Tar Heel Double Down Challenge- 2023

Today I completed my 2nd Tar Heel Double Down Challenge, The challenge includes the 4-miler before the main event, a 10-mile which is the featured race of the Tar Heel. Completing the challenge, of course, will get you the extra bling and bragging rights. After the usual early morning breakfast, I drove to the parking event area, which was located around 3/4 miles away. Sugars were not cooperating this time, hovering in the mid-200s. Runnable but definitely not optimal, I made a small bolus adjustment, but I did not want to overdo it much as I was planning to run at a higher pace than my normal long runs. The weather was also a tad warm this year . Since I needed to warm up for this event, I took advantage of the distance to get to the starting area I did an easy 2-mile warm-up.

I met with Udit from our InsaneRunning group for a quick chat. After that, we headed out to the pacing start area and settled down around the 9:00 pace.

Below is the race recap,

Miles 1-4: I totally forgot about the number of people that participated in the event. The Double Down and the four milers all start at the same time. Even with the wide roads, there were a lot of runners in this event, and it got very crowded. This continues to be a very popular race in the area. The plan for today was to still run a fast 4 miles, cross the finish line in plenty of time to beat the cut-off, and then I could slow down and reaccess to see how to tackle the next 10 miles.

Lots of mini hills, which I was able to tackle well at this time. The water stations were very crowded, and it was hard to grab fluids and keep running; I decided to skip the first one and only grab if the opportunity and space were open for me not to slow down. Similar to last year, I carried my energy drink with me for this event. Even after a couple of miles, there was a lot of zig-zagging to be able to clear my way and keep the effort strong. Having fun passing runners and seeing a few familiar faces.

There was a change to the route from last year. The starting point was closer, but then after finishing the 1st 4 miles, the runners needed to make a sharp right turn, go down a couple of stairs, and come up a short uphill before making another sharp left and back to the start line instead to just keep straight to the start line we did last year. Oh well, made for an interesting sequence. At this point, sugars were still running high; another small bolus adjustment, we will see.

Miles 5-10 (or Tar Heel 10 1-5 miles?): Runners running the double down had until 8:00 AM to cross the start line for the second time to be able to continue with the challenge. I was well ahead of the cut-off. Udit was running just a tad ahead of me and doing great.

The 1sr couple of miles were the same as the 4-miler. I did a check on the effort after slowing down just a tad. I was feeling just ok, but now I am still hitting below the 9:30 min/mile pace. The heart rate was on the side high not necessarily that bad as I knew I was pressing the pace even with the temperature getting warmer, especially for the later part of the event. I still decided to adjust the pace and walk at the water station to let my heart rate come down a bit, hydrate more, and pour some water over my head to cool down.

I kept passing runners, especially during the uphills. I guess Umstead has prepared me for this type of event, and every time I was feeling good during the uphill, it gave me more and more confidence that I could keep a pace slower than last year but still solid.

Miles 11-Finish (or 6-Finish): At this time, I am continuously assessing the effort more often and adjusting; sugars are coming down but just slightly, not enough for me to feel great. After a few hills and turns at the water stations after 6 miles, I started to refill my bottle. By the time I was getting to the next station, I was drinking almost the whole content and still felt thirsty.

It was great to see so many of the running friends. Some were doing the Double Down; others were tackling the 10-mile event. I was still very surprised that I was able to keep up this effort, but it was getting to me. Walking the water stations was not enough. I picked a couple of hills to power walk, concentrating on fast-moving walking legs. The route at portions narrowed down to single lane road, which made it a little bit crowded, causing me to switch/adjust the pace often and zig-zag a bit to move ahead of a few runners. I have passed a few pacers of the 10-Miler by this time, most of them friends from training, pacing other events, and other races. In the later parts of the event, I was slowing down, hitting a slower pace of 10:30-11:00 min/mile pace at times. Not too horrible, given the sugars and temperatures.

One longer hill at mile 9, nothing too extreme, manageable, but it did cause me to slow down considerably. After I reached the crest and into familiar scenery as the course then turned into the same course I had done earlier during the 4-miler event, I pressed the pace as I knew we were closing toward the finish line. After one last refreshing downhill, I tackled the last uphill at a solid pace. And as soon as I saw the finish line, I pressed even harder, the uphill pace to finish very strong.

Apr-23Tarheel 4 & 10 miler: Double DownNCMisc2:14:02


Course: 1st 4-mile loop course. It is a very popular event that, even with the ample multilane roads, could feel crowded at times. Very hilly, although challenging, not necessarily too extreme.

Then 10-mile loop with similar characteristics. However, there is a pesky long hill around mile 9.

Venue: At Start/finish, excellent variety and availability of food, plenty to drink, and amazing volunteers.

Expo: Packet pick-ups are run very efficiently. Multiple vendors this time at the bib pick-up, offering the usual items and sales.

Weather: Lots of clouds at the start, followed by somewhat overcast skies, a tad warm 64º with just over 75% humidity.

T1D: Sugars remained high throughout the event.


Pre-Race: 1 serving of Hot Cereal, banana, and Latte.

Race: Liquid calories.

Post: Water and protein shake.

Learning Points:

  • Quick recovery from previous events is critical to having a decent follow-up event.
  • Having fun with the crowd and spectators makes the miles go by fast.