Sunday, March 15, 2009

Shamrock and Roll 5K

It doesn't usually take me a week to get round to writing a race report, especially when it's only the second race of the year, but it was busy week, with all that Daily Show watching, getting ready for spending the weekend in class and writing a significant presentation for it....

The Shamrock on Roll 5K is always hard. There's the physical profile of the course- a short slightly sloping downhill followed by a wicked climb, a short down hill, small flat, short uphill, then a rocketing downhill that reverses the long uphill, and two final turns with an shallow uphill until near the finish.

Did I mention they serve free Guinness after the race ?

It was a beautiful day for a 5K, especially for a 5K in March- it was in the upper 50s, very near 60, bright and sunny. It was amazing because on Monday we'd had about a foot of snow dumped on us, the schools had been closed and we'd gone sledding.

I got in a good warm-up, running with Michael and Charlie Hornak. When we got back to the start I started my strides, and by race time I was feeling as good as I was going to feel. I wasn't expecting a lot. While I'd been doing hill repeats for two weeks leading into the race I knew I was under-raced, out of shape, and overtrained.

It had been beautiful on Saturday and I responded by taking my T-Class out and doing a 1:50 time trial on it. I'd also run the Branford Road Race course in the morning. This is not how you rest for a 5K and that's OK because I'm not training for one, and even if I had been, I'd have shelved that for a chance to enjoy a great day. When the weather drops a nugget like last Saturday in your lap and you have time to ride, you take it and have no regrets.

The countdown finally came and we were off. I have the line for this course in my head. Exactly where I want to start to be able to run a dead straight line to kerb, then exactly how I want to take the first turn. After that it's the hill and everything starts to separate. I'd been watching the guys at the starting line and I knew one thing. I was up against a lot of young talent, and by up against I mean I was going to get my ass handed to me.

The hill is one of the great moments in racing for me. I mean, I'm OK on hills, but this hill in specific is so long and so severe for a 5K, that it's just fun. I was back and forth with a lot of teenage and twenty somethings and that was all good. I knew some were faster and some would fight and even though I'm old and slow and sometimes I question how much fire is left inside me to battle on short running courses (and when I'm not questioning if I still have it, I know I don't, just look at the pedestrian times I run), egotism and orneriness still do burn brightly. It doesn't matter what motivates you when you use it to run faster than your body alone can carry you.

You have to fight smart on the hill. A guy in orange went by me and instantly I knew he was my competition in my age group. How ? He looked like he had to still be in his thirties (all the best 40-somethings are better/younger looking after all) and he had just passed me.

But a funny thing happened on the way to second place in my age group. I passed him back. And this wasn't one of those stupid 'I'll show this guy who's the alpha male' passes. I measured his stride, waited, and went by him at my normal stride- he'd overcooked the hill a little.

I went through the turn- finally I was off the hill. Having been passed on it had shaken my happy thoughts a little, but I had Linkin Park's Bleed It Out swimming in my head (no, I wasn't wearing headphones), and I was in the mix and we took another turn, went up a short way and popped back out on the road. We were on the downhill and I worked. People in the pack going the other way were yelling my name as I went by, while on my side of the road people keep cheering this one kid I was jockeying with.

I ran hard, I passed some people. One guy running with me said' let's go get' the guy in front of us, but I wasn't talking. I was running in that back half of the 5K way I run, where I get big, and not in a good way. I'm a fairly steady runner, but I'm big for my size and when I get tired I run big, which is less efficient.

About halfway back down the hill orange shirt guy passed me and given his cadence, he might as well have staked me in the heart and stuffed my mouth with garlic on the way by. The part of my brain I don't trust (and maybe should) said to try and hop on, but the guy that tries not to blow up in the Ironman marathon has maybe had a little calcification of his race risk muscles.

That's an excuse. Better to say he passed me running well and I didn't rise to a challenge I should have risen to.

I stayed at my pace, jockeyed right into the two turns. I was over 18:00 at three miles.

Damn !

I still ran as hard as I could. I got caught literally in the chute, getting a same time but lower finisher than the teenager alongside me.

I fought off a case of the vomits, grabbed two Guinness tickets, warmed down with Charlie and Mike, then drank.

18:38, 18th overall, second in my age group.

Good enough ? Yes.

Um, no. It's never good enough.

Did I enjoy myself ? Sure. Sometimes it's OK to hold off the performance based self-loathing until later. Especially when there are friends and Guinness.

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