I'd told several people I was planning to re-doing last year's double- the 5K at 8:30, followed by the Madison 5 mile road race at 10:00 AM. In 2008 I'd run pretty well, with an 18:14 and a 30:16, 2nd in my age group for both races. Neither race was spectacular, but both were adequate.
But I ended up not running the double. Margit had been planning on swimming Thanksgiving morning, but that didn't happen so instead she decided to run the 5K pushing Ian.
We got to the race about 15 minutes before the scheduled start, I watched Ian while she registered and then got in a decent enough warm-up. I'd trained through the race, with a short, high intensity mountain-bike brick on Wednesday, but there was still the thought I might be able to place well- this is a smaller thanksgiving race on roads I know really well. JT was there and I know JT can take me and there were some high school and college kids, but I still thought I might be in the mix.
I selected my initial line really carefully, because the race comes out of the Walsh Intermediate School parking lot and takes a very hard right up against a high kerb just as the road space narrows. I wanted to take the turn first and avoid any jostling- Charlie Hornak told me he and Kerry Arsenault were bumping here after the race.
I got to the turn first, just like I wanted, and it was loud behind me. Almost as soon as I finished the turn, I got passed by one of those guys that actually looked like a runner- tall, thin, running singlet and shorts, neck beads, bushy head of hair. Teenager or first year college kid. I tried to open up the throttle. At this point there was no thought of running a second race, I wanted to find a gear that justified me having been out in front at all. Then I got passed again.
This was the point where I knew for sure I wasn't winning any races this year. Yeah, I'd been looking to maybe steal me some Thanksgiving dessert for my season. Thinking maybe none of the kids had wheels and I could outrun Juan Tolberto- I had beat him last year by a handful of seconds.
But the truth hit. It was cold and I was still not acclimated fully and me and my arm warmers were getting our ass handed to us by real runners. I was in third, then fourth, then sixth, then JT blew by me like I was trying to outrun gravity itself. I'd gone through a mile at 5:30 and the voice of reason- which sounds a lot like my coach- reminded me that 5:30 means I'm running well. That's high 17:30s for me if I can hold myself together. But the idea of winning dying felt like it took something out of me. At one mile and a quarter I felt like a complete poser out there running a road race. I didn't really deserve to be pounding down the road, the short, kind of stocky guy in the tri-gear, feeling like I was going to explode, crash and burn before I hit the cone at the turn-around.
I knew there were more people behind me, bearing down on me. I was running heavy, hell, I am heavy, for a runner anyway, and according to the charts, which are meaningless, I'm just heavy period. I am just not a 5K runner.
I took the cone and there was Kerry, first woman. I wasn't sure I could hold her off. There was Charlie and other people. I started hearing my name- this is my home time after all. I went by Ian and Margit going the other way, just inches between us- the yellow line the only spearation..
I didn't have a cliff-shot. I needed it.
I hit the two mile mark at- 11:00 ?
Second mile, same as the first. What the hell ? Was I falling apart or not ?
Not. The third mile has a little uphill incline section back towards the 'main' road and I hauled every last bit of ass I could. I was still chasing the guys in front of me. It didn't matter they were long gone now. The people behind me ? I didn't care about them. I felt it all starting to click and no one was going to catch me. Oh, they might close on me, but no one was going to close me down.
I opened up my stride, let myself feel like a runner again.
17:39- that's 35 seconds faster than last year, when it was in the upper-50s, when I was better warmed up.
Margit ran 24:00 pushing Ian- beating more than 3/4 of the field.
We didn't get out of there quickly enough to get to Madison, but I didn't care. I'd run the way I'd planned to, as hard as I could, and the three of us had all had a good time, and it was time for family.
I'd survived feeling like I was blowing up. And that was all it was. I really was actually running very well (for a stubby aging triathlete), and I'd let getting housed on my home course get to me. Really, what probably saved me was that JB had 1 and 2 mile clocks, so I knew I was running solid, and that was all I need. Verification that I was doing my job and keeping it steady. 6 of the 8 guys that beat me also beat 17:00 on the clock, and let's be real, I have no business running with the sub-17 crowd.
And that's fine with me. Honest.