Posts Tagged ‘race menu’

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.


Six or seven us crouched at the starting line.


We put our hands on our GPS watches.


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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