The 13th Annual Raider Classic was run on June 28 in Quincy. It was a relatively cool morning for late June, overcast and a little breezy. For a summer morning in Illinois, no one could complain. The cannon sent us off promptly (as always) at 7AM. According to my plan, I took off fast to take advantage of the mostly downhill first mile. With 250 participants and two turns in the first quarter mile or so, it was a bit crowded initially, but the field soon thinned out. Just after the first mile marker, the course made a u-turn and it was time to ascend for a while. Another quarter mile took us to the 5k/10k route split, sending the 5k runners off the street. We ran along the creek and under the stone bridge, then up a short, but steep dirt path to the South Park duck ponds. The section from the u-turn to the main part of South Park is mostly uphill; I planned to give a little time back there. That was easy to do. From the duck ponds, we climbed some stairs (or took the faster, dirt path right next to the stairs) up to South Park proper and back onto pavement. Here is where I started to increase my speed again, taking the loop around the park that is mostly downhill or flat for about a half mile. In this case, however, what goes down must again come up. So, we climbed the steep hill, taking us toward the park exit. Then, down again and out of the park, crossing the street to another dirt path and some grass taking us back to the streets, where we turned back toward the start/finish line and sprinted the last block or so.
I ran the race at my limit, finishing first in my age group and 18th out of 167 5k runners, five seconds short of my course PR. I was pleased with my performance. As I have come to expect from Andy Edgar's Raider Classic, it is possibly the best-organized race in the area. Specifically: the course was clean and well-marked; there were ample volunteers; the race started precisely on schedule; results and awards were prompt. Also: the award tiles are unique; a very nice, technical t-shirt; and, they have door prizes!
The 19th Annual Hannibal Cannibal was held on July 5, 2014. It was also a nice day for the time of year--cooler than usual, overcast with a light wind; certainly not the norm for the Cannibal. As usual, there was a big crowd: nearly 1100 runners and walkers across the three events, 5k, 10k, and 15k. The size of the crowd always adds to the race day excitement and indicates that the planning committee knows how to organize an event like this. I took off fast again on the opening, flat quarter mile or so, banking a little time before the hills. We turned onto 79 and started our first hill over the bridge still somewhat crowded, but the hill started to slow down a few people and thus, spread us out. After a flat-ish section past the bridge, I bombed down a short decline before starting the first big climb--there are really only two on the 5k course. I settled into my pace, slowing down a bit. The crowd certainly thinned out as we climbed for perhaps a half mile. The 5k runners turned around near the top of the hill as the runners going longer continued on. Then, we were able to enjoy descending for a while before we started the second major climb of the 5k course--Lover's Leap. I think it is about two tenths of a mile up, averaging 14% grade, peaking at around 20% at one point. The majority of participants walk up Lover's Leap; I always refuse to. I just shortened my stride and leaned into it, slowly passing people as I climbed. I am sure my heart rate was maxed out at the top, but I kept going, making a u-turn at the top and trying hard to keep my feet under me as I headed back down the relative mountain. After Lover's Leap, the route is nearly all down hill, so when I returned to 79, I just relaxed and leaned forward, flying downhill. I made up a lot of time descending, but not as much as I lost going uphill.
Again, I was racing at my limit. I finished eight seconds off my course PR and apparently earned second in the master's men division. I was 39th out of over 800 racers. It was another satisfying performance and an enjoyable Cannibal.
Over the years, I have been involved in many discussions comparing these two events. Here are my conclusions:
1. Both races are tough. When you cross the line at either event, regardless of the distance raced, you cannot help put feel an enormous sense of accomplishment. All finishers have risen to and conquered a significant challenge. The question often discussed is: which is tougher? I have run all distances at each event at least once. I believe the Cannibal 5k is tougher because of the two hills. My Garmin told me the elevation change is three times greater on the Hannibal course. Conversely, I think the 10k course in Quincy is tougher. It has more total elevation change (I could not find my Garmin data to quantify it) and you are always running up and down and turning. You cannot get into a rhythm like you can on the steady climbs in the Cannibal. The off-road sections in Quincy also add to the challenge.
2. Both races have been around over a decade and overall, have their processes honed. As a participant, both events seem to run quite smoothly for the most part. I do have one complaint regarding the Cannibal though. Last year, I ran the 15k and received a medal for third place in my age group. I later realized that I had actually earned fourth place--no medal for me. This year, I received a medal for third in my age group, when the official results show me at second place in the master's division. (I am awaiting confirmation from the race director and/or the timing company.) The awards were relatively prompt, considering the size of the event, but accuracy should be the highest priority.
3. Both events have their unique character. The Cannibal is big, at least for a small town race. It has the mythic climb of Lover's Leap and the local novelty of a 15k event. While the Raider Classic is nearly perfect in its execution and has a cross country feel to it.
Personally, I like them both for several reasons, but mostly for the significant challenge of each of them. If I never run them again, I will cherish the memories I have from them both.
ADDENDUM: After emails to the timing company and the race director, I received this in the mail.