My very first road race was the SuperSunday 5K/10K – all the way back in 2009.
I had no idea what I was doing and it showed. I entered the 10K and finished in a respectable 46:58. The following year I entered it again (again in the 10K) and ran what was probably my best performance in a race to date other than the Smuttynose Marathon in 2010, finishing the 10K in 39:29.
In 2011, due to bad weather conditions, the SuperSunday 5K/10K was cancelled. I was disappointed to say the least.
This year RaceMenu Chief, Alain Ferry, decided to change things up a little. He moved the SuperSunday Race from Downtown Boston to Cambridge and changed the distance to 5 miles (with a bailout at the 5K mark). The course is a large, relatively flat triangle, with just a couple of tiny hills.
As regular readers already know, I spent the second half of 2011 struggling to find my running motivation (and if I’m going to be completely honest, I was struggling to find motivation to do anything!). Despite having a 50-mile race in September and a marathon in November (you can also see the video of that marathon here), my training was minimal at best. In fact, I probably only ran 50 miles total in the 6 to 7 weeks leading up to my 50-miler. I ran even less leading up to the marathon and almost completely stopped running in the month of December.
I was at a low point.
But then I started to see posts on Facebook and dailymile of friends who were starting their training cycle for Boston 2012. At first it hurt to see those posts. I missed getting into Boston this year by 33 seconds. It wasn’t fun seeing so many friends (virtual or otherwise) running toward my hometown marathon knowing that I would be on the sidelines watching the crowd go by.
But then sadness and anger turned to determination. I may not be running Boston this year, but dammit, I was gonna get back next year – of course, with the new qualifying standards, that means taking at least 4:20 off of my PR of 3:19:19.
Nearly 10 seconds per mile.
I found my Spring marathon – Sugarloaf on May 22nd (I’d love it if you would come run with me). It is supposed to be one of the fastest marathons in the country. I started my training, stumbling out of the gate, unable to maintain pace in a Lactate Threshold run, but determined. After initially settling on an 18 week plan, I decided to build up my base for 6 weeks and then train in earnest for 12.
And that brings me back to last Sunday.
As of last Sunday, I am halfway through my build up period. I was scheduled for 14 miles, but decided that I wanted to race the SuperSunday 5, not just because I have always raced the SuperSunday race, but also because I wanted to see where I was physically.
Having found my Vermont 50 buddy JB and convinced him that we should shoot for 35 minutes, we made our way to the starting line. Temperatures were in the low to mid 20’s and everyone was bundled up in long sleeves and running pants…everyone that is, except for me. I was in my usual singlet, shorts, hat and gloves.
Right before the start one racer asked me, “why the hat?”
“Excuse me,” I said.
“Why the hat,” he said, “if you’re going with the singlet and shorts, why are you bothering with the hat and gloves?” I explained that since we lose a large chunk of heat from our heads, that wearing a hat in fact allowed me to run in a singlet and shorts. He nodded, muttering to himself, “you know, that kinda makes sense.”
JB and I had placed ourselves well back from the front. I had no desire to hang with the sub-6:00 milers. 7:00 miles was what I was looking for. I figured it would be a good marker to see where I was.
After the starting gun went off and we started to go, I quickly realized that we had moved back too far in the pack. We bobbed and weaved our way through, trying to hit out pace. It didn’t help that both of our Garmins were getting confused by the tall buildings. One moment we were supposedly running 8:00 miles, the next a 5:15. About a mile out, we finally found our groove, getting there at just about 7:00.
Me and JB settling in.
At this point, with JB trailing behind me a bit, I began to go back and forth with a woman who could not have been more than 5 feet tall, and that only on days when the moon and sun aligned properly. I would pass her and then she would pass me and then I would pass her again. On and on it went for a little over two miles. As we approached the 5K mark I pushed to pass her, but I knew if she passed my again, I wasn’t going to be able to catch her.
As we passed the 5K check off, I hit a wall. We had been running 6:50’s for a couple of miles and unfortunately, my legs were just not ready. As I watch the woman go by me, JB came up on my left. He was looking strong. He had been smart and maintained an even pace where I had let myself get sucked into the game of racing one individual. I was running out of gas.
At the 5K mark...mugging for the cameras before my legs gave out.
I knew I had less than 2 miles to go, but my legs felt like lead weights. I told JB to stay with the group that had passed us. He tried to encourage me to stick with him, but I just didn’t have the juice. At this point, I just wanted to finish with a 35-handle. It wasn’t going to be easy.
The next mile was a daze. I was simply trying to run as fast as I could without completely running out of gas. Mile 4 came and went unnoticed (a van had parked in front of the mile marker). When my garmin beeped 4.5 miles, I looked at my watch.
I had 3:42 to get to the finish line. Just under a 7:30 mile. I pushed myself to go, dragging my legs behind me.
As I came around the final turn I could hear footsteps coming up on my right. I could see the clock with a 34-handle.
Those two things helped me find my kick. I broke into an all out sprint (the garmin claiming that I closed out the race at a 4:16/mile pace).
All. Out. Sprint.
I left the footsteps behind me and passed a guy who had just passed me only minutes earlier.
I guy in red I think is Footsteps...the guy in green had passed me just a half mile earlier.
After crossing the finish line, I nearly collapsed. That was a lot harder than I had anticipated. A year and a half ago I could have done a 35 minute 5-miler with a smile. On Sunday, I struggled.
But I did hit my goal. In the end, the official chip time was 34:56 – good enough for 6th out of 57 in my age group and 107th overall out of 744 runners. Not bad for someone just getting back in the swing of things.
Afterward JB and I hit the party tent and ad a couple of beers.
getting ready for some beer!
Alain knows how to throw a race and even better, he knows how to throw a post-race party – 5 different kinds of beer and all the wings you could eat – perfect for Superbowl Sunday.
Despite hitting my goal of 35:00 or better, I still have plenty of work to do before Sugarloaf in May. My 34:56 only translates into about a 3:25 marathon according to McMillian’s Running Calculator. Obviously, that is nowhere near good enough.
That being said, I’m pretty happy with the progress I’ve made so far this year. It’s not going to be an easy road back to Boston, but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?
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