Monday, April 21, 2008

2008 Boston Marathon

April 21, 2008
Boston, MA

The day I ran the Boston Marathon

This is a story of how a scrawny and uncoordinated kid from Kingsford, Michigan was able to run amongst the worlds best athletes on a global stage and finish in the top 10% of all competitors.

The Boston Marathon is hosted by the city of Boston, Massachusetts, on Patriots' Day, the third Monday of April. Begun in 1897, the Boston Marathon continues to be the oldest marathon and one of the pre-eminent long-distance running events in the world. The marathon is one of five members of the World Marathon Majors, along with Chicago, New York, Berlin and London.

With the exclusion of the Olympic trials and various Championship races, the Boston Marathon is the only marathon in the US that maintains qualifying times and requirements for runners by age and gender. So despite it being only the 8th largest marathon in the world, it is arguably the most prestigious. I qualified with a time 3:07:05 in Green Bay at the Cellcom Marathon in May of 2007. This was my 5th marathon and 3rd attempt at a Boston Qualifying time. Previously I had run 3:16:53 at Chicago and barely missed the qualifications at Myrtle Beach by 13 seconds, running 3:11:12.

But the journey to Boston started long before the qualifying race. The long road began a little over 5 years ago to be exact from the first run on February 19, 2003 at age 27 to reach Boston. It started with a 1.3 mile run on snow covered roads in Menasha, WI after being encouraged to run a local area 5k race with friends. Over the course of five years of competitive running I have logged 9000+ miles, spanning 1225 hours. This is like running along Interstate 90 from Boston to Seattle (across the United States) three times. Along the way I've burned through 27 pairs of shoes and completed 78 races, 20 of which were at half marathon distance or greater. This in no way compares to many other lifelong runners, but it is substantial for my first five years of running.

In preparing for Boston, my training had gone very well. I was running a minimum of 45 miles a week since late December with three peak weeks of over 70 miles and amassing nearly a thousand miles, or 8 miles a day on average, with my eyes on the goal race. I was also healthy for the first time in quite awhile, despite only taking 12 days days of rest over the course of 17 weeks. I was on a steady diet of track workouts, tempo runs, long runs, races and recovery workouts.

I also continued to be a student of the sport, taking a very cerebral approach to this race. In not being blessed with a high VO2max or elite DNA, I have always tried to gain any legal advantage that I could, which includes taking an engineering analysis to the sport. This meant reading as many books on running, on the Boston Marathon, the history of the race, driving the course ahead of time and getting advice from previous Boston Marathoners. I even had my race plan with mile splits based on the course elevation profile.

All of this meant that when I stood in the 4th corral, sporting bib number 4103, that I was as ready as I could be. I owe much credit to my good friend Dink Taylor, who showed me the ropes on race morning. This isn't your local 5k where you sign up on race morning, pay your $20, warm up and race from the front of the pack. In this point to point course, you've got to get aboard a bus at 6am and ride West for 45 minutes to the start. After a mile walk, you then hang out and wait amongst 25,000 other runners congregated under enormous tents, sitting on makeshift chairs made of cardboard boxes or garbage bags. Return runners are smart enough to bring blow up floating pool beds to lay on. This process of making new friends and enjoying the camaraderie of other runners goes on for 90 minutes or so before the warm up begins. Then you must drop your bag with bib tag number back at the buses and walk the three quarters of a mile to the start, at which time you find your wave (group 1 is bibs 1-13,000 and group 2 is bibs 13,001-25,000 and starts 30 minutes later). After watching the elite women start, I made my way back to my starting area. Without Dink I would have had undue stress over figuring this whole thing out, but he made it easy.

After the National Anthem, the official race starter Greg Meyer (the last American to win the Boston Marathon in 1983) shared a few words. I panicked slightly as the sun broke out from behind the clouds. This meant that quickly the temperature would rise. At 10am eastern time sharp, the gun went off and the 112th running of the Boston Marathon had begun. With 3000 people in front of me, it would be nearly two minutes before I would reach the start line and cross the timing mats.

The First 5km

From Hopkinton to Ashland, the first 3.1 miles of the race is run shoulder to shoulder and 50 wide across route 135, a narrow two-lane country road. I saw one guy go down and nearly get trampled, but was surprised not to see more. I found a line along the south side of the road and stayed on it, often stepping up on the curb to pass other runners. I tried to bob-and-weave as little as possible, knowing that it would take excess energy away and I knew that I could ill afford to spend any this early in the race. The elevation dropped sharply before a quick up hill at 2/3 of a mile into the race. The first mile was about staying relaxed and holding back. I went through the first mile in just over 7 minutes, right on plan. Miles 2 and 3 were also all downhill, dropping another 100 feet. This was a true test of holding back early, yet still trying to take advantage of the downhills. Somewhere in this stretch was the last time that I remember any single spectator. Along the side of the road, I saw a woman yelling, 'Free beah heah', which when translated, means 'Free Beer Here'; she had no takers. I stayed right on track through the 5k mark, coming through at 21:28 or an average pace of 6:55. This was a good split, but if I were to chase my goal of 3 hours, I would need to lower this pace by 3 seconds per mile and hold that for the rest of the race.

The Second 5km

Miles 3.1 to 6.2 from Ashland to Framingham were all about picking up the pace and running closer to goal pace. There was a slight hill around 4.5 miles, but with fresh and rested legs, I powered through it with relatively even effort. The pack had thinned out slightly here enough to be able to run the tangents of the course, though I did mostly right side road running as the course bends slightly in this direction. The course continued along route 135 and through sleepy New England towns that came alive on this Marathon Monday. The crowds did not line the entire course as they do in Chicago and New York, but where they do, the cheering was intense and provided a slight adrenaline rush. I ended up running faster than the first 5k, but only by 2 seconds, at 21:26.

The Third 5km

Miles 6.2 to 9.3 from Framingham to Natick were mostly flat, with slightly rolling hills. My legs were feeling good, but the temperature had risen from the upper 40's in Hopkinton to the lower 60's at near 11am. I took my first energy supplement here, with some cola flavored Shot Blocks. I had taken fluids at every station except for one just after the 10km mark, where the cup slips out of my hand from the aid station volunteer. The aid stations were very busy on this warm day, which made it nearly impossible to get in and out of them without tripping over empty cups and positioning around other runners who would come to a complete stop to drink. Just before the 8 mile mark, I found my bladder a little too full and follow the path of other runners in front of me to a wooded section of the course and stop for a little relief. Though normally unacceptable, on a day like this hundreds more people will use these same trees to find relief. I lost 10 seconds with the stop, but to prepare for this planned stop, I had sped up to compensate. I managed a very fast 5km split as planned, running 6:47 pace for the three miles and clocking a 21:04. I was now right on pace for a three hour finish.

The Fourth 5km

Miles 9.3 to 12.4 from Natick to Wellesley were a mix of elevation changes. The first two miles along West Central Street to Central street ran slightly uphill. I found it odd how so many would talk about how this race is all downhill, when the mild rolling hills in the flats seem to challenge my legs frequently. Leaving Natick, the fans thinned out and we ran through some peaceful countrysides, where ponds lined either side of the road. This was a relatively uneventful three miles, but I stay strong at 6:53 pace, registering my 4th consecutive 21 minute 5k split at 21:22. Everything was going according to plan.

The Fifth 5km

The start of this section of the course began with 'screech tunnel' near Wellesley College. The famous girls of the college lived up to their reputation with screams that could be heard from a half mile in either direction. I knew that it was coming and tried to hold an even pace, but as they yelled, the adrenaline flowed and quickly my pack was running six minute pace. I passed many girls holding funny signs about free kisses and other promises that drew some runners to the south side of the road. After the yelling subsided, we were rewarded with a sharp, yet brief, uphill into the town of Wellesley. I tried to bring the pace back down, but I had wasted vital energy with this unneeded burst of speed. As we entered the town, fans cheered again as we crossed the 13.1 mile mark; we were now half way to Boston. I glanced at the clock and saw that it read 1:29:59. This is the fastest first half of a marathon that I've run to date, yet I knew that it is not fast enough to run under three hours with the Newton Hills ahead. I again took two more Shot Blocks, providing the energy I would need to go on. After leaving Wellesley, my stomach started to talk back to me and I knew that I must find an actual porta-poddie. I seem to be having GI issues and I hope that this doesn't turn into a repeat of my second marathon where I lost valuable time in bathroom breaks. I loose only 20 seconds at my stop, but still manage to run under 22 minutes for this relatively flat 5k, clocking 21:50. I had been running for 1 hour, 47 minutes and 10 seconds.

The Sixth 5km

From the 15.5 mile mark to Boston College, lies the famous Newton Hills. The first two hills are contained in the sixth 5km section. At 15.5 we dropped drastically 118 feet, as we crossed the Charles River and Newton Lower Falls. This is immediately followed by the first hill, climbing 75 feet over a half mile. My pace slowed substantially here and for the first time, I started to think about adjusting my goals from breaking 3 hours to just setting a personal record. We crossed over I=95 and the cars passed by quickly underneath us. I had planned on slowing for this first hill, but I now slowed more than anticipated. Until now I have been in a relative zone, running hard and staying completely focused. With this hill I began to dissociate a little and now putting one foot in front of the other was challenging and my legs moved froward from muscle memory alone. The next mile along Commonwealth Ave was rolling, but the second of four hills loomed ahead at 17.6 mile mark. We made the turn at the Newton Fire Station and now began to climb a 4.7% grade up 74' over one third of a mile. In pushing on, I heard my name being chanted by the crowd from both sides of the street. I wasn't delusional, but knew that they had no way on earth of knowing my name. As we hit the 18 mile mark, I realized that I had been running alongside a runner with his name taped on the front of his running singlet. I passed him and read the letters E-R-I-C, written with magic marker onto white hospital tape. I laughed a little as I saw another female runner on my right who had done something similar, but using the name Erin. Reluctantly, I slowed slightly and decided to run in this pack, using the crowd to pull me along as they cheered for other similarly named runners. It was a cheap tactic, but at this point I would take it. From mile 18 we ran downhill again toward the 30k mark. My 5k split, with the first two Newton hills was 22:58, or 7:24 pace. My overall average was now 6:59 minute-miles.

The Seventh 5km

This 3.1 mile split through Newton and into Brookline is the most difficult section of the course. The remaining two Newton hills are in this section, the later being Heartbreak hill and then a sharp downhill section following Boston College. As I started to climb the first hill, I wondered if I will see Laura and my Mom at mile 21. They had loosely talked about hopping on the sub way and coming out to Boston College to see me. I didn't know if they would be there, but I used this thought to help me push strong through this difficult time. Even if I did not see them on the course, I knew they were getting text messages or emails on my progress. I wondered if they had noticed how I was slowing down? Are they wondering why I have fallen off the pace? For that matter, what about the friends and family watching me online all over the country? Do they see that the hills and the temperature have really taken their toll on me? Going into this race, I knew that it was likely that it would be my only Boston Marathon, so while I wanted to run well, I also did not want to push too hard and end up walking, or blowing up late and running a miserable race. The world was watching and I was feeling the pressure. At twenty and one quarter miles into the race, we began the ascent up Heartbreak Hill. Since I have driven the course, I knew what to expect. Since I live and train on the southern end of the Appalachian Mountains, I knew what to expect. Despite being ready for it, this 97 foot, 5.2 percent incline over less than a half mile really was heartbreaking. I never walked, but the pace was in the mid to low 8's as I continued to climb. It was almost like this last hill in the Newton series was placed strategically at mile 20 to break the will of runners. The human body is meant to run no more than 20 miles at a time, but with training, we can extend this wall out further. I saw many runners who were now walking, being completely spent from running downhill for 16 miles and then passing four hills in 5 miles. We hit the peak of the hill, passed Boston College and ran downhill toward the 35km or 22 mile mark. I ran this 3.1 mile split at 7:52 pace, clocking 24:27. I am now on 3:06:00 pace and realize that I need to adjust my goal again and now move from trying to set a new personal record, to trying to break 3:10:59, the qualification standard for males 30-34.

The Eighth 5km

From Brookline into Boston, leaving Commonwealth Ave, onto Chestnut Hill and across Cleveland Circle, I was now running on pure guts. The sharp turn onto Beacon Street meant that thousands of fans would now scream and Cheer me on for the last four miles. I was giving it everything I had, yet doing the math in my head, I tried to figure out how I would stay under 3 hours and 11 minutes. I calculated that I would need to stay under eight minute miles to do so, which on a normal day would be easy, but on this day, it was all I could do to muster my remaining strength to stay in this range. I thought more and more about my wife Laura and about my parents waiting for me at the finish. I know that they are proud of me just to be running this race with the worlds best, but for me, I needed to prove that I belong here. I needed to run a qualifying time. This section dropped from 150' down to sea level in another painful downhill. I had thought that I would be able to return to sub seven minute miles in this section, getting closer to my original goal pace, but the early downhills and short, quick, uphills had punished my quads and I realized that it is not meant to be on this day. The course rose uphill again toward the famous Citgo sign that others commented on, but I never saw. The temperature was now much cooler, as the breeze off the ocean was blowing at 10 miles per hour and provided a cooling effect. I was drinking water and Gatorade and dumping water over my head to bring down my core body temperature at each stop. My 40k split time was similar to my 35k split, despite the drastic difference in profile. I glanced at my watch as I crossed the mat and note a 24:39 split, having ran now for just under three hours. I managed to meet my split goal, staying under 8 minute miles for this section.

The Final 2km

With roughly 1.2 miles to go, I saw that by maintaining my current effort, that I would hit my tertiary goal and break 3:10:59. For the first time in three hours, I began to smile and I notice the crowd again. As listened to them cheer for each runner, I finally got it; I was about to finish the Boston Marathon... the worlds oldest and most prestigious marathon. It was sinking in. These were fans who understood how difficult it was to get here, both through qualification and through the last 25 miles. They were educated running fans who had watched this race year after year, many of them since they were small children and on this day they provided the support that I needed. I made a right turn onto Hereford and then the last left onto Boylston Street. The final four blocks of the race were ahead and I let down my guard and started to celebrate. Like Ryan Hall in the Men's Olympic Trials last November, I pumped my right fist several times and soaked it all in. I knew that my parents were out there somewhere; that Laura was there yelling and taking pictures. They are what had carried me through the latter stages of the race. As I crossed the line and realized that it was over, I stumbled slightly, stopped my watch and revel in the fact that I had just run the Boston Marathon in 3 hours, 9 minutes and 42 seconds. That made it my second fastest marathon ever and qualified me to come back next year. My pace over 26.2 miles was just over 7 minutes and 13 seconds.

The Post Race

After each marathon, I experience something unique. At Chicago, I had lower leg pain and needed immediate ice. In Myrtle Beach I shivered in the cool temps while eating Oreos. As I walked slowly forward, I must have looked horrible. Each medic asked if I was ok and to each I replied 'yes'. I first knew that this wasn't true when I was asked to lift my right leg for the timing chip to be removed. I could barely lift my right leg and when I did, it cramped immediately. I thanked the volunteer as she handed me my medal. I remember that she put it over my head backward and I had to fix it. Everything after this was slightly blurry. I know that I was cold, shivering in fact, and that walking was a challenge. I finally admitted that walking wasn't an option, so I flagged down a volunteer who quickly found a wheelchair. I felt somewhat guilty about this, but I had no other options. A nice lady wheeled me through the masses and toward the medical tent. At the tent, I complained of severe cramps and dehydration, to which they brought me to the 'infirmary'. She suggested that I go in and get a massage. Before I could turn around, she was gone and I found myself looking at a line of 50+ people waiting for a message. About this same time I turned around and luckily I was in the family meeting area marked with a 'C' (last name Charette) and saw Laura. This was a blessing in disguise as the other letters of the alphabet were spread over a 4 block range.

I made my way over to Laura and saw my mom and dad for the first time. They congratulated me, but could tell that I wasn't feeling well. I don't remember much other than needing to lay down on the sidewalk. This went on for a few minutes, but all the while I knew that I needed medical attention. To make a long story short, I again found my way into a wheelchair, but this time was brought down into the bowels of a large building where the people in really bad shape were seeking medical attention. Laura had gone to retrieve my bag from the bus and my mom accompanied me into the elevator. I was steered to a table where they proceeded to massage my quads and calves. While this was going on, they instructed my mom to force me to drink hot chicken broth to bring up my body temperature and to bring my electrolytes back into balance. I was covered in multiple mylar blankets but still shook. An actual doctor was called over when they realized that my finger nails had turned blue. Luckily this was not as bad as it seemed. Laura was quit stressed, especially after the recent Ryan Shay tradgedy. This wasn't nearly the same, but I was quit and had my sunglasses on to hide the pain, but I'm not she saw the difference. Finally I felt the strength to sit up, then stand. After getting dressed, I was dismissed back onto the streets with my Mom and Laura. I may have been in there for 10 minutes and it may have been an hour; I am not sure.

Now days later, I realize that need for medical attention was the combination of many things; the cool temperatures at the start followed by the warm temperatures in the middle of the race made me throw water on my head and shoulders. While baking in the sun for 3 hours, the water and perspiration on my skin made for a recipe of a bad sunburn, which further dehydrated me. As the temperatures changed near the city, I became chilled with the head winds, but continued throwing water on my head because my core body temperature was elevated due to the sun burn. The right side road running was ill advised, as the crown of the road must have been substantial and forced my right leg to travel further to strike the ground. This then resulted in the sever right leg cramps. I had planned for every possible thing that I could think of, but as I left the infirmary, I felt like a marathon rookie all over again. Despite being a marathon veteran, the Boston Marathon had humbled me.

In walking out of the athlete area, there was a place to check times. I looked up my name and discovered that I had finished in 2379th place of 25,310 total runners. With some easy and quick math, I realized that I had finished in the top 10%, which is a race goal for me despite the size or distance of the event. Finding out my place, made all of the pain worth it.

Now Days Later

Now that it is nearly a week after the race, I have had time to think and reflect on the race. The most common question that I find myself answering is 'Why did you run the Boston Marathon'. There are many answers to this question, yet they are all important. I ran to continue to make my parents proud of me. I ran to prove to the world that I am a good competitive runner and deserved to run at Boston. I ran for all of my running friends who have been to Boston before and now with whom I can share stories. I ran for all of my running friends who may never get to Boston, but followed my progress online and gave me groves of support. I ran for all of the people that look up to me in life and for the ones that I look up to as well. I ran for all of the scrawny, uncoordinated kids in every small town in America, showing them that with hard work, determination and a lot of heart, they can achieve their dreams too. I ran this race because I knew the pain would soon fade, but the glory would remain forever. I ran this race for myself. I ran this race for those who can't run. I ran this race to test the limits of the human heart.

Steve Prefontaine was quoted before his death in saying, 'To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the Gift." On Patriots Day 2008 in Boston, in the 112th running of the Boston Marathon, in the second largest field ever in this event, I gave it everything that I had.

I just want to quickly thank all of those who have supported me in this effort. While too many to name, and not in any order, but here we go. Laura, for, well, everything. Mom and Dad for that elite DNA:) and loads of support. Sirius Beagle for running with me when everyone else is busy. Dink for pushing me in races and helping out in Boston. Joey for being a good training partner. The whole Nashville Half Marathon Crew for letting me help you reach your goals. The entire Green Bay Running Club Crew, for keeping me running in the snow years ago. Laurie and Andrew Kunz for getting me to run that first 5k. The Fleet Feet Race team for urging me to reach higher. To everyone else who has pushed and challenged me to be the best runner, person and friend that I can be.

This was the story of how a scrawny and uncoordinated kid from Kingsford, Michigan was able to run amongst the worlds best athletes on a global stage and finish in the top 10% of all competitors.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

2008 River City Run 10km

29th Annual 3M River City Run
April 12, 2008
Decatur, AL

Despite all previous beliefs that a short distance race should not be attempted on the weekend before a marathon, I performed substantial research on the topic. I found in Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas that a hard workout can be undertaken 10 days prior to a marathon. With the Boston Marathon on a Monday, I decided that I could capitalize upon my training and run the River City 10k in Decatur and still have 9 full days of taper and recovery prior to the race; so I signed up.

I had another good week of training leading into this race, finishing up with another Thursday night tempo run. This time I got to chase Riddle, Reneau, Caitlin and Dink for 7.4 miles before a cool down. I wanted to go all 10 miles, but thought it was best to cut the tempo off short, especially after coming in at 6:35 pace. I took Friday as a rest day before this race.

Another reason for the late minute sign up was the awesome weather forecast with temperatures in the upper 40's, floating into the 50's by late race morning. This is very cool for Alabama in mid April, so I wanted to take advantage of it again. Plus from what I have heard, this was a very flat and fast course; the fastest 10k course in Alabama...

I was coming off of a good performance last week with an 8k PR on a very difficult course. I had thought that it would be possible to break my existing 10k PR (37:49 set at Bellin 10km in 2006). I had several tiers of goals for this race, with each letter getting more and more difficult

A) Break existing PR
B) Run sub six minute miles
C) Run sub 37:00

There was a decent head wind from the west by race time. This affected us on the way out in mile 1 and would affect us on the home stretch, with this loop course. Starting out right away, I went out strong, trying to make an initial move on the group and possibly hold on late in the race. By the 1/2 mile mark, we were cruising along at a fast pace and were in single line form. I was very close to Marty Clarke, with Donald Bowman ahead of him, and then breaking away from the park were the top 3 runners, including Jason Reneau and Tyrone Harris. We went through the first mile in 5:51.

At this point I started to think that if I could continue to run fast in the early miles, I would just have to hold on late in the face (and fade) but still be able to break goal A. I powered through mile 2, but began to fall back from Marty. Based on the direction of running, I could see a shadow behind me. I initially thought it was Rob Youngren, but later in the race when I got a chance to peak I saw that it was Dink and he was making a surge. Mile 2 was at 5:50 pace. I was now 19 seconds ahead of goal C with 2 miles down. I was able to take some water in this mile, as the temps began to rise and my throat was slightly parched. Bowman and Marty both took water ahead of me as well.

Mile 3 was running mostly to the east with a tail wind pushing us along. This was the fastest mile, clocking 5:43 pace. I stayed within sight of Marty, but could not tell where Dink was. I could no longer see anyone ahead of Marty in the pack.

Mile 4 had another water stop, but as I made the corner, I dropped the water cup that was being handed to me. This turned out to be a fatal mistake that I would realize late in the race. The water would not have helped with hydration, but it would have helped to dampen my mouth and throat, which were now dry in the heat. The split in this mile was 5:52.

The second to last mile was around the golf course and the pavement went from a smooth blacktop surface to a rough grade. This bothered me slightly, as my push off was not as clean with each step. I came through in 5:50 anyway, knowing that as we would turn back into the wind late in the race, I had to make somewhat of a push here and then just hold on into the 20-25 mph headwinds.

I was running equidistant from Marty, but both he and I knew that even if I made a charge toward him, he would be able to outkick me in the end. I tried to push, but I think so did he. We came through the 6th mile with only a short stretch to go in 5:52, which would be just about race pace average. At this point I was doing the math in my head and I knew that even if I could hold in to 6 minute mile pace coming in, that I would achieve goals A, B and C.

I think somehow my GPS splits were slightly off, as in the end I clocked 6.28 in this certified 6.214 mile race. I still ran 5:50 pace in the last stretch, but clocked a slow 1:36. I think that after 3 miles, my GPS ran slightly long, maybe making my splits slightly longer than they actually were documented.

Mile 1: (255+254)=551
Mile 2: (254+256)=550
Mile 3: (250+253)=543
Mile 4: (256+256)=552
Mile 5: (254+256)=550
Mile 6: (257+255)=552
Mile 6.214: 1:36

I think that I surprised a lot of people with my 6th place finish. Not that anyone was paying attention, but I think if people were, they would have thought I would be more in the mid to high 37's and not a mid 36. My final time was 36:37. I finished 6th of 166 people.

That makes two 4th place finishes and a 6th place finish in my last 3 races. That also makes 2 PR's in 2 consecutive weekends. All of the training I have been doing is really paying off.

I was not the only one to have a great day. Tyrone came back to win, Shannon and Tom both PR'd. Plus Blake had a very good day in his racing flats and Caitlin was the #1 female.

I'd like to thank the fast guys and girls of Tuesday and Thursday nights for making me run faster than I thought possible and helping me to realize my potential. Somehow I have found another level to my running. Especially thanks for Dink for helping me and showing me that I can do it, if I try. You the man.

I hope that I can take this next level to Boston next Monday for the marathon.

Name Age Time
1 Tyrone Harris 34:13.9
2 Mitch Jones 34:38.9
3 Jason Reneau 34:49.3
4 Donald Bowman 35:47.2
5 Marty Clarke 36:28.2
6 Eric Charette 36:37.4
7 Dink Taylor 36:59.3
8 Caitlin Heider 38:15.3
9 Blake Thompson 38:43.3

Saturday, April 5, 2008

2008 Scholarship Fund Run 8k

I was really excited for this race since the weather looked unseasonably cool for mid April in the South. Plus I had been doing lots of speed work lately on Tuesdays with the track folks and Thursdays with the Panorama 10 mile tempo folks. I was nearly to the end of my marathon taper and my legs were feeling fresh with lots of spring in my step.

I have been working very, very hard lately and focused on running. I had totaled 300+ miles in March which is a testament to the diligence I have put forth to take my running to the next level. I had also done a fast (for me) 10 mile tempo run with Riddle, Taylor and Caitlin on Thursday at 6:30+ pace. This really drained me, and I barely hung on, but these guys really pulled me along. Thanks to them for this! These runs are really paying off.

On the morning of the race, I had watched a few Prefontaine videos on YouTube which inspired me to run strong and not to quit. This is a challenging course, with rolling hills throughout the course. Normally I would start out slowly, and then get stronger. But after watching the videos, I had the bug to be more of a front runner and go out hard and hold on.

Within the first 200 meters, the finishing order had already been determined. The only question is how much would separate each runner at the top. Despite the difficulty of the first mile being uphill, I chased David Purinton closely and clocked a (3:00+2:54) = 5:54 mile. I had done what I was trying to do and went out hard. I attempted a foolish pass of David in a short downhill section before the Eustis Hill, not in an attempt to stay ahead, but to take advantage of a fast downhill and an opportunity to stretch out my legs.

Mile 2 was again fast (2:48+2:57)=5:45 with lots of downhill. Plus I had a chance to run past my support team, the Shermans on Randolph. I stayed close to David and held a lead on Dink and Caitlin.

Mile 3 is where I knew I would struggle. This mile involves covering both up hill sin the same mile, when runners have to start the repeat of the first loop. The pace slowed for everyone and the game was just not to fall off proportionately. My splits where (2:53+3:07)=6:00, but I did know that after this mile, much of the course was downhill and I could make up some time.

Mile 4 had quite a few turns and I had an opportunity to check out my positioning. Somehow I was widening the margin on the competition. Despite this, I wasn't sure how much I would have left in the tank at the end of this race and that the competition has powerful kicks and could easily narrow the gap if I slowed. My mile 4 splits where (3:01+2:53)=5:54

The last 0.97 miles of this 8k were mostly downhill with a slight rise before a long slopping finish. I thought that I would just be hanging on, but I actually was able to run just as strong as I did early. My splits were (2:52+2:53)=5:44 for a finishing time of 29:22. I ended up loosing to David by 13 seconds as he was able to kick it in a little in the end.

Place Name Time
1 Jason Reneau 27:28
2 Donald Bowman 28:47
3 David Purinton 29:10
4 Eric Charette 29:23
5 Dink Taylor 30:10
6 Caitlin Heider 30:25

So in the end I was able to better my 8k PR by 1:17 over last year. I was able to increase my positioning from 13th in this race last year to 4th this year. I was extremely overjoyed by this race and how I was able to find another level to my running through training.

But what really made me happy was to watch John Peugeot finish this race strong. I have been loosely coaching John since January for the Nashville Half Marathon and this was his break-out race. He ran 2 minutes faster than our projections and dropped a sub 6 pace final stretch. I am really proud of him and it makes me feel good that I have been able to do what I love; pass along some of what I have learned in running to others and enrich their lives and training with what others have taught me.

Many others had great PR days as well. I know that Tom Smith PR'd for one and that Caitlin had a great run also.