The Whitestone 30K is the 3rd and final race in Knoxville Track Club high mileage series leading up to the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon. My last go-round with the marathon, I chose to do the same distances on my own, rather than paying to do what essentially would be a training run.
This year I wanted the full experience, so I signed up for the 3 pack of races: Calhoun’s 10 miler, Strawberry Plains Half Marathon, and Whitestone. $60 for all 3 races is a steal of a deal for distance racing, and the series hasn’t disappointed. I’ve gained a lot mentally from these training races.
Kingston is almost an hour of and a half from my house, so my training buddy and I got a hotel room about 20 minutes away. Was our room number coincidence or sign from God that He loves us and wanted us to half a good race?
Okay maybe God doesn’t care so much about the race. But love us? No doubt!! The next morning, some online friends I have leftover from the ABC Lost message board days pointed out this was the number of one of the failed flights in the show. Thanks ladies for the boost of confidence.
These were the descriptions I’d been given prior to the race. Thankfully we were prepared with a plan (start slow, drink water, try not to die) and these awesome good luck bracelets made by her daughter.
Given the course elevation, Amy, Sharon, Brad and I decided to treat this as a training run. We would start slow, and run this one nice and easy. We gave lip-service to the idea of starting at a 10:30 pace, but the downhill start and our race excitement quickly over powered any plans we had.
I wanted a good idea of what I’m capable of for the marathon, so the plan was to turn on the speed in the final miles. With a 3 loop course, I bookmarked the 3rd loop in my mind as the place I’d crank it up.
We settled into a comfortable, chatty pace and began to tackle the hills as they came. The race is held on open roads, but the country setting means traffic isn’t much of an issue. Save for relay racers, I think we saw more dogs on the course than cars!
As a group of 4, we tried not to run 4 wide so others could pass us if needed. Chatting about future race plans and ideas, these first miles were easy. Talking to her later, mile 4 is where Amy started hurting. She’s been having IT band issues and the downhill start made for a rough race for her.
These early miles were hard for me mentally. I think its the discouragement of knowing just how much further there is left to race. “Talk to me Brad!” I was getting too mental and I needed to shake it. Some chatter with him along with some aid-station high-fives and I turned it around.
I’m not sure at what point Brad and I pulled ahead, but by the time I noticed they weren’t behind us it was too far of a gap to hang back and let them catch us. Brad starting pulling away a bit in the big mile 8 hill, but I caught him on the down. At this point I offered high-fives to those struggling up.
Brad had a shoe pod tracking his cadence. Whenever our pace or turnover would get too fast, he’d warn me and I’d make an intentional effort to slow it down.
Mile 13 started the loop series for the final time. In the first 2 hills, Brad fell back. I asked if it I had sped up again, but he told me he was slowing. He tried to keep up, but eventually got to where he couldn’t catch me on the downs.
Less than 4 miles to go, I tried to pick it up. Enough can’t be said about those hills. They are standard country road hills. The difficulty comes in their perpetual appearance in the race. Reaching the crest of one only promises a brief down recover followed by another climb.
I passed quite a few people walking the hills in these final miles. I’d said going into this race. No shaming in walking the tough ones. By mile 17, I was too stubborn to take walk breaks. With a pace in the 9s, I just kept pushing.
For the final stretch, I made keeping a 9:XX pace my goal. Not knowing the course, I was surprised to be instructed to stay straight past the driveway. I had counted on the energy of the other runners to carry me to the finish. About half a mile of the last stretch was long and lonely. By this point the field had stretched out so much there was no one in front of me to challenge myself with passing, nor behind me to chat with.
The last quarter mile didn’t concede anything on the uphill, but at least there were people, pretty things, and the end in sight!
Chip time: 3:08:15
I needed this race to be mentally strong. I got that and then some! I executed a strong race plan, churned out stellar splits, and still had a bit left to round my mileage up to 19 miles before heading inside for biscuits and gravy.