Thursday, May 31, 2012

Durham 10k

There's last minute race decisions and there are last minute race decisions.

My season started with one- the New Year's Day 5k, then went to the ultimate in pre-planned, the Disney Half-Marathon. I feel like I am repeating that pattern, running the Durham 10K today and then going to Lake Placid to run the marathon on the tenth.

That's because after debating about what to do this morning, it ended up that I'd be going to the race alone, I thought I had plenty of time to get there, and in the end I did, but not without some serious misadventure. I decided to go up 22 to 17 to Durham, only there was a detour in North Branford/Northford, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, for a parade.

Without getting into too many details I went to Durham via Wallingford, which if you are from the area you may know is not a way you'd ever intentionally go. I got to the race 27 minutes ahead of race time, which is not kosher at all. By the time I got through the registration line, the bathroom and dropped my stuff at the car it was 9 minutes to race time.

9 minutes.

I did some strides, some knee lifts, then I got on the line. After last year's kid-choked start that saw one runner (not me) take a kid out, I pushed my way into the spot I wanted, intentionally walling off a couple of kids behind me. It's great to see young boys interesting in keeping the sport alive. It is not great tripping over them at the start of a race that beats you silly coming out of the gate.

It was hot and humid, which is fine with me, but I was coming off a long string of workouts- 6 hours on the trainer in 3 days, followed by a 12 mile run the day before the race at 6:36 a mile.

I knew that I'd be hard-pressed to accomplish much and to be honest, I felt like my goals for the race should be moderate. The run the day before was the real prize- after turning in some 12 milers at 7:15 or 7:30 I was starting to worry that maybe I was overtrained, or mis-trained, or just didn't really have the energy left in the tank for the marathon.

Pounding out those 6:30s and feeling really good when I got done was everything, so adding the race the next day was really just a nice way to get in 10K.


The start of the 10K has you blast up a hill, and there's always a couple of fast youngsters in the mix, and I'm always looking to get as much separation from the field in this part of the race so the whole thing comes together. Pretty quickly it was just four of us blowing up this long hill. I could feel my heart rate spiking and I didn't care. We made the turn, finished the climb and then we were on a straightway on 17 and I was starting to lose contact with all three of the other guys.

I've done the race so many times that i spend the whole race anticipating the next turn, the next hill, the next mile marker. I'm not sure if this is good or bad, but it completely changes the perspective. You are evaluating what's going to happen as much as what is happening. I could tell as I went through the back part of the first mile that I was flagging slightly and that was verified when Chris Schulten went past me. I thought right then there was a chance he could win.

I knew there was no chance I could.

Honestly, the next 5.2 miles was about hanging on, about survival.

We turned off the main road and the run to the next turn seemed to take forever and a day. Then it was down hill all the way to the next turn and after you take that you get to look at where you'll be going at the finish. But you run by it and start climbing again, and now the climb is for real. I was taking water when I could get it (some volunteers are better than others).

You climb until the halfway point, then blast down another hill. Chris moved from 3rd, to 2nd, while I hung at fifth.

We went down hill and then the fun begins. The toughest hill in the course, and it's a doozy, is in that 4th mile. It's .75 miles long, it's steep, and you cannot overcook it without melting down, especially when it's 80 degrees, sunny with 100% humidity. I could see the guy leading Chris out and I was thinking either this guy is for real, or he's going to break on the hill.

He broke on the hill.

Chris went by him, the guy in second went by him, the guy in third went by, I went by him. He started trying to run, but it was a weak jog, and in road racing, there is no mercy. I went by him and I didn't even look at him, because I was in enough distress of my own.

We went down the hill, hit the fourth mile mark and I just couldn't close on the guy in front of me. Usually I blast through the last two miles as fast as I can and I feel really good, but the truth is I was just hanging on. There was no movement in the field. I wasn't gaining on anyone, and as far as I could tell, no one was gaining on me.

The girl doing the five mile split time had driven to the spot, but then set up, I kid you not, at about 4.9 miles. I didn't listen to what she said. I knew there was one more climb, and I got up it, not quite shuffling, (and feeling a little sickish) but also not quite really running.

Then it was downhill and I felt good but I had this idea that someone was bearing down on me. We turned back in- the same place we'd run by earlier- and headed for the finish line and sure enough, I got caught at 6 miles. The guy went by me and in a very sportsmanly way asked me to go with him- 'Let's take it in', but truth be told, I was already thinking about my marathon in less than two weeks, and I let him go and finished fifth.

Chris won the race, and our age group, but I was still second overall and 5th in my age group, running 38:59 in a race where the winner didn't break 37. I did pick it up a tiny bit to get under 39:00.

And that was good enough. Now I'm ready to run a marathon...

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