Sea Legs has over the years has become a regular on my race schedule. The race falls a week after Ironman lake placid and the day after Block island triathlon, which John Hirsch won yesterday, and I decided to skip. The trip to Lake Placid took too much out of everyone- and as much as I enjoy watching John eviscerate the field at BI, it would have never worked.
This race has been a state championship the last two years, which brings out the best runners in the state. As a former winner of the race, I knew well that I would not be competing for a top spot, however, I would be scoring for my team in the open and masters category so I needed a good effort.
The race starts out with a long flat run up Seaside Avenue, then hooks a left and shortly after that you are climbing a serious short uphill on a bridge. I wanted to go out hard for the first mile- sub-six. Six guys quickly formed a lead pack and I was alone as the chase group. I knew I was running harder than I would be in later miles, but if I could moderate my effort after one mile, I'd be fine.
Halfway up the hill there's a right hand side-street. I saw a green SUV. The woman looked at me, decided she had time to pull out, and then pulled onto the road, only to see the six guys in front of me blocking the road. There was room for her to go around, but she instead decided that she would back up into the side street. She'd forgotten all about me and started a viscous fast left hook turn. I dodged her- I had room to get around, but I was pretty aggravated and delivered a very robust 'WTF ?'.
When Jim Zoldy passed me, he quipped 'I'm pretty sure that car will make the blog' and of course, he's right. Great race by the way, Jim. Twelfth overall and a very solid 1:01.
Chris Schulten, Jim, and several other people I expected to pass me were out in front of me by mile two, and that's the flattest part of the race, pretty much until two and half miles, it's board flat. I'd dialed down a notch and settled in, but the two mile time I'd gotten- well over 12:00 minutes- seemed kind of wrong. I'd done 5:50 for the first mile.
When I hit the three mile mark I was already a full minute off 6 minute mile pace, and starting a set of rollers. This is where I'd attacked last year, and it had been way too early and I'd paid a price later on. So I held back, even when the bulk of the EKG team went by me in a pack. I wanted to push and hang with them, but it was definitely the wrong thing to do.
There was nothing big going on after that for a while. Chris was closing in on two younger runners and I was watching him. He wasn't really pulling away from me, and as these other two runners came back to me, I really had to fight the urge to run them down, because the biggest hill on the course is in mile four on Old Sachem's Head. I took it about 90% up the hill, passing one of the guys, then caught the other one on a roller about a half mile later.
There was one other runner between Chris and I. I was very slowly losing ground to him. As we came around Vineyard Point Road, they were drawing even and ran together for a while, then as we started climbing again, they still had about 15 seconds on me. I did not want to push these uphills. My plan was to attack any short downhills, but hold my pace until at least eight miles, instead of overcooking the course like I'd done last year.
It was beastly humid. I was taking water at every stop and pouring it on my head or chest and that was helping to keep more core temperature where I wanted it.
We went through eight miles and I was still about 12 or 13 seconds behind Chris. Sometimes I would pick up a second or two or lose it. He was stopping to drink water at the aid stations, pausing for just 2-3 seconds, then running with a better pace afterwards, so it evened out. I was still trying to catch him as we hooked a right onto Old Whitfield and worked our way around High Street until we were back on Whitfield again.
I knew my only chance to catch anyone was to catch Chris and that I would have to take him on the hill on the bridge (it's an uphill in each direction, like a big upside-down U).
It didn't happen.
We picked it up down the other side and raced to Seaside Avenue, both of us running a little harder. I could hear Julie yelling encouragement to runners as we hit the corner and I ran it in. Unfortunately I couldn't see the clock until it said 1:03:57, too late to surge and break 1:04.
I ran a 1:04:02. I joked with Chris that we'd run 57s on the course, so they must have added a mile someone. We ran a warm down together. Chris is such a nice guy as well as a real competitor and it was really great for me to be able to have him to chase the whole race as it kept me focused on staying steady.
Also, a big shout out to the Terwilligers and Marty Schaivone. Maureen ran a great race then hosted us for a post-race pool (and trampoline) party with Marty's help. Thanks guys.
On the minus side, I was 21st overall and 6th in my age group. On the plus side, it was a state championship, so 6th in my age group is bad, but not that bad. It's better than 28th and 7th in my age group, which was what happened at the State Championship 5k. Not the sort of numbers I'm used to at road races...
As a training run to get read for a September half-ironman ? Pretty good.