During warm-up with Charlie Hornak today, my hamstrings were still sore enough (for the first time all week they hurt) that I wasn't sure running the race was a good idea.
Still, I wanted to do this. I've run this race a few times now, it has a great long sleeve t-shirt (I could have had a free number, but paid so I could get the shirt), and I felt ready. Well, maybe not ready, but ready to remind myself what road races are all about.
It's tough to go from an Ironman to a road race. One is this event you pay 550 dollars for and there are people everywhere- volunteers to help you do everything from take off your wetsuit to get sunscreen and the other is a road race that will be over in half an hour.
That said, way more important than how this race was for me is what an awesome job that Marty does with this race. First, there's the course. These are roads I run on all the time and except for the park, I have hassles running on these roads all the time (can you say jail ?). Today, the road was perfectly coned, the police did a superb job, and there was even a water station. All the miles were marked, the results were ready and awards were started less than 90 minutes after the race started, we had two types of subway subs to choose from in addition to Pantera breads and fruit. Marty is a friend, but this is not about making nice for a friend. I've seen the best of Marty's races and I've seen one or two of his races where things have gone bad (not because of him), and this is one of better races he does every year.
The race got off to a fast start. This guy named Matt, who always wears a Colnago headband, really took it out and I was surprised to realise that I was briefly ahead of the race winner, Bart Wasiolek. Of course, there were some kids in front of me.
I haven't run a road race since the New Haven 20K in September. If you know me, let that sink in. I didn't race between August 3rd and September 1st, and I didn't race in October. I'd only run three road races since July 1st.
The race takes a sharp right-hand turn, goes out of the park- watch that gate, boys and girls ! Then it goes uphill. It's not an easy start. Matt- I think his name is Matt- seemed to be building a huge lead- over me, that is, and the guys around me. He was in the mix with two other guys, and so was I. Brian Talon was behind me.
At a mile, Matt went through about 5:20, then started coming back to us. I went through at 5:36. Wow !
I was scrapping. I wanted to get as much distance between me and the field behind me early because I was going to melt down.
We turned again and then we were headed up towards the Yale Bowl again (it would be off to our left as we passed it). Now we were into the wind and it was hard running. I decided to moderate my effort- I was breathing hard into the wind, my upper body was too tight. I was in the fifth and I wanted to finish in 5th now. But Brian, who's a superb runner and getting ready for the Philadelphia Marathon, was behind me.
We finally turned again, after two miles. Bart was running away, there was one guy out of contact, and then Brian, who'd been off my shoulder, finally passed me. He told me to keep contact with the two guys around me and I bounced between fifth and seventh. When we got near the water fountain one of the guys managed to slip his front foot all the way under my right foot and 'kick' it forward. But I'm used to contact and this was not the least bit unsettling because of how hard I run- which is not a good thing.
If I were lighter on my feet, I'd be a lot faster- and I probably would have gone down.
At three miles, I was back in fifth and I was trying just to hold on. We took another turn and I was really, really giving it what I had. I slipped back to sixth, then moved up to fifth and we started to gap- I thought, the guy in seventh. Then we were at the hairpin turn back into the park- I'd watched Brian Talon hurdle his way over the fence here after missing the turn.
At four miles I was at 23:37 and the last mile is downhill. I wanted 5th.
It wasn't happening. I tried, the younger guys tried harder. I did challenge them at about four and a half miles, but they answered.
I hit the chute at 29:22, and then worked to avoid throwing up, which I did. But that meant I had run hard after all- 29 seconds faster than last year- go figure- 7th overall and since Bart won the race they took him out and I 'won' my age group.
My hamstrings hurt even worse on the warm down Brian, Charlie, and I ran- then we hung out. That was as good as the race, all thing considered- at least it hurt less.
Now I'm ready for the Cross Country Championships and Thanksgiving. But I'm still in Ironman mode...