Some races you run because they mean something to you or because they fit right into your schedule. And then, when you are on a team, sometimes you run a race because you have to.
Saturday fell into that category. If I'd had my choice, I'd have gone to Hammonessett and tried to win the Feed the Need 5k for a 3rd time. I definitely wanted to race. I've been trying to blow the stink off ever since Shamrock and Roll, although on Thursday I'd finally checked my times at that race and they've been consistently some of the slowest 5Ks I've run every year- last year was just 15 seconds faster on an easier course.
In other words, I'd let a result from a race that wasn't important in my training, and wasn't even that much outside the norm, really get under my skin.
So I wanted to race, and after all, this was one of the races I voted for to be a part of the USATF-CT state championship. Because of scheduling issues at home I found myself hopping in the car at 8:30 for a 10:00 race that was 50 minutes from home.
Fortunately, because of the way they changed the parking at the reservoir, you can't actually park near the race start, or rather, you can't get to the race start from where you park because on of the main gates were closed. The run to the porta-potties was a great warm-up. Unfortunately, everyone seemed to have the same idea- get in the park and take care of business before making their way to the starting line.
That done, it was now twenty of, so the rest of my warm-up was doing strides.
I didn't honestly know what the course was like, however, I knew it would be rolling and two loops, with a downhill start. I got right on the line and pretty soon we were off.
I expected to be nervous. And I was. My heart rate spiked, really spiked, more like the start of a triathlon than a road race, but that's what happens when you are not really sure you're in race shape. I felt pretty uncomfortable, but unlike my last road race, I settled in as much as I could.
The course, while not really hilly (nothing like the cross-country race held in the same park), is pretty rolling. It's not easy to really just settle in and run. I went out hard, and I like where I was relative to the people around me. When Jim Zoldy went by past a mile, and then Mark Hixson, both faster runners, I felt like I was settling in.
I wanted to run on perceived effort, but I think I made the mistake of letting the course dictate my strategy.That is to say, it was a two-loop course so I was determined to run it as two halves. That makes sense if you are running, say, the two loop Lake Placid IM course. Not so much a race that is 6.55 miles.
Maureen Terwilliger started to push me and normally this would be bad. Maureen is a great runner but usually not quite as fast as me. However, looking at the other people around me, I just din't think it was that bad.
Just short of 3 miles, Rob Barker went by and he encouraged me to hop on and catch some people, but I told him I was working on my own plan. This is where the mistake of seeing the course as two halves came in. I should have just gone with him.
I went through the first loop at over 20 minutes. I was feeling a little spent, uh, well, kind of like I was in the middle of a race. I had a Gu and some water and was back at it. I was basically settled in, no one pushing me from behind. There was a Housatonic runner about 40 meters in front of me, and Barks and Maureen were in sight but out of range. Maureen was running a solid back half, running the hills steady and with more intensity then the first loop. I wasn't catching her or Barks.
I felt like I'd settled in and was starting to remember how to race. This was only my third race in two months, and my longest race since Ironman Arizona. I race well when I race and I haven't been racing- this was my first back-to-back racing this year.
I managed to close down the Housatonic running at about 5.9 miles and passed him. This is a downhill section of the course and I did my best to open a gap. I held that gap until after the 10k mark, but then we came back out onto the main path and now the first loop people were in the way.
The Housatonic runner used a 'rather large' first loop athlete to do a blind split on me and ended up beating me by 4 seconds.
Still, I managed had a top 25 finish at a very well-attended state championship, certainly ran better than my last road race, and with a few more races, I think I'll have forgotten this year's slow start.
Which really was just once race.
After all, I ran a good quarter marathon coming off a two-hour die and hard half hour run the day before.
And perhaps more important, the next day I had an awesome run-bike-run. After all, the goal isn't good road races in April. It's a good IM in Lake Placid in July...