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Le Blog du Rob #102 – 10 Miler in Lynchburg

Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers cross the finish line holding hands at the Virginia 10 Miler in 1975
Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers cross the finish line holding hands at the Virginia 10 Miler in 1975
The Virginia 10 Miler was the site of the famous Frank Shorter-and-Bill-Rodgers-holding-hands-across-the-finish-line incident.

I went down to Lynchburg, VA this past weekend and raced in the 40th edition of the Virginia 10 Miler. I hadn’t really planned on doing this race, but the assigned workout was a hard nine miles. Lynchburg offered a 10 mile race that I could run with other people and maybe pick-up a little cash to boot. Some may call this road whoring, I call it strategic economic advancement.

Before I headed down to Lynchburg I did a little research on the race. Initially, I was a bit apprehensive due to the hilly nature of the course. I am a gangly son-of-a-gun and I tend to lack power, and thus hills generally kick the crap outta me.

I also noted that the finishing hill had been given a name: “Birdsnest Hill.” While that name itself is not very intimidating, the simple fact that the hill had been given a name scared me. Generally, if the hill warrants a name, then said hill is gonna be a ball buster.

I managed to push my fears aside – I figured that the added benefit of having people to run with would outweigh the difficulty of the course. I had also found a video on YouTube featuring the 1975 race of Rodgers and Shorter rolling that sucker together! So cool! I obviously had to do the race.

I woke up bright and early on race morning and drove down to Lynchburg. It brought back sweet childhood memories of waking up early on weekends and travelling to various races all over southern Ontario with the Family. I was feeling quite nostalgic. It reminded me of the reasons why I love this sport and how lucky I am to be living this life.

I arrived in Lynchburg, collected my gear and settled in. For my warm up I jumped on the route and ran out and back on the first/last 1.5 mile stretch. I wanted to get a sense of the course. When I finished that little jog it was safe to say that I was intimidated. You see, for the duration of that 1.5 mile jog out on the course I failed to reach any sort of flat spot, it was downhill the whole friggin’ way! Geez Louise, this sucker was gonna sting.

I quickly formulated a plan for my run. My primary goal was to get in a solid, consistent effort. Key word was consistent – I could not afford to do anything stupid and risk blowing up. That’d ruin the purpose of the workout and just put me in a hole for future training.

I figured that I’d just chill out at the start and let the opening two miles happen, not run too hard, just try to find a flow. I was gonna have to gauge off effort, because pace is irrelevant whilst flying downhill. From miles 2-8 I wanted to roll the tempo effort at around 5:00/mile. Then, when I hit 2 to go, I was just gonna have to suck it up and make it to the finish. Pretty simple plan if ya ask me.

I mentioned before that I was really looking forward to running with some company. For this event that company came in the form of about 30 East African runners. Seriously, of any race I have ever run this had the most Kenyans and Ethiopians I have ever seen. The race had offered up cash bonuses for hitting certain times. This resulted in what seemed like every African runner in the Eastern United States converging on Lynchburg for this glorious event. It was a cool scene. I love racing these road warriors.

rob watson running virginia 10 miler
Feelin’ groovy at three miles.

The gun went and immediately a swarm of runners just took the eff off. After 400m I was in like 40th place… and getting dropped with every step. I wanted to give chase, but had to check up and remind myself of the plan. I tried to find my flow.

I hit the mile in 4:36, the pack was 4:28. I settled in during the second mile and came through two in 9:30. I was hoping for some company, but I was all alone well off the back of a big lead pack. I was okay with that though. I have been in this game a long time folks. I knew well enough what was about to go down. I just had to relax, be patient and let it happen.

Sure enough, at right around the three mile mark it began. Slowly but surely, one by one runners starting falling off the lead pack. The Africans are very, very good runners, but they are also fairly predictable.

I may have adopted the fade from the front strategy, but the Africans were born into it, molded by it. They didn’t learn pacing until they were already men, and by then it was nothing but a hassle. They simply run until they implode, and on this day it really helped me a lot! I spent the last seven miles simply running down one straggler after another. It really helped me to keep focused and pushing.

Rob Watson runs the Virginia 10 Miler
Some serious hurting took place up that last hill!

I ended up executing my plan pretty well. After hitting 9:30 at two miles I rolled the next six between 4:57-5:03. When I hit two to go, I put the head down and ran up that big ole’ hill. I finished in 49:48. I was actually pretty happy with that. I had come into this race on the tail end of a big block of training. The legs were very tired and I still managed to get in a good effort and go sub-50 on a very rolling course. I also won $200! Great little Saturday in Lynchburg if I do say so myself.

Thanks so much to Bret and everyone else involved in putting on the Genworth Virginia 10 Miler, such a fantastic event.

Things have really turned around folks. I have hit a really good training block and my legs are starting to feel good again. I had a really good session of 3K repeats yesterday and now just one big workout to go until we hit this taper.

I’m going to get into the taper a little earlier than usual and I’m also gonna cut back more than usual. I’ve rolled this Toronto build-up on fairly tired legs. Thankfully though, I have still managed to get in some high quality work and improve my fitness from where it was in Moscow. It’s been a steady consistent grind.

People keep asking me about my goals heading into the race on Oct. 20. To be honest, I don’t know yet. A month ago I just wanted to make sure I got there alive. Two weeks ago I would have been happy with a PB. Now, as we are getting closer and closer, I keep feeling better and better. Who knows man? Let’s just hope for a nice day on Oct 20. I’m friggin’ excited.

Good luck to everyone with your training and racing. Victoria and Chicago Marathons next weekend! I have lots of friends running in both, can’t wait to see some sexy new PB’s across the board!