The Tar Heel Ten Miler Double Down Challenge – An Update begun somewhere at a food pitstop on the drive back from Chapel Hill on April 22nd but not completed until after the Star Wars Half Marahton on April 23rd.
As my good friend Harper pointed out, it’s a weird name for a challenge. You’d think a “Double Down” would imply equal doubling, that if it’s a Ten Miler then a “double down” would be a Twenty Miler.
But here in the great state of North Carolina, we must be using that “new math” I’ve been hearing so much about from various friends with kids in schools today. For the Tar Heel 10 Miler Double Down is a 14 Miler – one has to run 4 miles in under 40 minutes to make the start time cutoff of the Ten Miler. It’s a convoluted challenge, with unnecessary complications and obstacles if you ask me. But nonetheless I’m running it.
As I did last year for the 9th Annual event, I stayed with my pal Brian Newport so it was a long march up the hill to get to Kenan Stadium for the 4 Miler start.
The gun went off at 7:16 AM and yet I still had to pass the Ten Miler start line no later than 7:55 AM due to road permit times with the University. So we really only had 39 minutes to get through the 4 miler and boy were people around me unhappy about that.
Before we get to the race(s) proper though, let’s turn back the clock to last night in Chapel Hill. I was here a few weeks ago during the Final Four and to run the Raleigh Marathon but missed seeing some folks. So it was a reunion with some folks just seen and not seen recently at a local sports pub, Tobacco Road.
So great to see Caroline and Eric, Brian and Dave, and to have Harper hoof it over after putting his daughter Hattie to bed; I was bummed to have missed her and Allison but next time for sure…
Arrogantly, I figured I could handle the 14 miler even hung over so I had a few, ahem, adult beverages. When in a college town, especially one’s alma mater college town, well, do as the collegians do.
But the iPhone “radar” alarm was an unwelcome sound at 5:15 AM Saturday morning. I normally mock the notion of these running socks having foot directions on them but ya know what? Sometimes that’s incredibly helpful:
As for the 4 Miler itself, it proved a bit of a challenge on its own. Humidity was high and I was still feeling a little stiff from the long drive North. Plus, despite feeling confident that I could finish the race in under 40 minutes (or 39 as the case may be), there also was a nagging voice that kept muttering, “that’s great, kid… don’t get cocky.” Somewhere around mile 3 I realized I was not so subconsciously channeling Han Solo’s advice in anticipation of Sunday’s event.
Time pressure be damned… I still stopped for a selfie at the Old Well. There are things one just must do when in Chapel Hill.
After struggling mightily around Gimghoul Castle’s rolling hills I was reminded that the university is called Chapel HILL for a reason. I would face more than a few of those in the 10 miler… but first things first… it was a return to Kenan Stadium to get back in line for the next race’s start.
In the end, the official results show me completing the 4 miles in 27:54. The speed lane to the next starting line was kinda, sorta that I guess. I mean, there was a chute that bypassed the food and finish line goodies and took us to the bottom of the road to the very back of the starting corral for the 10 miler. I got there just as the National Anthem was finishing and within moments the 7:45 AM start happened…
It was then a very slow amble to get people over the timing mat. I believe it took me about 4 minutes to cross from all the way in the back… meaning technically the start line was only going to be open for another 6 minutes after me… and there weren’t a lot of Double Down Challengers milling about it didn’t seem to me.
I was too busy Millennium Falconing/pinballing through the throng. Everybody should always run their own race and at their own pace… but the back of the pack was a bit slow for me and I could feel having pushed it for the 4 miler that the slower pace was both a help and a hindrance. I suppose I got to catch my breath a bit but in trying to duck and weave and get back to a more typical pace for me I was all over the place and frustrated at trying to get past people. That makes me a jerk and all the things I dislike about know it all runners… but I gotta be true to me and apparently that’s a bit of a jerk.
In any case, we retraced some of the 4 miler and added some additional twists and turns along the way before the big additional around mile 5 or 6. There was a bit more time on Franklin Street which is always fun to revisit as an alum…
Some of my college buddies were huge fans of the Wicked Burrito, a standalone Mexican place that was very, very good. It went belly-up, gosh, maybe 15 years ago now? Some folks wanted to pool their money and buy the place to keep it open… but I suspect they would have simply eaten their profits. Nonetheless, I snapped this photo and sent it out to Dave and Brian after the race with the hashtag: “Not My Wicked Burrito!”
Farther along Franklin Street, I grabbed a pic outside this new fad food establishment, one of probably 4 hot dog places I’m told that have sprung up on the main drag. I liked it for it’s final notation, the one all the way on the right of its marquee.
I’ve got a lot of fond memories of the Varsity movie theater but it seemingly has fallen on some tough times. Looks to be a second run house these days… and with the addition of a Waffle House next to it, I was glad to see Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe is hanging on a bit farther down the road.
Back in my day, Time Out was much closer to the Carrboro border but they’ve moved to a spot across from Silent Sam and the Post Office. As one does, I took a moment amidst the race to ask somebody to snap a photo of me.
And though it was my second time passing it due to the Double Down Challenge, I once again took time out (see what I did there?) and posed at the Old Well…
The rest of the course took us down the hill of Raleigh Road (which I think is what technically constitutes the Hill in Chapel Hill) and through a few neighborhood attractions.
We then looped back into campus proper and made the ascent of Laurel Hill Rd (which is kinda the 90 degree counterpart to get back up to Chapel Hill). It’s a tough segment, made tougher as it comes late in the race, and each year they’ve made it a “thing” to beat the hill and challenge oneself to see how long it takes to get from the bottom to the top of the hill. I vaguely recall this from last year but there’s a trio of Ricola trumpeters at one point during the climb. By the way, those alpine horns are apparently called alphorns, a type of labrophone (a term I only just learned from Wikipedia).
The final loop back on Ridge Road returned us to Kenan Stadium… where as you’ll recall from yesterday’s post, I grabbed a selfie with Rameses.
I picked up my Challenge Medal and Shirt afterwards, only to be told they had run out of the 4 miler medals we were supposed to also get. They gave me a paperbag to add my name and email to so somebody could contact me about mailing it to me later. I was so drenched in sweat and overturned cups of water on my head that my palm soaked through the pulp as I tried scribbling down the details. Who knows if I’ll ever see that medal?
They were very nice at the tent though, as were the volunteers, but there were more than a few hiccups in this inaugural year of the official Double Down Challenge. Having checked my results just now, I have to say I’m annoyed that they only have my predicted finish time and don’t seem to know what time I ran nor that in fact I really did finish.
Perhaps I’m being petty… I did get to see some friends while I was there… and I did get this photo.
All in all that’s a pretty great whirlwind return then to the oldest state university. And I know I finished. Still, I sent a perhaps tersely worded and not entirely buoyant message to the race organizers venting my frustrations. As I said, I’m a bit of a jerk.