Sunday, March 20, 2011

Shamrock 5 Miler (Madison)

Finally, my 3rd race of the season.

I have to say, I really wasn't looking forward to this. When you race as seldom as I have this year, the idea of stepping out and running a 5 mile road race on a Sunday morning when I should probably have been running for two hours. After all, I have a marathon to run in June.

I got there with my son Ian in tow, and I'd managed to convince him to actually run the kid's race. That was great. Ian has been all over the map about fun runs and probably the best part of the whole experience to hear him still saying later that day that he a) wanted to run more fun runs, and b) it would make him in better shape. Getting him ready and signed in and handing him off cut my warmup down, however, it was worth it to have him out there (out in the back, to be honest) and running- and enjoying it.

I got my warm-up in and then I was standing at the line talking to Maureen Terwilliger and Martha Merz. Yes, the Martha that was in DC is now back in CT. We were all downplaying how well we were or weren't going to run.

Ken PLatt came up to me before the race and asked me if I was planning to swing my number round from back to front. If you know me, you know this is a pet peeve. One of the reasons that I hate the B tag is that it is supposed to be worn on the chest in fromt of the body. When are the people who make these things realise that a good portion of us would be caught dead before we'd drive four pins through a singlet we've paid more for than we pay for our clothing. (Disclosure: I spent more on training gear last year than actual clothing. I know. Lame, right ?)

I did indeed swing my race belt round to the front.

And then we were off.

As I get- more experienced (read older)- I get more frustrated with young kids that bolt out at the start of a race. I know, it's youthful exuberance. It's also silly. I can see it in a 5K, but we're talking about a 5 mile road race. I expect a little discretion but of course that never happens. The kids go nuts and you are left trying to figure out which ones are bat-shit crazy and which one or two are going to eat your lunch and make you look like the aging man you really are.

I know every inch of the course. There's one short loop on the way out that isn't part of most of our rides or the Madison Triathlon, but not much.

It was clear from the get go that two of the guys were simply going to crush me. Somehow I managed to move up from 15th to 3rd- briefly- at about half a mile. But I could hear two guys behind me and as I made a left hand turn about a mile in they were pretty much on top of me....

Given the shape I was in at the time, I knew better than to try and get into a back and forth 20% into a race. I let them go and concentrated on what Eric says 'My job is to do my job.'

Maureen was close behind me, but she wasn't really pushing, which was good. We got out along the sea wall and of course it was cold and the wind was blowing in, but not that hard. The run out to end of the loop was pretty uneventful. We down two blocks and then cut back in, dropping back down on the road that we had been going out on (think a lollipop with a little candy top) and that's when things got really interesting.

The people coming out were all over the road, and I had tow guys and Maureen close behind. Now this is the same road along the seawall in Madison I ride on all the time and I know every twist and turn of it, but we were running against the meat of the pack, who were about 1/4 to 1/2 a mile behind us.

Me being me, I went on the offensive, basically picking my line and challenging anyone who really wanted to dance to not move. Everyone moved. I worked us all the way over to the right on the tangent, and then as we headed to that small bridge over the fen, which is a nice wide arc, I decided to switch the side of the road. It was the right time to make the move, and we easily negotiated the traffic.

One guy who had been pushing me from behind was right on top of me now and I went to the middle of the road because it was safer, if not the best tangent. At one point a car got on the course but he wisely stopped so we could get by and then I got passed for the last time in the race.

I was sure another guy and Maureen were going to pass me as we made the left-hand turn, but they didn't, and now I was starting to feel the effect of racing something longer than a 5k, especially after riding nearly 3 hours the day before.

We made the right and the next left and that's the home stretch- we were headed home now, running past the golf course, and all I could do was run my ass off with two people bearing down on me the whole time. I just wasn't going to give any ground though and I ended up beating the guy behind me, and winning my age group, by 3 seconds, and Maureen came in a few seconds after that.

I was glad to win my age group and finish 5th or whatever. But the funny thing is, the warm-down after the race was really better than the race itself. Running a 5 mile road race is not going to help me reach my goals. I went back out with Martha and took her through the Madison Triathlon 5k run. We ran it pretty hard and doing that after a short break was even better than the post-race beer. It made me feel like I hadn't, I don't know, wasted a Sunday run with a short race.

That's pretty out of the box thinking for me...

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Shamrock 'n Roll 5k

Sometimes in the early season I'll come up on a race that I just dread the thought of. My plan this winter was do at least three races before Shamrock- New Year's Day, Sweetheart, another 5K and then this one.

That didn't happen. I hadn't raced since New Year's Day. I almost posted here the day before the race, but I didn't want to. It would have been negative, about how I was overweight, how I hadn't been running and was going to have a slow race. What would be the point ? To set low expectations that I'd probably then meet.

Sounds like a dumb idea.

I did show up on Sunday morning at the race with a friend, Michael D'Addetta, determined to treat the race like any other, specifically like I was going to be able to go out and have a decent performance, even though I didn't believe it, not one bit.

I did a run out and up Prospect but no one was warming up there. I had not checked the website to see if they had changed the course again this year. They had. I won't complain. Last year I went into this race feeling much like I did this morning, and about 3/4 of a mile into the race I was in so much distress from going hard that I felt like I feel when I start to struggle in the water, and that never happens running. I wasn't just out of my comfort zone. I was out of the zone where I can deal with the stress of race.

So I came back, hit the head again, and then headed for the starting line. The one thing that is a pain in the ass about this race is the starting line. You walk there from Toads and the walk to the line is also the first oh 300 meters or so of the race. So as you are trying to do your strides, the masses are streaming towards the line.

The funny thing is, while this is a pain in the ass, I actually like it, because I pick my lines (and they may not be straight) and I run those lines. I've yet to run into anyone, but it certainly gets your adrenaline up.

Finally it got so congested that there was just no point to it. This race always starts a few minutes late, but finally 1900 of us were ready to go. It was very tight on the line.

Then we were off and I was racing again.

I expected it to go badly, for the stress of race pace to crush me in its unyielding fist. But it didn't. We hooked the first left and there was George Buchanan and a few other guys in front of me. I was back and forth with the ironman guy that looks like Sean Penn. I kind of locked in on him and hung with and suddenly we were running by the museum and we were at a mile. I ran that first mile in about 5:40.

It was strange. I was in control. I knew if wanted to avoid a complete meltdown, I had to control my pace and run 3 steady miles or as close as possible, given that the third mile of a 5K after a long layoff will always be a challenge.

We hit the halfway point and then started back towards the finish and I knew I was slowly loosing ground to people behind me- but slowly. I was still running with good form, there was some serious downhill coming (the race this year brining you in on much of the last mile of the New Haven Road Race course. I was slowly being passed by people, and Sean Penn had pulled away, but I was holding on and not only that, I was clearly in position to run under 18:30 when I was expecting to run over 19:00.

I was in a mix of four guys and I was probably 3rd of the four. What I had no idea about was that Charlie Hornak was right behind me and if it had been 3.4 miles, he might just have caught me.

In the end, I was thrilled. Not about running an 18:28. For me an 18:28 kinda of sucks on a flat course.

No, I was thrilled about the way I felt.

But what really made me happy was this. I drank my free Red Hook, then the free Red Hook that Michael got (he was driving), and then my Recoverite. Michael gave me a ride home and I got there and found myself locked out. So what did I do ? I ran another 45 minutes- ran hard. I didn't even feel the beer. I had a great run, and ever since, I've felt like I was ready to go. The race I thought would crush my confidence instead stoked me for the season. I can't wait now....