After racing three times in four months, I found myself in the middle of a three-week arc of once a week racing- and only my 3rd road race of 2008.
It was a last minute decision to do the race. I certainly had known about it- after all, I was one of the people who'd voted for the race to be part of the USATF-CT grand prix this year. But John Hirsch was having a really cool 110 mile ride today, which would have been awesome training, but also a completely unfair monopolization of time.
The 10K is one of the harder distances. You basically have to hold something as close to your 5K pace as possible for twice as long. Of course you can't hold 5k pace that long, and you're much better off going out a little slower, but you can only go out so slow, especially at a state championship race. When all I was doing was road racing, I considered 10K my distance- long enough to weed out the pure speed guys, too short for the real endurance runners. But the truth is I was a better 5k runner- neither my patience nor experience was were where they needed to be. Now that I have more of both, I no longer have the modest speed I once did.
I got to the race nice and early, registered, took the long hike to the bathrooms.
I wound up talking to Jim Zoldy, who's doing Alcatraz next month. That at once seems like one of the coolest and most intimidating things in the sport. You jump in water that's always ridiculously cold and hope to hell you can make the shore... have a great race, Jim.
I also saw Oscar and Bart in the parking lot and we were swapping stories. It was a pretty low-key morning- sunny, not too windy, warm enough for a singlet. I found myself not warming up quite as hard as at the duathlons, in part because I wasn't sure where the start was.
The course is pretty flat/rolling, except for about 3/10th of a mile in, where there's a pretty reasonable little hill. That was the only thing I remembered about the only other race I'd run there. According to Google, that was in 2001. By 2/10th of a mile, I think we were already joking about how there seemed to be two races going on, the elite runners and the rest of us. We climbed the hill, crested, moved to the left and I found myself yelling loudly 'Incoming'- grey sedan in our lane coming right at us, but plenty of room and time to work that out.
The separation between the top 8 or ten guys and the rest of us was tremendous before the mile mark. I joked that it seemed like they were running 1k pace instead of 10k pace. But for the rest of us, the race started to settle in and somewhere around 1 mile, we really started to thin out- Brian Talon in front of me and Shannon McHale going by, one of the guys from Sound Runner in front of me. The course seemed like it was mostly downhill on the way out to the turnaround and we went around turns and through rollers. I could hear a number of people behind me, breathing loudly, including one runner I'm not going to mention by name that breathes really loudly/coughs/grunts. He makes the same noises in every race, I swear. It was that kind of day, where you could the people 50 yards behind you. But no one was close and I just had three people in range in front of me.
Brain and Shannon passed the guy in yellow and white in front of me before the turn-around. I saw all the leaders, then I saw George and Jim running together, and before I knew it, we were at the turn-around. I had not looked back once, I just won't do it, but you have no choice at a turn-around. The entire field of 50-59 guys I know seemed to be about 30 yards behind me, Steve Johnson from my own team and several other guys I'd be lucky to be as fast as when that time comes, plus some guys in my own age group. You tend to exaggerate how close people are at a turn-around. I thought a mass of people where bearing down on me and I was about to be engulfed. That was at exactly three miles
No one would pass me the rest of the race.
I passed the guy in yellow and white, there was some back and forth and finally I started to exert myself. The course had seemed downhill the whole way out but as we rolled up and down small inclines I realised it wasn't.
The rest of the race was more of the same. I never did look back, but until I hit 5 miles, I was convinced that I was barely holding of the people behind me. Brian and Shannon were still close, but not close enough. While I'd rather be the last guy not to get beat by any woman, I was at the back-end of a long set of training (my easy day was an hour on the bike, hour run brick Saturday), and last year I pretty much blew up my calf at a Memorial Day 10k. We went up the hill and I realised that no one was really back there.
My heart rate hit 176.
Then it was down the hill, the oddly long swooping turn until finally I could see the starting line and then, the finish line.
I felt like it was a good race. It hurt while I was doing it, and then it didn't hurt when it was it over and I was warming down with George, Brian, and Paul Moyse. That was what I was really aiming for. Normally, 6th master would be a little disappointing, but I could hardly expect better at a state championship. I think our team, and even our men's masters team, despite me being there 3rd man, did okay.
Back on the bike for three hours tomorrow...