I ran a 17:52 today on a hot and humid morning after a evening swim meet and a 40 mile ride yesterday.
It was not exactly what I'd been hoping for. I was coming off a race at Niantic in which, despite being disappointed at not catching the guys right in front of me, I'd felt really good. I was pretty sure that I was going to have a good 5k, especially after a 40 minute run in the sweltering heat on Tuesday.
But Wednesday night I developed a tickle in my throat and pretty soon I had a dam-break style flow of nasal and post-nasal drip. I finally gave in before the swim meet yesterday and took an antihistamine, and another one this morning. As a result, I was pretty dehydrated from my bike ride yesterday, probably more than I realised.
I got up this morning and while I definitely felt better, especially considering the swim meet, I knew I wasn't 100% either. But I had a friend driving in from Albany who was going to meet me at the race and Charlie Hornak and Robert 'Twins' Bove were also going to be there, and I was pre-registered, so there was nothing for it.
I got there a little late but just in time to warm up with Charlie. I'd been thinking on the bus ride from the parking area to the race start about putting how I felt aside and just running, reminding myself that it was a short race and that general fitness and just plain orneriness would probably see me through. We had a good warm-up, and it was such a nice hot, muggy day that everything felt OK. I didn't have any punch though.
I did my warmups and then lined up, and for the second 5K in a row, after I lined up, someone stepped onto the line in front of me. A big tall guy that seemed to be all elbows, or rather that was what I had in my face.Granted, this guy would end up being the second finisher, but I cannot for the life of me understand what he was thinking. When I get on the line, I always step into a hole between people or ask for room. He just stood in front of my like I wasn't there and I had to turn sidewise to get a foot on the line- the middle of his shoe was resting on the tape, half his foot on the race course. Oh well.
The guy starting the race went through a somewhat unorthodox explanation of how he was going to start the race. He also seemed to expect us to reply 'yes' when he asked if we were ready.
The it was under way, and like last year, I was quickly under siege, engulfed by high school kids and college guys. I was running pretty hard but it certainly seemed like I was in trouble.
We made it to the first hill at the turn off the main road the race starts on and I began to weed my way up through the younger but weaker runners. But I also realised something going up the hill- my legs were dead. I'd only ridden forty miles yesterday, but 20 of them had been at time trial pace and that's something I take seriously, but still... I never think about my legs during a short race. The problem was that I was dehydrated from the congestion and the antihistamine and that had prevented me from having my usual recovery.
Then we went through a flat section and there was another decent riser- a hill, not too long. There was a guy with running shorts, no shirt, and a twenty-year old helmet riding in amongst the runners and as I went to take the tangent up the hill, he was on the wrong side of the road, and in my way. I had to stop, cut, and run around him while I was on the hill.
The strangest things happen to me during races, although this was a lot milder than the time the motorcycle cop ran me off the road.
I hit a mile at 5:38 and knew I probably only had one good mile left in me.
After that it was really just about hanging on. The course rolls a bit, and there was a water station where I grabbed two cups of water and did my best to douse myself. There was a group of a few guys in front of me, but not much I could do seemed to close the gap, and behind me I couldn't hear anyone. I was just waiting for the turn somewhere around 2 miles, because I knew once I hit the turn, I'd be running downhill and could let momentum compensate for my dry mouth, tired legs, and still stuffed nose.
I hit the turn and cranked down the hill passed two miles, and started kind of just hanging on.
In truth, the heat and humidity, although conditions I race well in, were probably just getting to me. I'd gone through two miles at a 5:45 pace.
The next landmark was the underpass, after which there was one final turn. I was waiting until the underpass to 'turn it on'. I went through, hit the turn and-
There was no on. One runner went by me. I was still 2-3 seconds behind the guy in front of me and he also was passed. We just kept going. Except for the one guy moving up, everyone was running the same speed, all just out of reach of each other. It went on this way for half a mile, the finish line seemingly a long way away from that last turn.
When I finally saw the clock it was at around 17:40 and I knew I was breaking 18:00 and I tried to find an extra half-gear to catch the guy in front of me, but it just wasn't there.
Still, I ran a 17:50 last year and I ran a 17:52 this year. I got beat by a very large contingent of under-20s (6), but I still was 12th out of almost 450 people. I shouldn't complain.
A big shout out to Charlie Hornak and Rob Bove for also running (Bove broke 30:00) and thanks for driving down, Darren !