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.