I won this race last year, just barely, in one of the most intense random races I have ever run. I won by 5 seconds over course record holder Aaron Roseberry after he had dropped me twice and I was in 5th place and hurting badly at halfway. I was seeing spots by the end. Today was much less exciting.
I immediately went to the lead at the start, with only two people coming with me. We would eventually be the top 3. The third place guy dropped off on the first major uphill less than a mile into the race. So it was down to just me and Stephen Harvell, who won the race two years ago.
We hit the mile in 5:45, the woman reading out the times said 5:35 so I told Steve our real split. Based on my breathing he must have thought that I was sandbagging, because he asked if I was just messing with him. Sadly, no, my chest was tight and I felt like I was being strangled. Signs of heart issues, which I definitely expected. But that seemed like too long of an explanation mid race. I just shook my head 'no'. I was not sandbagging. This seemed to galvanize Steve and he took the initiative on the next mile. The course looped back around to the start and we saw his family and he promptly dropped me.
We reached mile 2 in 5:37, a lot faster than I anticipated. I took the lead back from Steve and opened a small gap on a downhill, but when the course flattened out he came right back and passed me again. The way this course is laid out means that you can 'fake' your way through the first 3 miles, as they have quite a bit of down, but then we have to pay for all of it on the way back.
The turn off of Piedmont Avenue onto Sheffield, marks a pretty strong transition from the easy stuff to the hard stuff. As we made the turn, Steve took the lead for a few steps but I quickly drew even. We hit mile 3 in 5:47 still side by side and still climbing. I accelerated on the subsequent down and it was all over. When we started to climb again, I felt pretty sluggish, but it was enough. Even though my 4th mile was only 6:17, I was told that I had a ten second lead.
In the 5th mile, my shoe came untied. I attacked the uphills as well as I could, but my legs were tired and it was hard to stay motivated. 5:56. Last 1.2 in 7:27 (6:07 pace) including some more pretty rough hills. Despite my slowdown, the gap widened continuously and I won by 50 seconds.