I could catch him.
As we rounded the final turn, a right onto 8th Street I got passed by the guy Katherine had been running with. David held on and won the race in 1:20:58. David was just two seconds ahead of second and six seconds ahead of me for third. That's a close top three! Katherine was the next to finish 4th overall and 1st female in 1:21:16. Katherine smashed her previous PR by over four minutes!
Now to analyze the new race management and new course. I didn't mind avoiding Arendell Street but I think the older course was easier to follow. I didn't like a hard left turn so soon after the start and I didn't like the hard right turn at 13.1 to finish. There were a lot of turns and signs but none of the signs specified if they were for the Half, 10K, or 5K. On the way back to the finish through the waterfront neighborhoods I heard several runners asking course monitors which way to go and the monitors didn't know either. The confusion on the course seemed to be mostly from the 5K and 10K. Hopefully next year they can remedy that and either change the courses or have specified signs for each distance. I thought there was plenty of water and gatorade on the course. The course was mostly well marked. There were no mile markers for miles four and eleven for the half or two and four for the 10K because they were on the bridge and wouldn't have stayed in place with the wind. The post race amenities were a step up. The post race food and beer were provided by Tight Lines Brewing Company. It was fun hanging out inside Tight Lines and outside on their patio for the awards. The awards were nice. I got a plaque for 3rd overall and a yoga mat or some kind of big mat you could have a picnic on. The medals were nice too. Overall, the new management did a good job but it can be improved on.