Sunday, September 30, 2007

Niantic Bay Half-Marathon

After running the Mystic Places Marathon or marathon relay every year, I was disappointed (although not surprised) to have the Marathon fold. It was replaced by the race I ran today, which was JB kindly comped me for in exchange for doing surveys for the Marathon.

I have to admit that I wasn't really looking at this race with very much focus. As usual, I am still in triathlon mode in the end of September and I'd just come off consecutive races- Hammerfest and Extrememan. I did transition myself to duathlon training this week- I skipped the short pool workouts and took my my bike to work or ran at lunch every day and did another bike or run after work. I also knew I'd be doing a fifty mile ride the day before, and while the Ride for Rick is a charity ride, the front end of the 50 miler is fairly brisk. I led the way up most of the hills and then the big boys did the hard work on the flats and the last 5 miles, but the ride left my legs just a little bit tight and certainly it wasn't the right way to prepare for a long road race. We also spent the afternoon at the Durham Fair, so by 7 PM last night I was beat.

There are no excuses on race day, though. Well, if you get to the starting line, that is.

After racing at the park every year I was taking certain things for granted- like the starting line being at the same place. It wasn't. About 15 minutes before the race Margit came over and let me know I was in the wrong place. It took a good five minutes to run to the starting line- soon after I got there JB announced that the 5k would start in 4 minutes, the half-marathon in 9 minutes. I wasn't just warmed-up, I was over-cooked.

I spent a few minutes talking to teammate Oscar Gonzales-Barretto, who is just an awesome 40+ runner and the certain winner of my age-group. The start of the race was one of these crazy 100 yard wide start line funneling into a single lane road- kind of like a mass start of a swimming, but for me, less frustrating.

The start went amazingly the well- the top ten runners (including me) were able to get to the road without any problems and then we started racing. I was running alongside Charlie Iselin and we started talking. I was counseling a moderated approach and New Haven came up- Charlie brought it up. At New Haven I let Charlie run away from me, but he started to struggle at about five miles and I eventually came back on him. Today, I was trying to get him to stay with me, and that worked for about 3 miles. We made it out of the park and were headed out towards Giant's Neck. But shortly after three miles, Charlie and another runner had who'd come up on us started pulling away and I let them go because their pace was not where I wanted to be. Unfortunately, some 50 year-old runner who would end up finishing about 5 minutes behind me was absolutely stuck to me, occasionally passing me, then falling back behind. A shuffler, the noise was driving me crazy. That's one of those things that is really tough. Everyone has every right to run however they want- I run with my number behind me and cliff shot block packages rustling in my pouch.

You can't turn around and tell someone to run quieter. The low point was at around four miles. I was running into the wind, uphill, the shuffler in front of me, Charlie and the other guy just a little farther head than I wanted then. I felt tired. My left hamstring was so tight my calf felt it was going to cramp. I tried to stay calm and positive and ate my first bag of Cliff Shot Blocks. I had another nine miles. I worked to start to slowly close the gap between Charlie and his running mate, and hopefully that would drop the shuffler. I overtook them just before the turn back onto the main road and started running downhill into the park. They gave me some encouragement, then they closed me down and we ran back towards the finish together. As we headed for the turn-around they passed me and I felt like I was having trouble hanging on- I think they got a better bounce from the crowd than I did, although i was the one trying to work JB and Mark G. to say our names and give us the props. However, as we started heading out, I caught site of the guy in front of us- he had almost 30 seconds. I turned it on and dropped them short of 8 miles and that would be it. From there I was working my ass off to close this guy down. At the 9 mile mark, though, he still had ten seconds, I was again running into the wind, I needed to eat and I felt like I still had people close behind that might close me down if I faltered at all.

I did the only thing I could do- eat. We exited Giant's Neck and on that long stretch back we had to run on the yellow line because the one side of the road was open and the other was full of runners. I finally caught Vin, another 42 year-old, father of a 2.5 year old, triathlete and IM LP veteran, as we turned onto the main road.

I tried to pass him. He surged. I tried again, and again, and again. He was up to every challenge. I was just about out of gas. At Mile 12 I decided to make one last push, and that one got me the separation I was in desperate need of. I ran like I had just kicked a car and came in with a little time to spare, followed by Vin, who ran a great race and really put himself out there.

Especially coming off last week, running hard in the back half of the race and running away from several people really made me feel a lot better about my running. It might have been a week too late, but it's important to have a short memory when you race anyway.

Margit also had a great race and I owe her for getting me to the starting line...

No comments: