Monday, May 29, 2006

2006 Christy's Race

So going into the post marathon, I had planned on resting mostly. Easing back into training so that I would be ready for Bellin on June 10th was my new goal. I ran on easy on Thursday with little discomfort and then again on Saturday at a pretty fast pace toward the end of the run. As I left the running group on Saturday, I was asked if I would be running in Christy’s Race the following day. I said no, thinking that I wouldn’t be ready.

Within 2 minutes of leaving the group, I was texting a fellow runner and calling another trying to get details on the race. How could I say no to a race?

When race day came (Sunday), I woke up and everything pointed to me rolling over and going back to bed. Either allergies or a mild cold had plagued me, it was near 80 and humid already, winds were gusting strong, and I was just a week removed from a marathon. The experts say that you really should take 1 day per mile raced off before racing again. Despite all factors saying no, I knew that it was something that I wanted. After all, it was just a 4 mile race. I would show up, turn in a modest 25 minute performance, maybe get an age group medal and t-shirt to boot for $20.

Then I got to the start line and everything changed… Among the 300+ runners were a ton of runners who had consistently beaten me in just about every distance from 5k to 10k to the marathon. I didn’t stand a chance as I realized that I didn’t stack up against any of these well rested runners, who had decided long before yesterday that they were going to race. Suddenly I realized that my 25 minute (6:15 pace) wouldn’t even put me in the top 25 runners, let alone at the top of my age group. So it was either go all out and set the roads on fire, or walk off the line.

I wouldn’t be writing about the best race week ever had I walked off…

I started out in about 20th place around the first corner, while holding a pretty good pace. My GPS was telling me that my pace was too fast to start and that I would never be able to hold it. At the first mile mark, my time was 5:30, or a full 45 seconds faster than I wanted to go out. I started to ask myself what the hell I was thinking. Yet I still felt good and though my paced dropped slightly by mile 2, I was still stronger than other runners and passed people one at a time. By the mid mark, I figured that I was somewhere in the top 10. The course had lots of turns, so I couldn’t be sure. I was now at 11:41 (a 2 mile PR for me in a 4 mile race)

Then came the same decision point that I faced in the marathon. I was running so well, that I wasn’t about to waste this opportunity and not give it everything I had. I was pacing behind Mike Servais; I have always said that I know the tread pattern on the bottom of Mike's shoes better than anyone on the road, as I am consistently behind him. I felt that his pace had slowed slightly, and I needed to take advantage on the next downhill stretch.

So I did it, I passed Mike and dropped the hammer down on another runner after that. Despite the conditions and the weakness in my legs from the marathon, I stayed strong, telling myself that I only had to hold on for another mile and a half.

At every corner, I peaked out of the corner of my eye seeing Mike right behind me. Every Monday night when we run together, I go out too fast and he always comes back in the end to pass me up and then blows me away. I just couldn’t let that happen today. He did make one final push, but so I did I. Finally I crossed the tape at 22:52, or a 5:42 pace for the 4 mile race. On a day that I almost stayed in bed, I had set personal records for distances of 2 miles (by 19 seconds), 5k (by 24 seconds) and 4 miles.

I still can’t believe it as I write this that I finished 4th of 300+ runners and 2nd in my age group, beating everyone else at the start who normally would have handed me my ass on a platter. What a tale of 2 races in such a short time. It makes me feel good to be a runner today.

All of this goes to show that no matter where you are currently at with your fitness level or race times that when you are presented with the choice of giving it everything you have or settling back into your comfort zone, you should push it; you might just surprise yourself with what you find.

Monday, May 22, 2006

2006 Cellcom Green Bay Marathon

So let’s start at the beginning, after all, that is where it all starts. Last Sunday was the big race; the one that I have been focusing on since a disastrous showing at the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee last October. I went into the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon knowing that I was fully prepared, trained, rested and that I had a goal in mind. To hit a comfortable time; going into this race, it was more about my head and proving that I could finish un-injured, more than anything.

The weather was perfect… Temps at 7am were in the low 40’s with light winds and no rain in sight. I knew that upon toeing the line that it would be a great race day. Even with perfect weather, I had a plan that I needed to stick to. I was going to run the smartest race ever. I had planned on keeping a reasonable pace for the first 13 miles, then evaluating how I felt and then I would make a decision. So that is what I did, mostly. I wanted to me somewhere around 7:55 pace for the first half, which turned into 7:49 pace. I wasn’t bothered by it though, because this is still a comfortable, conversational pace for me. I ran the first half with Dave Schroeder, who up until 5 weeks ago, was planning on running a 4 hour marathon. After training together, he had re-adjusted his goals to between 3:30 and 3:45. We had planned on running together for the first half of the race, which is what we did, hitting the 13.1 mark at 1:41:41.

Then just after the mid point, I knew what I had to do. This was my shot, my one opportunity to give it everything that I had. Not knowing if I would ever run a marathon again (being dramatic at this point in the race helped), I knew that I needed to pick it up. So from mile 13 to 19, that is what I did. I brought the pace down to 7:20 and it felt good to open it up. The only problem was that with the increased pace and acid build up, I began to have stomach problems. All in all, I lost about 4 minutes to bathroom stops between 15-19. At one point I had passed the 3:30 pace group 3 times before apologize that I had to keep stopping in the woods.

I had plenty of support along the course, seeing along the way. Never quite knowing when I would see them, I tried to stay strong the entire time, not showing any fatigue; never showing any trace of weakness.

Somewhere in these miles while running with the 3:30 pace group, I told another runner (that we run with frequently on Mondays, Wednesday and Saturdays) that I was going to shoot for the worlds largest marathon negative split. As I pulled away from the group, I heard him talking to the other runners, saying that if there was anyone who could pull this off, it was me. This is what I needed to hear…

After I had settled my stomach down at mile 19, I began to do the math in my head, trying to figure out where I would finish it. It was pretty clear that with an average finish, I could hit my 3:30 goal. I could settle for that, take it home and it would be a good day. I would build off of that this summer and try to run a better race in Chicago in October.

But on a perfect race day, I wasn’t about to settle for good enough. So what did I do? I picked up the pace to 7:00 minute miles and began picking off runners one at a time. Slowly I made my way around other runners who were now fatigued from going out too fast. I literally got stronger as the miles went on. In the last 6 miles, I passed over 100 runners (counting them as I passed them by). As the final miles went by I started to believe that I could hit 3:25, and maybe even better. I passed a few of the faster runners that I train with, which made me move even faster. Then in the final mile I could see the 3:20 pace group. They were just entering Lambeau field. That was my new goal; to pass them up. Running inside of Lambeau field I was leaning into the corners just like a sprinter coming into the home stretch. I finished strong and turned in a sub 6 paced final 1.2 miles sprinting to the finish in a remarkable 3:18:58.

I had done it; I had beat my 3:30 goal; I had beat my best projected goal of 3:20. I had run the smart race that I knew that I was capable of doing, turning in an 8 minute negative split in the second half of the race, while others were just barely hanging on in the final miles. I managed a 42 minute final 10k, which is good enough for a qualifying position at the Bellin Run. In the end, I finished 128th of 1300+ runners, 19th in my age group and in the top 30 runners from Northeastern Wisconsin.

In the last 2 miles I really was running on pure adrenaline. I didn’t see anyone, I couldn’t hear the crowd; yet I knew that they were there. I pumped my fist coming down Armed Forces drive, recognizing that I had run the perfect race. What a great feeling.

So moments after finishing and seeing my family and friends, what was I thinking? How I can get fast enough to shave off 8 minutes in Chicago this fall to qualify for Boston in 2007, or how I felt like I could have run a 50k…