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Leprechaun-5K

I had no expectations of myself coming into this race – none.  Sunday’s run would be my third of the year.  No, not my third race; my third run.  For a few months I’ve been nursing an aggravated hip that comes and goes.  In addition, I have been working hard on growing my fledgling personal training business.  The only real exercise I had done in the past two weeks has been 4 minute tabata burpees between dropping off Katie and Brooke off at school during the school week.

That.  Is.  It.

So, like I said, I had no expectations of how I was going to do or feel after 3.1 miles this past Sunday.

That being the case, I decided that I shouldn’t position myself at the very front of the pack at the start of the race, opting instead to start several yards behind the front-runners.  After a wonderful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by the race director’s daughter, the starting horn blared and we were off.

A small pack of about twenty to twenty five runners immediately separated themselves from the masses.  I had to make a snap decision to either follow and run hard or stay back and enjoy the scenery.  I focused on my hip for two or three steps, trying to anticipate whether it could handle a hard effort.

No real pain – check!

I decided to chase the group.

I had left my phone in the car and my GPS watch is on the fritz, so I had no idea just how fast I was going, and with a downhill start I really was not in a position to judge pace.  Over the first half mile, the jack rabbits began to shake out – I was now sitting somewhere around 16th or 17th.

We began a short uphill climb.  This is where I made my first move – I tend to push the hills a bit; I find it’s a great way to reel people in.  I caught up to a group of 3 or 4 runner and passed them on the inside.  As we hit the mile marker I took a quick glance at my watch before setting my sights on a few runners ahead of me.

7:25.

Okay, not a bad pace for someone who has been struggling with their running for the last few months.  My hip was fine, but my glutes and quads were already burning, as were my lungs.  I tried to ignore the pain and pressed on.

As I began to pick off runners one by one, I looked way down the road.   I could barely see the leaders.  I counted back.

1…2…3…

4, 5, 6…

7…8…9th!

I was running 9th with about 1.8 miles to go.

That’s when I heard the footsteps.  They were slowly getting louder and louder.

Thump, thump! Thump, thump!

Without turning I yelled, “which side are passing me on?”

I couldn’t make out what he said.

Thump, thump! Thump, thump!

His footsteps got louder.  I couldn’t tell how far behind he was, but it felt like he was right on my tail and gaining.  I slid to the left, encouraging him to pass me by.

“It’s all you, man!” I said.

Thump, thump! Thump, thump!

If he said something, I didn’t hear it.  Surprisingly, he didn’t pass me.

The two of us passed the guy running in 8th.

His footsteps continued to push me as I, I hope, pulled him.

Thump, thump! Thump, thump!

My legs and lungs were burning.  I glanced down at my watch.

14:30.

14:30?  I had thought we were going faster but the mile 2 marker was nowhere in sight.  Was it possible the I had slowed down that significantly?  Were we that far from 2 miles that it wasn’t in sight?  Nearly a minute later I spotted a sign that looked like a marker.  I looked at my watch.

15:15, 15:16, 15:17…

What in the world???

As we got closer, I noticed that the mile marker said 2.2 miles – 15:35…we had averaged 6:54 for that 1.2 miles.

Okay…now I get it!

I was encouraged by the fact that we only had 0.9 miles to go.  Though I wouldn’t admit it beforehand, I was hoping to break 24:00 that day.  I was sure I had that in hand, but knowing I had less than a mile to go, I decided to push it for all I had.

Thump, thump! Thump, thump!

“Footsteps” was still behind me.  I was sure he was going to pass me at any time now as we approached the finish.  He had been shadowing me for a bulk of the race, biding his time.  I was not looking forward to the finish.  I remembered from the previous year that the Leprechaun 5K ends with the last third to half mile uphill and as much as I enjoy catching people on hills, I hate finishing races on hills.

“Footsteps” began to fade…I yelled back encouragement, trying to egg him on, but his footstep continued to fade.  As I hit the 3 mile marker, I let myself enjoy the fact that I was going to comfortably finish in 8th.  The woman in 7th simply had too big of a lead on me and there was no way I was going to catch her, but “Footsteps” had been vanquished.

“Thumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthump!!!”

These footsteps sounded different.

Faster.

Lighter.

…Younger.

In a flash my joy evaporated as a kid went flying by on my left.

No. Way!  I tried to hit the next gear – I wasn’t going to give up my spot without a fight to this kid.

I dropped the hammer and pushed…

…and kept going at the speed I had been cruising along in.  The kid flew past me like I was standing still.

Sigh.

I crossed the finish line in 22:02, covering the last 0.9 miles in 7:10 pace for an overall pace of about 7:06 – good enough for a 9th place finish.

I stumbled up to the kid.

“Were you the footsteps behind me,” I asked confused.  He looked confused as well.  I turned to see “Footsteps” finishing.  I turned back to the kid.  Obviously he had started further back and finished strong.

“How old are you, kid?  16? 17?” I asked.

“I’m 13,” he said with a grin.  I shook my head.  Crap!  Taken out like I was standing still by a boy the age of my daughter.  I knew that this day would eventually come – I just didn’t expect it to happen at 13.

13!!!

I gave him a pat on the back and went to chat with “Footsteps”.  We thanked each other for pushing/pulling the other along.

In the end, despite being taken down by a 13 year old, I was pretty happy with my performance.  It was nowhere near my best in a 5K, but it was pretty darn satisfying to finish in the top 10 out of 200+ runners.  It did make me realize though that I have a long way to go to get back into marathon shape.

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Me flabbergasted that I just got passed by a 13 year old…

 

Hope you all had a fantastic weekend!

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

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Sometimes going public is not such a good thing.  Facebook?  Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea.  That picture of you streaking through the center of town?

In this age of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, there was no way that wasn’t going viral.

But there are times when going public is a good thing.  There is a reason I put it out there to all of you that I had begun studying for my CSCS certification.  It created accountability on my part.  I also figured that if I made it public, I would have hundreds of readers who would in their own way make sure that I stayed the course (so to speak).  By making it public, I could not let the books and CD’s gather dust in the corner of my desk like so many other things have.

This works for just about any goal.  If you are thinking about running a race, be it a 5K, a marathon or anything in between (or beyond!), tell somebody – tell everybody!  If you’re thinking about joining a gym and getting yourself into better shape, announce it to the world.  In doing so, you will be creating your own support system that will A.) hold you accountable and B.) lend encouragement.  Offer regular progress reports whether through social media, email or even through a blog of your own (if you start a blog, let me know so I can check in on you regularly!).

In the rare circumstance that someone you share your plan with comes back with a negative response, USE THAT! Get mad, get angry, prove them wrong and then shove your accomplishment in their face while thanking them for the motivation.

In the end, you will accomplish your goal and even better, by going public, you may inspire others to follow.

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Whenever I go to small, local races (all of 3 or 4 in total) I inevitably start looking around for who may be the winner.  I size the other runners up – she looks fast!  he’s definitely a speedster!  – and as I do, I try to place myself among them.  The Liver Lover 5K was no different.  Upon arriving, I immediately started sizing up those who appeared to be fast runners.  Over on a bench was a long, lean guy who looked like he could flat out run.  Over by the check in table was a shorter women who looked all of 100 lbs.  She pulled off her sweatshirt to reveal a Boston Running Club singlet.  Crap! Another speedster!  As I surveyed the crowd I tried to figure out who was faster than me.  I had myself coming in somewhere around 5th.  When my Race Menu teammate Lisa showed up, I knocked myself down another peg.  6th place.

As we walked over to the starting line, it became apparent to me that there was one kid who was not running the same race as the rest of us.  Tall, skinny, a runner’s body and a college singlet on.  Turned out he was 23 years old.  My plan had been to go out with the leaders and see where I was after a mile.  I was gonna have to let this kid go.  After a touching rendition of the National Anthem, it was time to go.

Ready…

Six or seven us crouched at the starting line.

Set…

We put our hands on our GPS watches.

GO!!!

A multitude of beeps and we were off.  Tall, Skinny Kid shot off the starting line and for whatever reason, I gave chase.  After 25 yards, I looked down at my watch – 7:05 per mile pace – didn’t feel like we were running that slow, but I thought, okay, I can keep up with this guy!

At about 200 yards, my lungs really started to burn.  Something wasn’t right.  Tall, skinny guy was slowly pulling away, but I was still pretty close.  At 300 yards I looked at my watch -5:30 pace AND he was pulling away even faster!

Uh oh! I thought.  This is not good! I slowed down.  I can’t run that fast for much long than a 1/2 mile and if I do, I’m throwing up at the end.  Panic started to set in.  Back pain from the day before suddenly started to hurt (though I’m pretty sure it was mental).  A half mile in and I was filled with doubt and could now hear footsteps of people catching me from behind.

I had blown my race barely before it even got started.

The young woman I had spied earlier and a kid in a bright green shirt passed me like I was standing still.  I wanted to follow, but I had to let them go – I would just have to make sure that I didn’t let them get too far ahead of me.

I hit the first mile in 6:33.  Obviously much slower than the 5:30 I had gone out in, but worse, in my mind, 9 seconds slower than my planned 6:24 pace (I was attempting to finish in 20:00).

The young woman and the Green shirt kid were not too far ahead of me.  As we made a right turn, they initially started to go too far to the right.  For just a split second I thought of letting them go, but the true competitor in me wouldn’t have been able to live with that.  I yelled at them that they were going the wrong way.  They probably lost no more than a second or two off their time.

I continued to chase them as we went over a hill.  Lately, for whatever reason, uphills have been where I’ve been closing the distance on people, and this race was no different.  Very quickly I pulled within about 10 feet of the two of them.  They were able to maintain their distance on the downhill.

But just before 1.5 miles, we made another turn and hit another hill.  As we made the turn, Green Shirt Kid began to fade, but the Young Woman was pushing hard.

Now the race was on.

I caught up to her about 2/3 of the way of the hill.  Through her heavy breathing she asked me if mile 1 felt long.  I said it did and we continued to run in silence, listening to the pounding of our feet.  At about 1.8 miles we were flying downhill again.  I opened up a bit of a lead, but as soon as we flattened out, she caught and passed me again.

I had never been in a back and forth race, and quite frankly, I wasn’t sure if I had the mental determination to take it to the end.

As we passed mile 2 at 13:00, I started doing math again.  I had 7:00 to cover 1.1 miles.  I was gonna have to run a 6:36 mile the rest of the way – faster than 9 miles per hour.  I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do it.  I thought about letting the Young Woman go – she seemed to be speeding up (or was I slowing down?) – but I knew, once again, that I had to leave it all on the course if I wanted to get a true reading of where my fitness level was.  If I was opting to race a 5K instead of running my scheduled 18-miler, then dammit I was going to make it worthwhile.

1.1 miles – it was time to let it all hang out.  I could bear the pain for 7 minutes.

At about 2.2 miles, I caught the Young Woman on a turn on to a bike path and passed her.   I had the gas pressed to the floor.  I was just hoping I wouldn’t run out of gas before the end of the race.  As we came back out on to the road, I could hear her footsteps behind me.  I kept thinking that any minute now she was gonna find her final gear and blow past me.  We had a half mile to go and my whole body felt like it was on fire.

Her footsteps were getting closer – if I could just hold on.

With about 300 yards to go I could see the finish line.  It was time to completely empty the tank.

Trying to create some distance between me and the Young Woman

I found a final gear, covering those last 300 yards in sub-5:45 per mile pace,

Increasing the gap with one final kick...

crossing the finish line in 19:40 and finishing in a personal best 2nd place.

Not one of my more flattering race pics...and why am I slowing down BEFORE the finish line?

It turns out the Tall Skinny Kid finished in 16:18 – like I said, he was running a completely different race.  I must admit, I was pretty pleased with my finish.  There were plenty of moments where I wanted to take my foot off of the gas, but I pushed through the pain and was able to finish better than I had expected.  The 2nd place finish was fabulous (I even won a $30 gift certificate to a local running shop), but the best part is that I continued the validation of switching to the Furman FIRST program.  After Quincy 2 weeks earlier, McMillan’s Running Calculator put me at a 3:15:07 marathon – huge progress from the Superbowl Sunday 5-Miler that had me at a 3:25 marathon.  Last Sunday’s race, albeit it was a short one at 5K, puts me at a 3:11:43 marathon.

My continued improvement serves as a great confidence booster going into Sugarload come late-May.  I am just going to have to make sure that I don’t make the same mistake I made last year at Boston, where instead of running a disciplined race at the pace I had trained for (3:15), I ended up going for sub-3:10.

Kudos to Jess Rossman for putting together a well run race.  I will definitely be back next year to try and improve on my time.  Hopefully Tall Skinny Guy doesn’t show up.

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Check out the new page I created for all those looking for a Race Pace Buddy:

https://runluaurun.com/race-pace-buddy/

 

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Downsizing

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So March was a monster mileage month for me (210 miles) and April was a huge racing month for me (okay, technically the ES20 was at the end of March and Providence was the beginning of May, but over the course of about 5 week I raced 2 marathons and a 20-miler). My legs are feeling it.

I’m a little tired.

It’s time to downsize. I have a half-marathon scheduled at the end of the month, and then nothing on the calender until October, when I plan to make another run at qualifying for Boston.

That said, I am hooked on this racing thing.

Love it.

Love!

It!

But I can’t keep doing half’s and full’s every month – my legs at some point will protest or simply fall off.

So I’m thinking that along with training toward an October marathon, this is going to be the summer of the 5K. I haven’t run a 5K race yet. Ever. I have no idea what to expect from them, but I do know that they are the most commonly run road race out there. That being the case, you may see a, um, ahem, run of 5K race reports over the summer.

The 5K though is a little scary to me.

Scary?

Well, yeah.

My biggest fear of the 5K is the distance.

The Distance?

Yup, the distance. I am a relatively slow starter. Whether it’s age or simply just how I’m built, in the races I have run, it usually takes me a two or three miles to get into a groove. The problem with that, of course, is if it takes me 3 miles to get in a groove in a 5K, I’ll only have 0.1 miles left in the race.

I know I can cover the distance. After running several marathons and half’s, the race may be over before it even feels like it’s started. The question is can I kick it into 5th gear from the very start?

Part of the reason I’m trying my hand at 5K’s this summer is the same reason why, in the end, I did 2 marathons in 2 weeks – to see if I can do it.

Very often, that’s what these races, whether they be 5K’s or marathons, are all about. Very few of us have any hopes of winning a race outright. But that is not why we run. We are not running against our competitors. No, we are running against ourselves – to see what we are indeed capable of.

I’m looking forward to finding out.

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***In the meantime, if any of you have suggestions for 5K’s that you really enjoyed in the Boston or New York City areas, please let me know.

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