I really went into yesterday's race with a feeling that there would not be much I could do. I didn't say anything to Margit as we'd be racing as a team, but when I haven't raced in two months, I usually don't do anything worth writing about.
It was cold and windy, not quite bitter but certainly bordering on too cold for the racing shoes I was wearing- bright orange Mizunos that stick out and draw comments. I went off on my own and warmed up, running almost two miles and feeling like I was sucking wind on a comparatively small hill. This was not the 2 hour plus bike ride which has become my Saturday staple.
The race thankfully started close to on time and I very quickly found myself set in with a group of four runners, Ryan Pancoast (congrats, Ryan) leading the way on the first downhill mile. There's something nice about racing in February. It really was a sedate first mile. I was in the lead group, so I decided to try and step outside myself and stay with this. We went through a mile at 5:38, but that's as downhill a mile as the 4th is uphill. We climbed a bit and then broke onto a straight away and I told the two college kids with me that Ryan was just waiting for them to draw up with him. Right then, Ryan looked back as he took the turn and after the race he confirmed that was just what he was doing.
We took another hill. I fell back on the opening part of the hill but then surged past everyone but Ryan as we crested. He was only holding about 50 yards, and although I know I could never beat Ryan, I made an attempt to close the gap, but it was so small. I couldn't, and that effort probably hurt me.
I spent the next mile pulling away on downhills and getting tangled up in a mix of what had become 4 runners including myself. We hit the three mile mark and I fell back to fifth. Ryan had left us behind and Fred Willis was slowly pulling away, but we went up that long hill and fell into fifth, just biding my time. As we finally crested, I tried my best to find an extra gear and on the downhill pushed into third place. I ran hard, but after the last turn onto the main road, I slowly fell back to fifth.
The clock was at 23:49 when I first saw it and I knew it would take a titanic effort to break 24:00. It didn't happen. I ran 24:03.
As soon as Margit finished we went out and ran the course backwards with Robin Passander, cutting out the upper loop and just doing about three miles. I was thinking Margit and I had a very good chance to win. I didn't know that Ian Frankel had been randomly matched up with a 15 year old girl that finished second overall and we lost our chance to be three-time champions by 5 seconds.
5 seconds ?