Tuesday, October 05, 2010

When the Season Ends

Every year I reach a point at the end of the season where it hits me. I'm not going to win a race this year...

I'll be in the middle of some workout one day and it will just come to me. I'm not exactly an epic planner- I sort of just plod along through the season, especially after my a-race is gone- so it's not about knowing that I'm planning to do races I can't win (besides Christopher Martins of course), but rather just a sort of intuition. That was last Saturday. I went riding with two of my Force 5 teammates and the weather had just turned colder. I had an OK ride, but not great and as always happens when the temperature first takes a 15-20 degree drop, I felt winded at the top of the biggest climbs.

But it was on the brick run afterwards that I had the thought. I was running easy, either because I was half-planning to race the next day or because I just didn't have much- I'd gone hard when I was sick earlier in the week, an unusual cold. But as I was running down along the water backwards on the Branford Road Race course I thought about how I just wasn't going to win any races this year. I'd come short at Brian's and really not even had any races that I'd had much of a shot at- I'd hardly raced before Placid and after Placid I'd run three USATF championship races- one a National Championship- and done three triathlons.

I'm not sure what I expect anyway. i'm 45 years old. Why am I even thinking about winning races at this age ? And what difference does it make. Maybe I'll never win another race...

Sunday I had two options, running 75 minutes at 0700h or waiting and running a 3.5 mile 'trail' race at 10AM.

I got up a little after 6, read my email, looked at the weather, played some games and decided that the race was better option. But I wanted to be good and warmed up, and Margit was going to meet me at the race about half an hour before the start so it wasn't going to happen before the race, not with day of registration and so on. So Itried something I had never done before.

I did Spinervals, Aero Base Builder III, an hour long aerobic-effort spin session from 0715-0815. I got a good spin in- my muscles were warm and loose, and I finished the workout ready to go.

I got to the race about half an hour before the start, registered, exchanged Ian, and started warming up.

Because of the spin I was in good shape. I just needed to do strides. I walked my stuff down to Steve Surprise's house and started doing strides. This gave me a chance to evaluate the other people that were there. While it wasn't a deep crowd- just about 150 people, there were two guys I were pretty sure I didn't have to worry about because I would have no chance of beating them, younger guys, taller, leaner, the right type of equipment. That took a little bit of the edge off.

The race started though, and it didn't go the way I thought. Right off the bat, I got an idea exactly how the race was going to be. There was one guy ahead of me- grey-haired, probably around 50, and me.

I settled in behind him as we ran away from Tommy Sullivan's and towards the park.

I didn't want to take the lead early, so as we followed the police car into the Supply Pond, I hung right on him. It was a good pace, I was running hard but I felt like there was room for more.

Then we turned off the road to the left, running across the field that leads to the trails just inside the Supply Pond. For some reason the other runner took the left hand side of the field which I didn't understand because the righthand side was the shorter path. I decided it was time to make my move.

I went by the guy guy on his right and burst into the trail in the woods.

I run well on trails, especially trails like the ones in the Supply Pond that are not technical. After attending Eric Hodska's Lake Placid Camp in June and picking my way over rocks, stumps, and running in stream beds, the flat lazy trails in the Supply Pond are not a challenge. I opened up my stride and started running with as much authority as I could, because that's all that trail running really is. It's running confidently.

I established my lead right away and put the hammer down. Now that I was out in front, just a day off knowing- knowing- I wasn't going to win any races this year, I knew there was only one approach that I could take, and that was to take the lead and run with it.

At about a mile, I got some bad directions and started down the wrong path. The volunteer blocking the path I was supposed to take seemed a little bit offended that I went the wrong way, but it was no harm no foul and I was able to get back on course without giving the lead up. After that I was on trails I know pretty well and I expanded my lead steadily. I never looked back, never listened for the other runners, but I could tell I was comfortably off the front. I still ran as though the rest of the field was bearing down on me though.

I made the two mile mark up a hill and started back towards the way we'd come in. I was feeling good, running hard in in control of the race. Then on the way back out a rotund runner who a late mid packer still only at about a mile said 'You're going the wrong way'. While it was true that I was going the opposite direction of the way the people headed out were going, the course is an out and back, and therefore I was not going the 'wrong way', I was just a lot faster than this guy. Still, having never done the race, I stopped, panicked.

That lasted about one second. Then my brain caught up. Was I running the wrong way ? Probably not. If I was, could I fix it by turning around ? No. I started running again, harder to make up the lost time and also because I was a little mad.

As I wound my way back I knew I'd made the right choice. I broke out of the woods back into the field. There was a van waiting for the first runner- me- and I followed it back onto the tarmac.

I went through 3 miles in 18:07. I then hit the 5K mark and from that point it was uphill. I moderated my effort until I could see the finish line and then I went for it.

I won the race by 25 seconds.

I got a nice trophy and a big shoutout is owed to @soundrunner as they provided a 100.00 gift certificate.

The lesson I learned is you can't make assumptions about the direction of your season until December 31st.

To re-inforce that, I decided to run the Hartford Marathon. Today- just 24 hours before the race.

Time to get some sleep. i have a marathon in the morning....

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