Thursday, September 29, 2011

Niantic Bay Half Marathon

I haven't raced very much this year and for the most part, when I have raced I've raced long. A marathon, a half, a 20K, a ten-miler. I didn't have a great 20k, but I felt like I could have a decent race at Niantic Bay.

First, the conditions were favourable, that is hot and very humid.

No, hot and humid are not prime running conditions. However, I tend to respond well on hot and humid days, partly because of the way I'm built and the the degree to which I can dehydrate before suffering a significant decline in ability, and party because I carry a bike bottle full of sports drink with me.

It's the biggest thing that separates me from the other A and B level runners out there. I'd say 'elite' runners, but I am not an elite runner. I am in that second level of competitive athletes and it is baffling to me that you would go out to run a half-marathon and not carry a bottle with you. I'm not talking about an ironman fuel belt with the little bottles that you see people wearing. Just a bottle- 16 or so ounces of whatever you train with- Heed from Hammer nutrition in my case.

I also carry a cliff shot for around 6 miles or so.

The race is tough in that you have to get off to a fast start. It starts in a remote parking lot which leads to a very wide starting line. Within 75 meters though it narrows down to a one lane road, while going uphill and through several turns. It widens out a little after about 500 meters, but if you aren't up front and on a good line, you're going to lose time, so you either have to run a fast first mile or risk running a really slow one.

This is tough, because the whole theme for me at this race is to pace myself. Still, I feel like you can blow up the first mile of a 1/2 marathon and still settle in and have a well-paced opening half.

I was running just behind the group with Jesse as we headed down towards the finish line and they were talking about why Jesse wasn't running with the eventual race winner, who went on to win by 4:30 something.One of the guys said 'Is it because he could drop you at 4 miles ?' to which Jesse replied 'he could drop me any time he wanted.' I looked at George Buchanan after this exchange and said 'We're too old to be running with this group.'

We went through mile one at some crazy fast time and then right away I started to back it off. I had to. I was planning to run the whole 13 miles, not run the first 11 and stumble through the last two.

I tried to pour some water over my head at the first aid station, however, all the water got grabbed up. I took a cup of Gatorade and dumped it down my back, although not over my head. Probably sounds gross, but you either regulate your body temperature or you don't.

By the time we'd taken the turn back of the main road after exiting the park, people were passing me. This is the hardest part of a long race, the part where I am being passed by people I ultimately want to beat and have to force myself to just let them go. George passed me, Maureen passed me, and another guy passed me.

I got mixed up in a group with a guy that seriously into green- green racing flats, a green singlet- and three other people. The woman who would eventually finish third also got mixed up into the group as as we were running towards the sea wall, I clipped the green man's heel slightly because he got off his line as I was trying to run right in the middle of the road, just to the right of the cones that were dividing the road. I mumbled an apology and thought he didn't notice. Then the woman clipped his foot and she apologised and he went off on her about how sorry didn't cut it.

Both she and I moved away from the green man. I lost pace with her for a bit. We went into the back section, where the only real hill is. I just couldn't really hold on to Maureen, George, and company and I was kind of back and forth with the green guy, but I also wasn't concerned. I was watching that group's back because I had a plan.

As we came out of this little back loop we were headed back on the long straight road that parallels the park. I was waiting until we got back in the park to make any kind of move. George starting coming off the back, then reconnected with Maureen and the other guy, then started to fall off again. Last year I had passed George just passed the halfway point where you run by the finish line. I was planning to pass him again there. At each aid station I was dumping water (or if I couldn't get it, Gatorade) on my head and toros. At around 6 miles I took the cliff shot, tossing the wrapper at the aid station and heading into the park. It seemed like there was five or six of us in a group, sort of jockeying. We went past the finish, around and back out. I tossed my now empty bottle, 16 ounces of fuel consumed. I passed George, put the hammer down a bit and started to separate from the other guys around me, for the most part. One other guy was running ahead of me, closing on Maureen while I was still marking time.

Once I hit mile 8 I steadied again. Yes, I was running out of time with just 5 miles left, but I still had my plan, and no one was getting away from me. I was slowly picking up the pace as we headed back out towards the sea wall. For two miles I just slowly closed on the people in front of me, starting to feel good, my stride lengthening, and at mile 10 as we went into the back loop Maureen and the guy between the two of us were getting closer. Other people were falling back, losing time on me. We broke through the loop and back out onto the straight away and I made my move.

I passed the last guy between Maureen and I and then pulled up next to her right at mile 11. We exchanged brief greetings and then I was off again, chasing the two guys in front of me, trying to hold off the people I'd just passed.

I was back in the park soon after, and before I knew it I was at mile 12. I took as much water as I could get and dumped it on myself and tried to zip up my Zane's cycling jersey. The jersey was so wet and had slid so low on me that when I zipped it up I felt like I was choking and had to unzip it again. The last mile was not easy. I was running as hard as I could but I wasn't catching the guys in front of me and I was little concerned about the people behind me. That last mile seemed to stretch out in the way the last mile always does there, whether it's the half or back when it was the marathon.

I got through the final turn and I knew no one behind me was coming. I was disappointed not to be able to catch the last two guys I could see, but I'd gone from mid-30s to 25th overall on the 2nd loop. Still, it's funny how much time 2 seconds a mile costs you between the guy in front of you (who ran 6:36) and yourself (I ran 6:38) over that half-marathon distance.

I put more than 30 seconds on some of the people behind me in just the last few miles, so my strategy to hold something back for the second loop, plus staying a little better hydrated, and just being an ornery runner, all kind of played in to help me have what I thought was only my second good running race of the year. Not because of who I beat or where I finished.

I finally felt like I ran a good race, and that's been way overdue this year...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bridgeport Olympic Triathlon

One word. Mosquitos. I parked my car across the road from the beach aviation area that serves as the transition area and finish line. I started waking over with my bike and gear and at first I thought I was imagining a bug on my leg. Reaching down and slapping I killed 3 Mosquitos.

This is how I spent the pre-race, whether it was getting marked, or waiting to go to the bathroom, racking my bike.

I got in the water early. I hadn't raced a tri since Hammerfest almost a year earlier. I had a very poor swim in the team 'race' in very rough water the week before. I needed a good swim, and by good I don't mean fast. The water was flat, eerily flat. I had a really good warm-up and was feeling very confident. The first bout was far from shore, while the tide was out.

I was pretty calm for the start of a swim, and finally as the last stragglers were getting out of the water, and why are there always stragglers, who put their warm-up ahead of starting the rac on time, I actually wanted to start. When I say that I'd had a bad swim the week before, it was crazy bad, really choppy seas and insanely rough. We did this little two loop swim and one of the team members coordinating the race tried to stop me from doing the second loop. So I'd gone out in the sound a couple of time after that and had very good swims, and finally the race started.

The men in the first wave tried all strategies- swimming, running, and everything in between. I kind of watched it and then didn't. I sort want to concentrate on keeping my heart rate down at the start of the race and that requires me to focus on, well, me. Finally our wave was off. I started swimming right away. Because the first buoy was a long way off, it was a nice wide spread and I had no problem getting my own water and working out to the first buoy and making the turn. Frankly, I was surprised at how easy getting there was, how unlike my last crazy swim. Because the course was counter-clockwise, the low sun was in our eyes, and if there is one thing the course could use more bigger, it's buoys. Still, there were enough people around me that I could follow the course, about the halfway mark I found myself coming up on the stragglers from the first wave.

There's not a lot to say about the swim really, because it was surprisingly unremarkable. .

I got out of the water after yet another swim that I'd feared would be a disaster yet was completely ordinary.

I could probably end the race report right there. I needed to have a good, confident swim, and while my time was crap- 28 minutes- I did just that. Now the next athlete with a worse swim time finished 20 places behind me, I still got out of the water and on the bike feeling pretty good, relaxed, and knowing I needed to Hammer.

There could not be a worse bike course for me. Board flat with a bunch of turns, including two 180 degree turns. I mean, I still have a good ride there, and I like the relentless time-trail nature of the course, but honestly, all I could think of as I was plowing through the five loops was that I had not done enough time-trialing this season and Leopard-Trek jersey or not, I was not ready for this course.

Unlike most races, this course is kind of a mess from the get go. The very top guys from wave one are half a loop ahead of you, and the people in front of you are everywhere- and that's just the first lap. Starting with lap two, the chaos is all-encompassing. You can sort of tell who you are competing with, but not exactly. I have to say that I did get passed a few times, and that there was some drafting, but overall, I didn't feel the drafting was as bad as it has been in past years. I think having two engaged officials on the course really helps. On A few occasions I got re-passed by people who just couldn't let it go that someone else was out-riding them, but for the most part it was one of the cleaner races I've ridden. Of course, my bike split totally left me aggravated. It was in the 23 mph area, which is not really acceptable on a flat course. I definitely felt that a lack of racing really hurt me on the bike, where I was working hard, but lacked the fluidity, or the anger, or whatever the hell it is that makes me good on the bike.

I had left transition with only a few bikes on my rack- and my rack was full of people around my age. So when I came back in on the bike and had changed the equation quite a bit, even though I was pissed about the ride I had, I was satisfied I could do my job. I threw on my hammer nutrition cycling cap, grabbed two gels and started running.

Right away I was catching people, both guys in their 40s, and a lot of younger guys. There's something about this run. The sun always comes out and it gets as hot as the proverbial and because it's a 10K, people start walking. I'm more of a long-distance athlete and the thought of walking while running a 10K is kind of- well, whacked. As I headed down the path, the athlete wearing number 1 came back in my direction, who knew how far ahead- only he was walking. You want confidence ? #1 is walking and you are walking. That's confidence.

This is my part of the race. I am looking for one thing at this point, numbers on calves. I have to pass those 40+ men that were in my wave, and the more younger men I pass as well, the better. Still, for all the run is flat, in some ways a long flat 5k with long sight lines, especially when the summer sun comes out and starts beating down on you, is formidable than you might think it would be. I drenched myself at the water station at the quarter point turn around and then simply went back to the task at hand.

The second loop was a lot like the first, only more congested. More people were on the run and I wasn't always sure if I was passing or lapping people. I didn't care either. If you were in front of me, I was passing you, no questions asked, no answers given. I hit the turn around again and somewhere I pawed #[ 1, I think, but I have no idea when. Heading back, I was not thinking about how thrilled I was to be finishing another tri, but rather I was thinking about how damned far away the finish line was.

Good thing too. I passed a couple more guys in my age group and then I got close to the finish line. There was a guy with grey hair in front of me and I was thinking this guy could be in my age group. I really was spent but I found the turbo and passed him 50 meters before the finish line. I was so spent I just stood in the finish area until a volunteer go me a folding chair and a wet washcloth and I then happily sat in the finish area, wet washcloth and ice on my head, the best damn seat in house as I watched people finish.

The guy was 50+, so i'd saved embarrassment, not a place. Just as good.

So I was back- as a triathlete. And liking it....

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hammerfest Triathlon

I might actually be getting back into a rhythm of racing every other week or so.

Hammerfest is a great race- my wife Margit is one of the organizers and she works very hard on the race. But the race has been a difficult one for me. It's the week after the Firmman Half-Ironman, so I've come into the race frequently still in recovery mode. I've also struggled with the swim almost every year- I can usually count on having my worst swim of the season there- blinded by the morning sun and crushed early by the competition on the long slog out to the first buoy.

I spent last night working on the race's website and went to bed around 12:15 AM. I'm not sure what time you should go to bed the night before a race, but I'm pretty sure it's not 12:15 AM. Between then and when I got up I snagged maybe 4 hours of sleep, so by this morning I was really wondering if if today was really a good idea. Certainly after having such a good swim at Bridgeport, the thought of being exhausted, still from whatever respiratory infection I'd had, and jumping into the sound, well, I didn't want to have my usual Hammerfest swim today, because my next triathlon will probably be IM Florida and I wanted to go in confident.

I dropped Ian off with Margit and started prepping for the race- setting up my transition area, followed by standing in line for the bathroom, listening to 3 Doors Down.

The water was stunningly flat and then I got some great news- the swim was going to be clockwise this year, because the ramp the athletes usually run up at the end of the swim had been smashed by the hurricane. So instead of a long swim out to a far away buoy followed by a turn into a blinding sun, we'd be going out to a very short buoy, maybe 100 meters, and then turning to the far bout with the sun at our backs. Granted, the second buoy was far out and the swim was going to be 6/10 of a mile at least, but that first near buoy was going to be huge. We were second wave and as usual when I am not in the first wave, I completely ignored the first wave after about a minute and started to focus on what I needed to do. I did notice some of the 1st wave men walking practically out to the first buoy.

Then it was our turn. I started swimming right away. A lot of the guys around me were walking, but I was getting comfortable in the water, staying relaxed, and unlike when we go out on an angle to a far away buoy, I was not losing ground to the walkers. Now, when everyone started swimming there was a moment where it was a big mix with a lot of swimmers and I got a little skittish, but it didn't last. I made the first buoy easily and started straight towards the second one. Meanwhile most of the wave was swimming in an arc off to my left- I was psyched because I knew I had a better line than they did, which was odd. It's not like me to pick a superior line anywhere but in the grocery store.

The swim out to the far buoy was unremarkable, which is how I like it. While I'd be faster if I was in someone's draft, the knowledge no one was going to kick me in the head was much better. I turned that buoy and sighting the next one was a little harder but I was still inside almost everyone else and very happy about that. I was halfway to the buoy when I realised I had to cough up so phlegm and that's exactly what I did. I had to skip a beat breathing, but it was worth it. I felt like I was swimming really well for me, and before long I'd made it to the 3rd buoy and turned. That was the hardest part of the swim. I saw people in front of me but they were spread out all over the water. I thought I saw the buoy on shore and aimed for it, but it was a real crap shoot whether I was actually going in that direction. I'd asked Margit to make the second wave green caps, because they are easy to follow in the water. I had to cough up some more phlegm on the way in but it was really one of the most low-stress swims I've had, and although I haven't see the splits yet I think I had a good time.

Margit told me I looked like I was working too hard though.

So I went into the race thinking I shouldn't even be out there. I came out of the swim in the mix with the other green caps thinking the opposite, that I had a shot. I knew though, the bike was going to be a challenge. I had snapped off one of my aerobats riding a week earlier and had just made some additional adjustments to the new ones Saturday that I would only be testing out in the race. I had a fair transition, but my feet were cold enough that I did something I rarely do- put socks on. So my first transition was probably slow.

I know this bike course better than any other course I race, with IMLP coming a distant second. I time trial it, in both directions, maybe 10-12 times a year. But the two loops are completely different. I like the first loop the best because you are competing with people in your wave and the one in front of you and you can make sense of what is going on. I got out of the box quickly and wasted no time passing people. My new aero bars were set up with aggressive time trailing in mind, and that was a good decision. The lack of sleep was not. My hamstrings were shredded, and I could tell as I struggled to find the right gear. Also, as usual, I was breathing hard. Still i was making up ground. Not a single cyclist who came out of the water today passed me on the bike, unlike Bridgeport. And for the most part I was able to ride down everyone in front of me.

Down by Linden Avenue I thought there was some wind, but I cam around the POYCC and pushed hard up the hill and really felt like I was having a good first loop. Then I came up on a guy in his 50s and after a little bit of work, I passed him. I kind of felt like he was riding in the middle of the road, but I'm picky, so whatever. I thought that would be the end of it. After all, this guy had started in the wave behind me, out swam me, and my job was to bury him along with everyone else I passed. I was passing a lot of guys with 20s and 30s on their calves and that was making me feel good- guys that were 3 minutes ahead of me and I was already passing them on the first loop...then the guy with the 50-somthing on his calf passed me. This would go on for the rest of the ride. My hamstrings never stopped hurting, or feeling spent is maybe a better term, but I just kept the turnover up and tried my best to really keep passing people. There was some traffic on the course and I had to do a few dodgy things along the way. As I went by the Armory I established a better angle on the turn and go in front of the 50 something. Then he passed me again....

The second loop of the bike is different then the first. A lot of other athletes have fed out onto the course so you are interacting with 1st lap riders, trying to maintain your sight on second loop riders. It's a tremendous challenge to stay focused while still outputting your best cycling. I was mostly affected, however, by the continual back and forth with this older guy. I was getting really annoyed. I just do not want to cheat, not under any circumstance. But I was having to slow down after being passed, and it was costing me time. I passed him going up the hill past the POYCC, really powering up the hill. It's a downhill on the other side and as I went down to the bottom I went to go wide to avoid the manhole cover in the road, only I couldn't because the 50-something, in the middle of the road, was passing me. Now I was really annoyed.Again, my problem, probably, but when you go to move somewhere and someone is in your way it's aggravating. I actually fought a little here, but I had to let the pass happen. Then I waited. I passed him again after the stop sign, I think.

He passed me again.

This whole time I was passing other guys in their 40s, as well as 20s and 30s. This was the big moment on the bike. We came to the 3-way intersection before the middle school and I used stopped traffic to outmaneuver my shadow. That only lasted a short while and he passed me again.

I relaxed and settled back. Pounding the crap out of my legs was not going to help me, I didn't want to cheat, so I dropped off a bit. I started thinking about having a good run. I kept passing other people in my age group. Still, the opportunity to pass him would come one more time. I'd noticed some hesitation in tight spots, so I took him at the left-hand turn at the armory. It was a good pass, but thirty second later he passed me, and then another guy I had just passed passed me.

That was it, I was done. I rode into transition behind both guys. I'd had a good battle with this 50-something but now I was ready to run after a top-ten bike.

As is tradition in the Hammerfest, my feet were numb when I came into transition. I wedged my shoes onto my feet, put one cliff shot in my singlet and tore open the other one and started taking small amounts from it. As a rule, I take an entire shot at once, but I didn't think that was the right move, so I started milking it, and I found that worked a lot better. I started out, getting by several people that had ridden in ahead of me leaving transition. There were plenty of guys right in front of me, and I started picking them off. When I run, there's none of the emotion that fuels the way I ride the bike. On the run, when I catch someone, I expect to drop them and that's it, it's not arrogance, it's just math. There's not the drama and speed of the bike. I was passing mostly guys in their 30s and 20s, but there were some 40-somthings. I was disappointed to get down to Bayberry and hook a right- the out and back at the end of the road was not in use, so I had a short run to make my catches. I saw Dick Korby and ran him down and then as we were way out there in the back a kid yelled 'Hey, you're Ian's dad.' Not how I expected to be defined on the race course, but it's true. There are a few short hills in the back of the course and I felt like I was making good time catching people.

I saw Scott Roth coming out of the loop you can see Branford Point from, so I that gave me a good idea where in the mix I was. I rounded that loop and bore down on two guys in front of me and the next thing I knew, taking occasional small portions of my cliff shot, I was back on the main road and headed back to the Owenego. I had four guys in front of me and the third one had grey hair. I'm at that age where a guy with grey hair might be in my age group, or worse, older, and either way, they have to be caught. I reeled in the first two and was on the final short downhill before the short uphill that leads back into the finish and that was where I passed the grey-haired guy. On his leg was a 48 and I knew that I had to catch him. Once I was in front of him I just turned up the run half a notch and took it home.

Not my best stuff- only top-10 on the bike, but I was 16th individual overall, 3rd in my AG instead of my usual 4th.

I'll take it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

New Haven Road Race

No excuses.

I firmly believe that, that if you step up to the line, and you start the race, you have to live with what happens. I was sick- I'm on antibiotics now, but that's not an excuse for why I ran slowly, and hey I had some fun along the way...

The last time I was tripped at the start of a race and went down was the Troy Turkey Trot in 1983. This was my first road race ever. I remember telling Rich Goyer that sometimes people get tangled up at the start and bam, someone tripped me coming off the line. I'd never been tripped since.

Well, I can't say that anymore. I ran a long warm-up before the race, almost two miles, because I was trying to get my adrenaline up. No excuses- but yes, I felt like someone had whooped me pretty good. My legs were dead, my head was fuzzy, and a long run was just the ticket to get some positive energy flowing again.

I got on the line with same goal I'd had last year. Negative split. Now, this wasn't going to be one of those glorious kick-ass splits. This was going to be one of those OMG I finished the race negative splits.

I snuck into the starting corral at the last minute, maybe 5 rows back, just about where I belong on a good day. this was a good day, but no one but Margit knew that, so I was was right where I wanted to be. JB started the race with a confusing two command start. We all reached down and started our watches, even me, because hey, negative split. I took maybe two steps before someone behind me clipped my foot, my right foot. Clipped it good. I went down, careful not to reach my arms out . I tucked my arms in and let myself hit the pavement. I've had a lot of practice as a ball sport athlete taking falls and after one dislocated wrist and one dislocated shoulder I got the message that the chance I was going to break my fall with my arms was not as good as the fall causing a serious injury. So I went down, sustaining only one set of cuts on my left hand below the pinky. I really do fall well.

The thing is, your instinct is to scramble immediately back to your feet. This is not the right thing to do. When you first go down, everyone else is as surprised as you and if you go to pop up you will likely only trip and stumble again and take out more people. Instead, give the people around you a second to adjust, then stand up.

This is the most scary moment. The New Haven Road Race is not a small race. It's a freaking national championship and there are literally thousands of athletes behind you, people who potentially could trample you. It takes discipline not to panic.

Of course, I like a little contact. I am, at heart a ball sport athlete. Getting dinged makes me feel more like 'yeah, now it's on'. Which doesn't explain why I hate being touched, much less hit, while swimming....

So I waited about one full second then I popped up and started running. No one else tripped over me. I had some cuts on my fingers, but other than that I was fine. It was on to the first mile of the race. Of all the first miles in races I run regularly, New Haven is at once one of the easiest- flat, flat, flat- and hardest, because the pace for the first mile of a 12.4 mile race tends to be overly aggressive. It's also a smorgasbord of everyone you know, running in front of you, behind you, past you, you past them...

I saw Dave Pantin and Maureen Terwilliger and a bunch of other people I knew and I went through a little over 6:00. For New Haven this is great. I've gone through the first mile under 5:45 and that is the set-up for disaster. Still, for the physical condition I was in, it was a fast mile, made harder by working my way up after going down. Still, my goal was to run the first three miles at a normal race pace, and to negative split, both of which I felt possible after this first mile. I ran a solid second mile, going back and forth with some people but Dave and Mo both started to pull away. We hit the hill by Southern and I tried not to run hard up it, because I knew digging into the energy stores this early on a short hill was bad. By the end of the third mile, I knew I was not running that well, and I was right in that area, between 3-4 miles, where if I continued to push too hard, I would end up completely spent by the time I hit the bridge.

I came off that hill, and we headed for Route 10, and as I got on route 10 I could feel the cord starting to snap and people getting away. I let them go. I knew better than to fight in here, but it was tough as people I knew that I should be showing my back went by. I was dumping lots of water on my head and at some of the intersections I was seeing people I knew. It's always disappointing when people call out your name while you are running slow. I feel embarrassed. I saw the one Milford Road runner guy that had passed me duck behind a pillar of a pedestrian overpass to pee, and despite that allowing me to gap him, he was quickly back on and then passed me. I was watching people's backs now. I hadn't given up or anything. I was trying to keep people close because in this race, I have come back on more people more often than any other race.

We went up the 'hill' on Route 10, which is actually a bridge rather any kind of natural rise in the terrain. I took a cliff shot just before getting on the hill, not wanting to eat while on the climb but wanting to toss the wrapper as soon as I was done. I lost a little more ground in here but I watching two people's backs, Maureen and Dave. I was holding my own about 20 seconds behind them. As I got to the bottom of the hill and then the aid station, I saw one of the top runners walking. This would become a theme- attrition and plenty of it. It was hot and humid, but not that bad. as I went under the 95 ramp underpass and then turned the corner by those waterfront condos, I saw another person walking. He then started running again. As we hooked the next left, still short of six miles, yet another person was walking.

I found myself mostly running alone, in between groups, being passed and yes, now passing people. I was running alone and suddenly someone bumped my elbow. Now we were running up a four lane street, which was closed to traffic, and I was in the middle between the two travel lanes and a guy bumps my elbow as he goes by. Out loud I said 'How much f*cking room do you need ?' I mean, it was just a graze really. It's the concept. If you can't run by my when I am in the middle of the damned road running all by myself,and not touch me, there is just something wrong with you. I'm not a good luck charm or a leprechaun.

I went through the 10K, according to my watch, at 42:47. I have no explanation for my reported 10K split time except that it's wrong. Maybe I can't read, but I don't think so. Whatever.

Right after the split, you go under 95 and end up on Long Wharf. This is normally one of my favourite parts- bands, plenty of race support, you get a chance to gage the wind. However, the tide was max out and with all the nasty remains from the hurricane the low-tide smelled worse than I have ever smelled low tide there. It was nauseating. Chris Schulten ran up alongside me and we chatted about how we were both having poor races. I was really struggling, and then something happened. I hit a water station, dumped three waters over my head and the sun went under a cloud. I realize now I was running a fever at this point and couldn't really think straight, but as soon as my body temperature, and especially the temperature of my head, dropped, I felt great. I turned that corner off Long Wharf and started running, and I mean, really running. It was a completely different experience- people started coming back to me immediately. Dave and Maureen had gotten completely out of site but I was still looking for them, and I was no longer being passed by people- maybe one or two now and then, but not groups of three as had been the case before.

The course has a few short hills in here and then it gets flat again, and what I really took away from this section was how well I was running. Everything went pretty well until the water station between 8-9 miles. I was being tailed by a woman in black shorts and singlet/jog bra and just as I got to the water station she cut right in front of me and took the water I wanted and needed to knock back my fever. This was bad enough, but as went along the line of water bears I went straight for the last one, and she decided she wanted a second one and even though I was lunging for the cup she got there first. I was pissed off. I think she was so obliviously inconsiderate that it just never occurred to her that a) passing someone in the water stop is rude and b) after taking one cup of water away from me, she should have let me have the last one.

All I said was 'Really, really ?'

We kept running and I got ahead of her again and waited. The next rest area is just before the hill into East Rock. I had to work a little too hard to keep myself in front of her, but I had a plan.

This is a big water stop, with tables on both sides of the road, although the road is wide. you go for one side or the other. I was watching over my shoulder and once I was convinced I knew which way she was going, I broke that way. I let another lead into the water stop. He got the first cup. I slowed down just enough to take each of the next 6. I got them all and by the time I exited the station, I was literally dripping wet, since they all ended up on my head and chest.

It was petty, and probably wrong. But it felt good.

I got up the hill and then started down it, holding back. The girl in black started to pull away and I couldn't keep up. But I was still watching in front of me and both Maureen and Dave were just visible. I was holding my own and maybe clawing back a few seconds. I went by the bagpipers, then I was in the turn and running uphill slightly, looking for that final real turn in the race and the 11 mile mark.

Then you just run, and run and run. I was slowly closing on Dave, and Maureen was pulling away from him, and the people around me were coming back to me more than they were getting away. I finally forced myself to take a second cliff shot at about 10.7 miles, way too late, but still good experience for my next long race. Someone was handing ice out of a colander. I grabbed the colander, out it on my head and ran, then tossed the colander away.

It's such a struggle that last last section. I went through the bend and I was in the mix with four other guys and I was fading. And at about 12.1 miles there was Will Graustein and he was yelling 'Pump your arms alan.' And that was all I needed. I was fading, I was at the end of a long run that was never supposed to be anything but training and guys were going to beat me and then Will said pump my arms. So I pumped my goddamned arms.

I almost caught the guy in front of me, and I beat four other guys by 1-5 second. So instead of 180, I finished 175th.

But hey, I'll take it.

Another year, another New Haven.

Life is good.