On May 14, 2011, Vance, Jay, Tom Samples and I signed up for the Poca River Road Run 15k. Billed as the oldest road race in WV, the course is an undulating 9.3 mile loop of asphalt running. We scouted what we thought was the route the night before so that we knew where to go in the morning. A friend of mine told me the "back way" from Teays Valley, so we wanted to be sure we knew we could get there.
The plan was for my parents to come to our house in the morning so that we could leave for the race while the kiddos slept in. We laid out all our gear the night before: freshly charged Garmins, ipods, Road IDs, Gatorade, Gu, socks, shoes, clothes, and visors. I love the process of excitedly preparing my run "kit" the night before. I'm such a running nerd.
On race morning we got up, ate our routine race day breakfasts: Kashi GoLean with milk, coffee, and a banana for me, and a Clif Bar, coffee, and banana for Jay. We got dressed and headed out, with Gatorade and Red Bull to sip along the way. Vance had met us at our house so he rode with us to the race start. Vance was suffering a sinus infection, but not being one to back out, came to gut out the race anyway.
It was a muggy and warm for the start. We lined up along with many familiar faces that we saw during the Winter Race Series. And off we went, a jostling mass of runners, over the Poca River bridge and onto the country road along the river. Tom was out front, and finished first amongst us. We three ran mid-pack, with Vance leading and Jay and I staying together for about the first five miles. I can hang with Jay for about 4-6 miles, but that's when he continues to accelerate, and I maintain my chugging pace. My miles are usually identical in pace. Jay consistently runs negative splits. Jealous. I saw him ahead catch up with Vance and run alongside him for awhile. Then the course took a few uphill and downhill turns and I lost sight of them.
The course was beautiful. We saw dogs, horses, country folk, and some interesting roadkill along the way. The downhills outnumbered the uphills, but there were plenty of both to be challenging. As the route turned toward the river, we ran across a bridge into the tiny hamlet of Lanham. Photographer Dan had found a great spot to photograph the runners as they came across the bridge. There was a city-wide yardsale going on as we ran past. The crowds perusing the wares looked up at the runners briefly, probably thought we were insane, and then quietly went back to rummaging. I thought it was hilarious.
The last relief station at mile 6 was just past the yard sale. A fellow runner caught up with me while I slowed to drink the water. She had been behind me almost the whole way and was running the same pace. We agreed to pace together the rest of the way. She was probably a whole foot shorter than me, and her leg turnover was much faster. I spent the next few miles analyzing running form and how leg length and height had an influence on cadence and speed. She had the advantage on the uphills because her legs were faster, I had the advantage on the downhills because my strides were longer. On the flats we were about the same. It was an interesting phenomenon and it helped the last few miles go by as I observed this. Not long after the relief station we passed Vance who was fighting a fever, cramps, and exhaustion. He ran alongside us for awhile but had to slow down to keep his legs from cramping. He toughed it out, though, and finished not long after I did! Vance definitely wins the tenacity award.
A couple of tough hills challenged us in the last mile. It definitely felt good to finish that race! Jay and Tom had already turned in their sticks and were calmly sipping Gatorade. Vance finished just a few minutes later. The heat and humidity took a toll on all of us. We spent the rest of the weekend rehydrating.
Overall the Poca River Road Race was a very fun, picturesque race, and a great way to challenge yourself at a 15K distance, which is somewhat rare in these parts. The race is well-run, has three aid stations and a port-a-pottie (very important), as well as post-race bananas and gatorades. The registration fee included a long-sleeve race tee and a water bottle. Highly recommend!