Pirate Chase 10k Race review

   I'll start off by saying I might be a little biased during this race review as I've been trying to get into this race for a couple of years, and have been unable to due to work, school, court ordered community service, or some other event that has conflicted with the race time / date in the past. That being said, I'll review it as honestly as I can, given the amount of money I was bribed to write this.

I could never compromise the integrity of my writing! Wait, how much?
Yeah, sure,  I'll tell those chumps whatever you want.
   Since this is only my third 10k race, I really wanted to show up somewhere in the neighborhood of an hour and a half before the start of the race to make sure that I had plenty of time to arrive, warm up, and get comfortable with the idea of racing in general at the site. In keeping with my own personal traditions, I showed up 25 minutes before the race started, which incidentally, is five minutes later than they asked us to be at the latest. Luckily for me,I was able to make a packet pickup that had been held at a local Dicks Sporting Goods the night before, and parking for the event was well directed between signs and an email that included directions from every possible place on the planet.

   I popped out of my car and made a beeline for the first port-a-potty in sight. There I threw open the door, only to find a horrific turn of events. No. Toilet. Paper. What kind of madness is this?!? It's pure anarchy! In a world that seemed to have gone mad and left me the sane sole survivor, I remembered something in the last e-mail from earlier in the week about real indoor bathrooms being made available by the university after whose mascot the Pirate Chase is named for. A quick jog while repeating the phrase, "easy does it, easy does it," guided me around the corner of a fence and into a small building outside the football stadium where real bathrooms were indeed unlocked and awaiting runners. A definite check in the plus column for this race.

If coming from Tanzania, we suggest taking the bypass on Hwy 264

   Walking out of the bathroom, I bumped into a friend who was running the race, this being her first 10k. We chatted for a moment, both of us reminding the other not to be too nervous. I decided to shoot for at least a quick ten minute warm up, even though it was only about half the time I really wanted, I didn't have much of a choice given my late arrival. I attached my bib to my shorts and timing chip to my show, and off I went. Four minutes got me back to the road where we turned into the University's sports complex to park, so I figured that was as good of a stopping point as any and doubled back. By the time I passed through the parking lot and around the football stadium to the starting line, it was almost go time. 

   As I approached the starting line I noticed quite a few elite runners taking directions from and joking with a runner I recognized as being one of the faster (and nicer) one I had ever had the pleasure of meeting. Trying to pull a reverse-wolf-in-sheep's-clothing I slid up closer to the front of the line where I tried to blend in with the elites, hoping they wouldn't notice that I wasn't one of them. Trying to find a good song in my head and take in the sight of the football stadium to my right to steady my breathing, I prepared to take on a race distance I hadn't tried in almost a year. 

Not sure if they've noticed that I'm not one of them yet...

A less than auspicious race start including the director announcing that we would be starting in 30, then 10 seconds and one woman proceeding to try and start a group countdown by herself, awkwardly stopping at 7, framed the beginning of our 10k. Trying not to see it as a sign, (and actually breathing a bit easier since we didn't have a 10 second countdown) we burst across the line when the bullhorn's car alarm like siren went off, signaling us to do the same. 

   The very first thing I noticed was the lead pack, while moving fast, seemed to be more controlled than at a 5k. Being twice the distance, a little voice reminded me that I shouldn't be too surprised, and to take their lead as an example of control. My experience largely being limited to 5ks (3.1 mile sprinting heart attacks) and 10+ mile distance races (also known as the sweet spot) I wasn't quite sure how to pace this one out and decided to try and take my coach's advice from last week, and run off feel while limiting how much I looked at my garmin.  Heading the advice, I tried to run fast while throttling back a bit. What it felt like instead was a 16 year old learning how to drive stick for the first time and bouncing back and forth between peeling out and sudden neck-jerking stops. 

   That being the case, I still felt pretty good around the halfway mark. Just a few seconds off what I wanted, but I figured I would at least make my coach happy with negative splits. (That is, running easy mile faster than the last. The trick is to start a little slower than intended pace, and then ramp it up a bit each mile.) Most of the lead pack still in eyesight on this twisty course I thought that I stood a chance at being impressive, and then we encountered the first of the hills. While the majority of the city I live in is fairly flat, the particular area near my home has absolutely no hills. As in, the air bubbles in my Sunday morning pancakes have more vertical climb to them than my ten mile route. It was the hill at the halfway mark that my real race began.

Everything's going to be fine as long as no one tells me I have to run another 5k
   We climbed up that first long hill, and my legs began to protest like a four year having a tantrum. And just like a four year old having a tantrum, they weren't going to stop until I gave them what they wanted. Refusing to give in, I tried to shift my focus elsewhere while pumping my arms faster to maintain some speed and effort as we reached the crest of the hill and headed for the section of the race that made use of the local greenway. Wondering if I might be able to make any time up here, I forced myself to lurch forward, slowly closing the gap on the nearest runner.

   Another half mile forward I saw a volunteer just ahead encouraging me and pointing the direction in which I was to head. (Another plus for this race was that they had stationed volunteers at EVERY possible turn, no matter how gentle the angle.) Right before I got to him I heard a fap, fap, fap sound that I assumed was the laces of my right shoe. I looked down to find that one of the two zip ties holding my timing chip on my shoe was no where to be seen, and the remaining one was barley hanging on. I skid to a complete stop in front of the guy, looking at my shoe dumbfounded and simply said "SHIT," like it would magically reconnect the thread by which my timing chip was hanging by. Looking back up into his smiling face, (I think he was also wondering what my logic was at this point) I grinned back and dropped my legs back into gear and resumed the chase after the runner who had long since taken off. Expecting to lose it sometime before I finished I figured that if nothing else I would huff out the phrase "no tag" in between gasps as I crossed over the final timing mat.

   Heading into the fourth mile, I had this particular runner in my sights again, and was determined to overtake at least one person. Not being sure if he was slowing, or I was speeding up, or some combination of the two I realized that I was closing ground on him fast, all I needed to do was keep it up. Within a tenth of a mile we were side by side, something he noticed with a glance to his left. He dropped the hammer a bit a pulled away, but with 2/3 of the race over I decided to go for it and down shifted myself, to pass him once again.  We did this several times over the next mile or so, until we had less than a quarter mile to go. Staying about two steps ahead of him and seeing the finish line, I kept my gaze straight, but asked him You're not going to let me beat you, are you? With an outpouring of air he stomped on the gas once more and crossed the finish line a few seconds ahead of me to take 10th place, while I came across (tag miraculously still attached to my shoe) in 11th overall.

They're also rigged to explode if you
stop for too long.
   Why encourage him? The more important reasons are selfish. I knew I didn't have an overall podium placement, and I also knew we weren't in the same age group. Neutral reasons include the fact that I knew my legs were tired and were already firing on all cylinders. Less selfish? The running community has and continues to give to me. Encouraging this kid to run a bit harder and maybe push me to go a little faster wasn't going to hurt anything or anybody. (Seeing later pictures of myself crossing the line confirm I was hurting finishing up. It's been a while since I looked that ragged coming across a line.)  

   I made my way over to the television where the results were scrolling along only to find my name marking the same overall 11th place, on the same television, two weeks in a row. While its true that I came in about 90 seconds slower than I wanted, I still made a PR, and when I saw the winners times (including the overall winner coming across in a blazing 34 minutes!) I didn't feel the least bit bad seeing my placement. I stuck around in the shadow of the stadium for the awards ceremony, talking with friends and fellow runners while enjoying some of the tons of food donated by a local restaurants.

So he's the breakdown:

Race Course: 4/5 Not a bad course at all. Enough challenge for everyone, but not too hard for runners of any level. The only thing I can think of that would have made it better would be finishing inside the actual stadium.

Race value:  5/5 Tons of swag including, a cool shirt long sleeve shirt, customs bibs, and lots of food at the finish. I was a late entry, and even though I don't remember the exact price, I remember it wasn't bad at all.

Turns out it was less of a "chase" and more
"run in a big circle until you find him."

Event fun: 4/5  Its a real category! Especially for those of us who enjoy the running community. Exceptional volunteers and an all around feel good atmosphere make this a good race to head to if you're in the local area, or an East Carolina Alumni. 

 Pre Race: 5/5 With a clean and easy website to navigate to sign up online, early packet pickup, several pre race emails, and frequent and ultra clear signs as to where to park (I get lost easily) its hard to imagine pre race being done better than this.

Post Race: 4/5 Bit of music, lots of food, and finishing under the shadow of the stadium Were all fantastic. Not to mention awesome door prizes that included several packs of football tickets, as well as some pretty cool stuff for the overall and age group winners. I hesitate to give it the full 5/5 only because I'm sure they have a lot more in store for next year.

Bottom Line: If you're in the area, or within an a radius you don't mind driving for a race, the Pirate Chase 10k should be added to your list. Worth your time and money, and you'll get to meet some local running legends. If you're a student or ECU graduate it goes without saying you should be in attendance, if nothing else to say you did it, or just to have a chance to interact with the ever changing campus. (And hey, students even get a discount!)

   As always, thanks for reading, and don't forget to like the blog on Facebook! (https://www.facebook.com/CrazyPeopleWithNiceShoes) We're also all fancy on twitter now! (@CPNSrunning)

Students, you can use the money you save for extra burritos!


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