I was not really ready to run a five mile road race on Sunday. But I wanted to anyway.
I was feeling the edges of a cold coming on or maybe I'd just had a little too much beer the night before. Still, my usual Sunday running partner was out of town and I'd talked Dick Korby into going with me. I'd made some effort to get ready- although I haven't been running much. On FRiday I went to the gym and did some intervals, some hill repeats and some sprints on the treadmill.
It was cold on Sunday morning, but I still wanted to run in bike shorts and a race singlet. Unfortunately I could only find one glove, which was kind of a bummer. With the long cold spell we'd had, my hands had gotten chapped and cracked and were just starting to recover. Oh well.
Although I didn't feel that great all morning, after running a mile warm-up and doing a bunch of strides, I felt like I was ready to go. I actually felt pretty good, although I knew it wasn't really likely that I was going to be able to run strong for 5 miles, given it was going to be my longest race since the ironman.
The race starts out on the far side of the school and you run downhill for quite a way. In fact, almost the first mile is downhill, with a couple of turns.
The race quickly split into a lead group of three, and two chase groups of three that were closer to each other than the lead group was. I was trying to stay with two other masters runners, Enaldo Oliviera and another guy whose name I don't know Some high school or college kids and a 30 something were also all in the mix.
The first mile of a five miler is tough because you're probably running at a 5K intensity. It's just how it is. It was obvious that the lead pack was gone and they weren't coming back.
I was hanging tough, but I knew that the cold- and I haven't run outside much lately- and the fact that there had to be some uphills eventually- would start to eat in to how hard I could run.
We went through a mile at about 5:40, winding through a neighbourhood. After a mile, we hit the first real uphill and there was some back and forth here as the stronger hill runners, like me, ran a little stronger, just as we'd struggled on the downhills comparatively.
My goal in the middle three miles was to run steady and I mean really run steady. No surges, no racing other people, just a steady middle three miles. There was going to be some uphill and some downhill, that much I knew, and I wanted to really work on being smart.
I ended up getting tangled up in a group of three with two thirty-somethings who seemed to have exactly the opposite plan. They kept surging- one would go, the other would follow. Then both would come back to me on a slight uphill grade. Then it would flatten out and they would surge again. I was trying to stay in my own zone and run solid, but one of the pair brushed elbows with me. I let it go the first time, the second time, with no sorry, no acknowledgement at all, I'd had enough. I kind of feel like in a road race, in the middle of a road race where there are two other guys anywhere near you, the amount of contact should be zero, and if it's not, you just need to make the slightest acknowledgement- just say 'sorry.'
I sprinted past the guy going into a turn, careful to get a full length in front before cutting him off. He got the message and passed wide around me.
The two guys started to pull away on a downhill. It would have ben easy to let them go but I made a decision to leave my comfort zone and stay with them. It worked. We hit the 4 mile mark and then an uphill and actually pulled ahead-
Then they surged again, for the fifth or sixth time and try as I might as we turned back onto the road the race started on, I lost ground. I was spent, running hard, but not as hard as they were. My strategy of consistency might have been better but my talent wasn't.
I still ran hard, running downhill, and then I could tell, as we turned into the Platt Tech entrance road, someone was bearing down on me. I had to sprint, but I held onto 9th, onto 3rd in my age group. The two thirty-somethings had beaten me by at least 10 seconds.
It was a hard run. Maybe a little bit of a wake-up call. But then again, for a cold day in January while I'm just building my base ?
It was fine. Absolutely fine.