The tenth race in the 2012 Gold Country Grand Prix series was the Falling Leaves 5K/10K, benefiting Nevada City Schools Foundation. The course incorporated roads around historic downtown Nevada City and Deer Creek. As it was the second to last race in the series, it was well attended and organized at the Deer Creek School starting and finishing area.
Coming into this weekend, my coach had advised me to take it easy. "Probably not the smartest to race a 10K a week before a half marathon", he wrote. "Keep it at half marathon pace or slower." So my plan was to use the race as a 'tune up' for my tune up race next week. Keep the heart rate below 160 and let the chips fall where they may.
Upon arriving and checking in, I found Rob and asked which race he was entering. There was no way I could catch up to his first place point total, but if he ran the 5K, I had a chance at first place in the 10K, much like the Kellerman Batwa Challenge in August. "You're in luck, I'm in the 5K due to a knee issue". Good fortune for me, bad for Rob's knee. With five minutes to the race start, I warmed up with a short jog and joined the crowd at the start line. The Race Director explained the 5K/10K split, and then we were off.
I settled into a comfortable tempo and fell in with Machen. We talked a bit, about his gum chewing during the race and my marathon training and long runs. I did not have to run home from the race for a change. The course took a loop before heading off towards Deer Creek and the Pine Street bridge. During the loop I was jockeying back and forth with a small boy. He ran hard, his footfalls sounded like a hammer drill, and he did his best to stay dead in front of me at every opportunity. There were a few times I almost had to pick him up to get him out from underfoot. Fortunately, Machen took the lead shortly before the split, and junior chased him out to the 5K turnaround.
At this point, I found myself alone. I could see the first place woman a few hundred yards in front of me. She was dressed in a Spiderman costume, and she was covering ground quickly. We ran down to Pine Street, crossed over the bridge, and cut through downtown, around the Miner's Foundry, towards Old Downieville Highway. The road was shady and cool, the course and its many turns were very well marked.
I was passed by a parade of women. Second, third, fourth and fifth all went by and I encouraged them to catch the next runner. My splits for the first two miles were a bit fast: 7:28 and 7:46. Too fast for my strategy, although my heart rate was still good, about 155-157. So, I slowed a bit, kept it conversational, around 8:30/mile. I soon encountered the leaders coming back from the turnaround; it did not appear that anyone in my age group was in front of me, and once I turned around, I saw that there were two men who could have been vying for my age group lead, but I had over 30 seconds on them, so I just kept my pace up, and my heart rate around 160.
This section of the course is really enjoyable. Old Downieville Highway traverses the edge of Deer Creek Canyon through a thick forest. Before I knew it, I was coming back through Nevada City and catching up to the fifth place woman. No one threatened from behind, so I waited until the last mile, climbing back to the start from the bridge, to give a little kick. Twirly caught some video as I rounded the last turn and channeled Jorge Maravilla:
The race organizers and volunteers had it together and were enthusiastic, and the cause was a good one; Nevada City schools have been struggling with budgets for many years. It was difficult to tell this was a first year event. The spread at the finishers table included Gatorade, baked goods, bagels and plenty of fruit. They even had a couple of bikes hooked up to blenders to make smoothies! I'm sure it will be successful in the future.
|49:34, tenth place overall|
Here are the Garmin details for the race: