Friday, July 25, 2008

2008 Outback Survivor 5k

2008 Outback Survivor 5k
Sheffield, AL
July 26, 2008
Official Results

Sometimes when things look bleak and it doesn't seem like anything is going your way, you get a day when everything comes together and you wonder what worry was all about. This is the story of my week leading into the Outback Survivor 5k race.

Two weeks ago I had asked my friend Joey Butler if he'd be interested in running two 5k races on the same day, in two cities 60 miles apart, and only 10 hours in between the races. He agreed and we proceeded to run the Da Doo Run Run 5k in Florence in the morning and then the HTC Twilight 5k in 94 degree temps on the UAH campus in Huntsville that night. It seemed like such a great idea; at the time. Then Sunday rolled around and I had what I would later self diagnose as mild muscle strains in both inner calves from two races in one day and racing in new Saucony Fastwtich near racers (with little support). I was in some pretty bad pain and it was more prevalent when I limped through a 7+ mile trail run with Dink (Taylor) and Blake (Thompson) on Sunday morning from Rob and Kathy's house. I really struggled the entire run, fighting back the pain in my legs.

I knew that this was most likely just an overuse injury but it was still tough to take, since it was of my own doing. In order to stick to my plan of racing on 8/2 at the Lake Antoine Classic in Iron Mountain, MI as my career race #100, I would have to get healthy enough to race on 7/26 for #99. I put together a plan to do mostly elliptical training during the week, supplemented by some periodic test runs. By Thursday night I felt pretty confident that I could be at least 90% by race day after a pretty decent feeling double, concluding with a 7 miler on Panorama with Dink at 6:57 pace. I made one final check on Friday, but decided by noon that I was going to race as planned.

It was my turn to drive, so Joey and I met up at 5:45 am at Barnes and Noble at Bridge Street to make yet another pilgrimage to the Shoals to continue the recent dominance. We made it in less than an hour and started warming up in 75 degree temps with overcast skies and a little mist/light rain. I ran about a mile out and back with Jason Reneau, who also made the trip over from Madison. I knew that he would be at the top, if not a serious contender. In warming up, I told him that it was going to take a low 17 based on the runners present and conditions to win the race.

We lined up and after brief instructions of the course, started out on time. The first part of the course was an out and back, with a cone turn around near Chucky Cheese. The leader, Hirbo Hirbo, approached the cone from the left. This was the first time I have ever been around a cone from the left. When we got close, he and the rest of the leaders kept running straight. Having listened to the instructions and run the first part of the course earlier, I made the turn and jumped from 5th to first. The rest of the pack quickly figure out their error and made the turn as well. Within 10 seconds of the cone, Jason came up on my right and took the lead. I made the same decision that I made last week (early in the race) to try to stay with the leaders as long as possible. I also knew that since the first half of the course was downhill, that I would have to put some hay in the barn early if I wanted to contend. Jason, me and Hirbo broke away from the pack. After a fast 5:26 pace first half mile, we had dropped the rest of the pack behind. Hirbo was one of the Russelville runners who kicked me at the end last week, so I wanted to put a big gap on him early. Luckily, Jason wanted to run hard downhill as well. Twice during the first mile on the descent did I think about passing him. Both times I looked down and saw that we were running 5:18 pace or faster and thought better. I tucked back in and followed him stride for stride. The first mile of this race was faster than I had ever run a mile ever before (though I have never raced just a 1 mile race).

Mile 1
02:42.86 + 02:38.20 = 05:21.06
Total: 05:21.06
Average Pace: 05:21.06

Jason and I continued to cruise downhill. My stride was a little longer and a little quicker, keeping up with him within feet. We passed by what would be the 2 mile mark (on the way back), seeing a few people and sped past, following the police car to the bottom of the hill. Just before the bottom, we lapped another half mile at 5:26 pace. I was now in new territory for a 5k race. We had a steep fast climb ahead, followed by the long climb back to the end, but I felt great to this point. At the bottom, we ran up a 80' climb in a very short section, making a lap past the aid station and then back around. We got very close to the cop car in the lead, as he had trouble navigating back through the runners. I was still step for step with Jason. He ran back down the steep hill with arms flailing and near reckless abandon. I knew that if I had a chance to win, I would have to stay with him and I ran a near falling-down pace. We ran through some runners on their way down, including Mike Green, fast Ronnie Nelson and Joey Butler. Joey yelled something that I didn't hear (later he would tell me not to give up and stick with him, knowing that it is a rare opportunity to be this close to Jason this late in the race for me). The second half of the second mile was much slower, as we began to climb back up the hill. I passed the clock at just before 11 minutes flat, which is also a personal record for me, if this had been a two mile race.

Mile 2
02:43.44 + 02:55.44 = 05:38.88
Total: 10:59.94
Average Pace: 05:29.97

The final mile would be the remainder of the climb and then an attempt to get my legs back quick enough to be able to finish strong. Most of the runners had been through by now as we ran up. Jason started to widen the gap on me here and pulled away. He was maybe 10 seconds ahead by the time that we crested the hill. We had climbed the hill at about 5:50 pace. I still had something left in my legs and was not about to give up. Running faster now on the flats, I could sense that Jason was slowing slightly, while I was starting to surge. I knew from experience that he was getting ready to kick, but I had to be with him if I expected to contend. I had successfully executed part of my plan, which was to put a big gap on Hirbo, as I could barely see him in the distance as we made the second to last left before the finish. The other part of the plan was also nearly there, as I had narrowed the gap to 1-2 seconds behind Jason as we got to the 3 mile mark.

Mile 3
02:57.57 + 02:51.44 = 05:49.01
Total: 16:48.95
Average Pace: 05:36.32

In the last 500 feet, we sprinted along and headed into the last turn. Jason began to pull away again, but this time I stayed with him through the turn. Making the last left, I knew that there was not enough time to catch him in the last 20 meters, but I pushed as hard as I could despite the impending feeling of coming up short again. I crossed the line, soaked from sweat, rain and humidity, stopped my watch and pulled my tab off for the race volunteers. I had just set a 5000 meter personal record on a course and in weather that I had no business running this well in. I looked down to my watch to see 17:23.68. This was 7.5 seconds faster than my previous best, which fittingly, came just 7 days prior about 7 miles away in Florence.

Mile 3.107
Total: 17:23.68
Average Pace: 05:35.91

At the end of the chute, Jason and I shook hands for a race well run, having finished 1 and 2 overall. Hirbo would come in 51 seconds later. Somewhat sweet justice for me, having lost to Hirbo in the last 100 meters last week. On this tough day, only 9 runners would break 20 minutes. Overall, there were 112 total runners.

After a 4 mile cool down with Jason (at a break neck 7 minute pace) and changing to some dry clothes, the awards started. For the second week in a row, I was in the top 3, having finished 3rd last week and 2nd this week. By the official times, I would be 3 seconds behind Jason. This was the closest I have ever been to him ever before. The awards were medals with alligator teeth on them, and the top 3 male and females and masters also got hand painted boomerangs.

Joey Butler continued his dominance of the 40-44 male age group in the Shoals, having won this 3 weeks in a row. Mike Green was 1st in 45-49 and Ronnie Nelson was 3rd in that group. Along with Jason, I'd say the Huntsville metro cleaned up in the Shoals once again.

So I am not sure where to go from there. I am once again good enough to beat 99% of the pack, but still am chasing that all elusive win. I guess I have two options; settle for losing week after week, or work even harder to be able to beat 100% of the pack. Which one do you think that I am going to do? I have been able to cut 4% or 47 seconds off of my 5k PR since late June. I'd say I will take the latter.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

2008 Twilight 5k

Twilight 5k Run
Huntsville, AL
July 19, 2008
Official Results

I started this day off at 4am with a ride to Florence for the Da Doo Run Run 5k with Joey Butler. I basically ran one of the races of my life in cutting 18 seconds off of my 5k PR and lowering the mark to 17:31. I ran a smart and strategic race, giving it everything I had and laying it all out on the line, even taking over the lead late in the race before finishing 3rd.

After a delayed awards ceremony so the local WC Handy band could play, we didn't end up getting home until after noon. I took a nap for several hours and basically took it easy all afternoon. But by 4:45, it was time to head out to the race. The race began at 6:30 pm, which would be just over 10 hours from the end of the last race.

The Twilight Run has separate men's and women's races, with the men running at 6:30 and the women running at 7:15. For late July in Alabama, the temperatures were no surprise, topping 95 degrees at race time.

There was some good competition lined up, including many familiar fast faces of runners from age 15 to 58. From the looks of it, if I could hold it together on dead legs, I would have a great shot to be in the top 10.

Mile 1
02:45.68 + 02:41.72 = 05:27.40

In this mile we started out running uphill and quickly we fell into line near the crest. I was running behind about 8 runners. I decided to push the pace early and see if I could just hold on toward the end. This course would have a hill climb in the final mile, so I wanted to put something in the bank early. I passed Jon Elmore and Marty Clarke and started running the top 4 runners. In the pack was the prerace favorite, Brad Schroeder. In the first mile he was maybe 3rd or 4th but would lay back and strike late. In this mile I felt pretty good, especially as we cruised down the hill and toward the first mile mark. I was very surprised when we clocked 5:27.40. This is my fastest mile ever in a 5k.

Mile 2
02:49.13 + 03:00.34 = 05:49.47

This mile would involve the last part of the out and then around a cone to start heading back. I continued to feel good through the straight away section, passing the water stop and pushing on. I was running at 5:40 pace through the first half of this mile. Somewhere just before the cone, the fatigue really started to set in. The fast miles from the early morning race were now being felt in my calves. I made the turn and saw how close Jon and Marty were to me. I told Jon that I was done, and felt him start to close the gap. I was still pushing as hard as I could, but I just didn't have that much to give. I really thought that he was going to pass me, but was we made it back toward the 2 mile mark, he was still behind me. The second half of the mile was run at 6 minute pace.

Mile 3
02:59.33 + 02:55.50 = 05:54.83

In the last mile my plan was just to run steady and pick it up in the last few hundred meters. The runner ahead of me was pretty far ahead so I knew that I wasn't going to crack the top 4, but I could hold on and finish a very respectable 5th place. I slowed slightly on the uphill climb and made the last corner toward the finish. I took a quick look behind and could not see Jon or Marty. I assumed that they were there, I just couldn't see them in the very quick glance. I wasn't about to slow down just because I felt secure in my spot. Based on recent experience, I know what it is liked to get overtaken at the end when underestimating the competition. I don't have much of a kick, so I have to make up as much time as I can during the first 3 miles. I ran the tangent across the road as the way would wind through a few curves toward the finish. The heat was still brutal, as the temperature was still in the low to mid 90's. The sun was low in the sky and the haze was bearing down, making the conditions very tough to stay focused.

Mile 0.107

I could see Laura yelling to me as I made the final corner and could see the finish. This is where all of the women were at, waiting for their race. This is also where all of the 'fans' were at, providing a little lift in the home stretch. Despite struggling in the last 1.5 miles, I pulled enough together to finish strong. My final time was 17:52.02 or 05:45.03 pace. I finished in 5th place of 143 runners and 1st in M30-34. Up until this morning, this would be just the 3rd time I had ever broken 18 in a 5k race and before late June, this would have been a new personal record. I had gone out hard as planned, built some time up, then held on late when the impact of the weather really was tough and my dead legs started to give way on me.

This was also a fairly competitive race, with the top 15 runners going under 20, the top 7 breaking 19 and the top 5 breaking 18. Brad did 'run' away with the race, clocking a 16:25 and crushing the rest of the field. He is impressive and has many great races to run in this town.

On Thursday, I dared any of my Facebook friends to run a faster combined 5k+5k time than me in two races in less than 12 hours. My combined time was 17:31.22 + 17:52.02 for 35:23.24. Not bad for a single day's work!

2008 Da Doo Run Run 5k

W.C. Handy Festival DaDooRunRun 5K
Florence, AL
July 19, 2008
Official Results

In order to run this race, I had to get up at 4am in order to meet Joey in time to drive the 58 miles from Huntsville to Florence, AL. The temperature by race time would most likely be in the mid 70's. I was coming off of another 60+ mile week without any rest so this should not have been anything spectacular when it would come to my performance. I would still give it everything that I had, but the variables in the personal record equation did not add up.

In warming up for this race, it looked like the competition would be very good. Many young runners and other fast names had showed up. I guessed that it would take a mid 17 to be competitive and there were dozens up people who could run under 20 minutes. When there would be less than 200 total runners, having 10% top runners who could maybe win this race made this a very competitive environment. As usual, I was very nervous that they would leave me in the dust.

At two minutes after 8am, the clock started and we sprinted away. Within the first 1/10 of a mile, the lead pack had already started to seperate from the rest of the runners. There were about 15 people grouped together. Surprisingly, there was a single runner who lead this pack and was running a blistering pace. The pack run closely through the first left, then right and the lead runner had already built a sizeable lead. I thought that this point that the hopes of winning for anyone were lost. He appeared to have the look of the prerace favorite and he was holding form. Before the 1/2 mile mark, I had to make a decision to either sprint ahead and stay with the lead pack, or let them go. If I stayed back, there would be no one to push me later on and I would have to do all of the work on my own. I would be in the same position that I am at in every race, which is the worst of the best runners. So in a split second I decided that I would push ahead and stay with them. The pace was not tough and despite the first half mile being uphill I still ran a 2:49.76.

The second half of the first mile began to flatten out as we turned to the north and run through part of the downtown. I was running a smart race, staying to the tangents. I had made my way up from about 12th place to somewhere in the top 10. We dropped a few people who weren't up to the challenge on this hot day. Even with the heat, I felt light on my feet and was running at near VO2max velocity. I was running in new Saucony Fastwitch racers and could tell the difference between them and my normal trainers with less weight to carry. On a straight away before reaching the city hall square, I hit the one mile mark in 5:44.55. This was right where I thought I needed to be in order to clock a personal record, but I never thought it would be on this day. Before the race, Linda Scavarda was given some advice from a friendly local runner in which she shared with Joey Butler and I. She was told that you should hold back on this course in the first mile and then pick up the pace in the middle when the profile turned flat, then lower the pace in the final mile when the profile would drop back down to the start. I was following that plan perfectly.

I was no running in the chase pack that trailed the lead runner. We were down to 5 people. I had just passed Heath White, whom had beaten me earlier this year and every other time we had raced each other. I kept pushing harder and harder and as the strides came one after another, I got more guts; I began to pass one runner at a time. These were runners that in the past I would have just settled to stay behind and let them carry me. On this day I was feeling great and started to think that today might be different than the rest. I ran the next half mile split in 2:47.45. This pace was ahead of 5k PR pace for me, but I had a long way to go.

We made a left just past the half way point and crossed back over the rest of the runners. I was know in 3rd place, trailing the lead runner, with young runners from Russelville both in front and behind me. I made another push to pull past the 2nd place runner and take over that position from him. We had been jockeying back and forth since the first mile and he was the only runner that would stay with me when I made a charge. This time he let me pass as we cruised through a 5:34.23 mile. I was now in new territory, never having run this fast this late in a race. I would only have to hold on for a little while longer in the easiet part of the course for a great second place finish.

As we came back through the downtown, I could tell that the lead runner was either starting to slip on his pace, or we were progressviely getting stronger and closing the gap. Either way, he was no longer running the sub five minute mile that he held through the first mile. We ran across a cobblestone road which was horrible footing, but luckily it did not last for more than a block. I had passed both water stations without taking water. As usual, the runner in front of me didn't take any at either so I wanted to stay with them and didn't take any either. I traded place with the other Russelville runner a few times in this section in running another 2:47.77. I wasn't looking at the distance or the pace now, but just giving it everything I had.

We were now down to the final half mile, plus the finishing kick. We came to a section of the road, almost a boulevard, where a row of trees lined the center. From having run the course in this section in warm ups, I knew to stay to the left for the shortest distance, which was also how the course was marked. The lead vehicle lead the lead runner down the right side. I knew that this mistake would be just what we needed to take the lead over. By the second to last left and then final right, I had passed the lead runner. The two Russelville runners stayed close to me. It almost seemed like they were working together somehow. When we would pull ahead, one kid would turn and look to the other. We ran a 2:44.74 half mile split, making the last mile a 5:32.51. Had the last two miles been a two mile race, I would have run 11:06.74, which would have been a personal record.

At the 3 mile mark, we slowly crested the final hill, exposing the finish line. I had never been in this position in a road race of 5km. I was now giving it more than everything I had. I was in a full out sprint, probably dipping my pace into the very low 5's. Even with that push, I caught a glimpse of the two young kids out of the left side of my eye. There were running side by side, at a pace that I can only imagine was in the mid to low 4's. They flew past me with less than 100 meters to go and stayed ahead to the finish. I took a quick peak behind me to make sure that I wasn't going to be passed by the early leader but saw that he was no where in sight. Despite being passed at the end and losing the lead, I had finished 3rd overall and crushed my old PR (of 17:49) with a finishing time of 17:31.22.

Mile 1 - 2:49.76 + 2:54.79 = 5:44.55
Mile 2 - 2:47.45 + 2:46.78 = 5:34.23
Mile 3 - 2:47.77 + 2:44.74 = 5:32.51
Mile 0.107 - 0:39.93

Total: 17:31.22 Pace: 5:38.34

When the race was over, I jogged a little with my friends in a cool down, but I was still in utter disbelief over what I had just accomplished. In something I would realize later and tell Laura, I noted that my last 20 5k races had mostly been in between 18:30 and 17:49, with only 2 races breaking 18 (that came this summer) and I had somehow run 18 seconds (nearly 6 seconds per mile) faster than ever before at this distance. It was truly remarkable to me how making such a quick decision at the start of the race to stay with the lead pack would motivate me enough to run so well and finsih so high. There were 175 runners in all and I was beaten only by two of them and I would lead my age group by over 4 mintues.

Now days later, I am still in awe at what I did. I had the fluke performance that comes by once every few years. A performance that I haven't had since setting my 4 mile PR in 2006 when I would run a high 22. When I have a race like this, I wonder if the fluke races are the ones that I don't run well and if I have the talent and ability to run this fast all of the time.

13 runners would break 20 minutes on this day, 7 would break 19 and the top 4 would be under 18. In the end I was right; the top runner would be around a mid 17:)

P Name Age Hometown Time

1 Nebiyu Osman 16 Russellville, AL 17:28
2 Hirbo Hirbo 22 Russellville, AL 17:32
3 Eric Charette 32 Huntsville, AL 17:32
4 James Whitehead 29 Madison, AL 17:36
5 Phillip Halley 17 Harreot, AL 18:09
6 Ian McDermott 18 Florence, AL 18:11
7 Heath White 25 Florence, AL 18:34
8 Mason Dye 22 Florence, AL 19:04
9 Christopher Hobbs 19 Athens, AL 19:39
10 Brandon Black 29 Birmingham, AL 19:45

Sunday, July 13, 2008

2008 Run Your Bass Off 10k

July 13, 2008
Run Your Bass Off 10k
Crystal Falls, MI

Running this race was not part of my schedule as little as two weeks ago. When a last minute work trip to Green Bay was inserted into my schedule, I thought that I would make a weekend out of it and surprise my dad on his birthday. Somehow my mom was able to keep a secret and picked me up in Green Bay and drove me back home to Kingsford (MI). When I found out about the trip, I had cross referenced it with the local race calendar and found out about the annual Bass Run in Crystal Falls, MI. They offer a Full Bass (10k) and a Half Bass (3.7 miles). I would run my bass off in the full bass, which is the premiere event for competition, but not for attendance. I was expecting numbers amounting to ~60 for the full and 100+ for the half.

On the day before the race, I spent about 6 hours on my feet attending the Hog Wild Music Jam with my parents. We listened to the likes of the Buckinghams, Chubby Checker and the Grass Roots. This was a fun time, but remaining on my feet for more than I would prefer on the day before a race. I rolled with the punches as it was important for me to spend time with family and not have it be all about running. That said, spending a quality day back on the river sitting around a campfire drinking water and eating carbs would have been nice also.

I woke before 6am on race morning, knowing that I had yet to register and it was a 30-minute drive for this 9am start. The morning was usual for a prerace morning; I was up with plenty of time but somehow managed to cram all of my prep into the last 10 minutes. With one last bathroom stop, we loaded into the car and hit the road. I chilled in the back seat with my ipod on low volume, listening to the likes high bpm 5 star hard rock music. It was kind of like getting a personal chauffeur to the race, making me feel important, like a pampered athlete; or maybe just like an only child home for the weekend.

We got to the park and went through registration pretty quickly. I didn’t know the course and the hand drawn map wasn’t to scale or providing much help, so we decided to drive it quickly. Plus I had to change yet and the temps were too chilly to stay out of the wind for long, so I didn’t mind the ride. It sounds funny to even write the phrase ‘it was too cold to stay outside’ when talking about a race in July but that is Michigan for you. We toured the course, seeing all of the hill climbs and twists and turns of the route, excluding the out and back section. I like to know what I am in for when it comes to a race, but knowing that there were at least 4 hill climbs, a grass section and another portion along a sandy road did not ease my already nervous stomach.

We got back to Runkle Lake at about 8:30, which was plenty of time to hit the restroom twice and get in a mile of warm up time. It was starting to rain lightly now and there was no sun in sight with the overcast skies. I applied some last minute icy hot to my right calf to ease a slight tweak that I had been nursing and took off my cover shirt and visor, throwing them into the car. We were parked at the starting line, and with a crowd of less than two hundred for both races, it wasn’t difficult to make it to the line. I did some quick strides, warming up my legs and scoping out the competition. I didn’t see any faces that I recognized, but I could pick out the likely front-runners. Typically you can tell the difference between the people who look the part and the people who are the part. The top runner in the 10k appeared to be a younger kid wearing a Green Bay East track singlet and shorts. I would later find out that this was Jake Keehan, a UW Oshkosh track star and otherwise nice guy. Other than that, it was going to take an ordinary Joe with amazing skills wearing cotton to have an outstanding day to come anywhere near the top. As we got ready to start, my Dad told me that I was going to win. I pointed out the competition to him but he still looked confident in my abilities.

We stood on the line, facing the opposite direction of the 5k runners. With very little advanced notice, the starter yelled ‘GO’ and we were off. The first section consisted of less than 50 meters of road before veering off to the right to a grassy section that used to be the entrance to the park before it was moved in the mid 90’s. We were sprinting down the hill and jockeying for position. It was very clear that this would be a 2-3 horse race before we reached the road again, coming up off of the grass. I was behind Jake, with another younger running in my footsteps. The end of the first half-mile was at the bottom of the hill as we crossed the bridge and as I looked at my watch, we were on 5:22 pace. I knew that this was ridiculous and that we wouldn’t hold it with the first hill climb looming, but it was fun to sprint out and quickly separate the contenders from the pretenders. I thought about passing Jake, but as I pulled up on his shoulder, I thought better and stepped back behind him, slightly drafting for a few meters. I could tell that he was strong and unless something went wrong, that he was going to be tough to beat. I was still going to run my race and give it everything I had.

The last half of the first mile was up the infamous hill in Crystal Falls. When you mention this town name to people in the area, they immediately associate it to the hill. The entire downtown stretches about 1 mile from the river to the top of the hill near the courthouse. We would turn before the top, but eventually make it to the top via side streets. Just before a fast right off of the hill climb, we had the 1-mile split called at 5:44. My second half-mile was 3:03, though it felt much, much slower. I had told my dad earlier that if I had a chance today, it was going to because of the shape I was in, and that I was a good hill climber. We had 1 hill down with many to go.

At this point, Jake and bike pacer were maybe 10 seconds ahead of me now, but will in sight, despite the twists and turns of the course. The course would zigzag to the top of the hill, giving us another short but steep hill climb along the way. I felt good despite the fast start and the early hills, though I clocked a 3:06 half mile split which was slightly slower than I wanted to be through this point on the course. The good news was that I was able to recovery extremely quickly on the down hills, immediately dropping the pace back down to sub 6’s. We made a left onto the out and back section and looked at my second mile split 5:54, due to a great 2:48 last half mile, coming down the hills. I passed up a water stop on the downhill, partly because Jake didn’t take any and partly because I just didn’t need it for thirst or for the cooling effect. I was now at 11:38 through two miles.

In the out and back section we ran a road that turned every few hundred meters. Having just driven the course, I was able to run the tangents, keeping the course as short as possible and make up some distance on him. So despite the fact that I had not driven this section, I had the presence of mind to look ahead and stay focused on the tangents. The road rolled along through here, but we faced a 20 mph head wind. I thought about running 10 miles an hour, combined with this head wind and I knew that it would spell trouble for the way out. But if I could just hold on, I would be able to take advantage of it quickly on the way back. I ran fairly even, clocking splits of 2:59 and 3:03 for a mile split of 6:02. I was now at 17:40 or running 5:53 pace with nearly half the race over. I had only been in this territory once before and it lead to a PR at River City 10k earlier this year.

On the end of the out section, we turned right onto a gravel road, made a quick left and then another left and began to head back. I couldn’t see the runner behind me, but I knew that he was close. He had been working hard on closing the gap and know that we began to see other runners that he knew, I could hear him talking to them and could tell that he was just meters behind. Shortly after this realization, he powered by me, despite an effort to increase the tempo to ward him off. He ran past and I told him to go get the lead runner, wondering what his response would be. I’m not sure what he said, but I got the notion that he wasn’t going to try. I ran past the two other runners that I knew, Kristi, then Erin Dishaw and they knew that I was now in 3rd and that I was trying to win this race. They looked happy just to be out and enjoying the day, while I was cursing myself for letting that runner pass me. I stayed close the second place runner, hoping that I would be able to reel him in on the hills. I had slowed in the first part of the mile, which is probably why he passed, but sped up in the latter stages. The 4th mile was a 3:01 and a 2:48 for a 5:49. I was now at 23:29 or 5:52 pace. I had managed to lower the overall pace, despite getting passed. Maybe this is what motivated me?

We made a left, crossing the river again and passing the aid station again. This mile would have the last of the hills in it, with the final 1.2 miles on a level part of the course. I could tell that I was closing the gap a little on second place. As we would climb, I would narrow the gap, and then on the downs he would stretch out his legs and widen the gap again. After a first half-mile time of 2:57, I decided that it was the time to make a push on him. I don’t have a finishing kick, so if I was going to beat him, it was by pushing the pace, passing confidently and then putting 10 seconds on him. This sounds easy, but given the fact that I was 5 seconds behind, I would have to run 15 seconds faster going up hill before the end of the mile. I decided to go for it and began to close the gap. Reeling him in went very slowly, but once I caught him, the adrenaline kicked in and I was able to run past him with ease. As I ran by, I heard him say that he was ‘spent’ already. This statement was all that I needed; I knew that he had given it his all to close the gap on me and was running on fumes. I decided to put in an extra fast push to show him that I was still strong. I think that this was mentally defeating for him, as his pace dropped off after that. I had run a 3:07 half mile split uphill, for a 6:04 on maybe the toughest section of the course. I was now at 29:33 which is very near my 5-mile personal record.

We made a left turn onto the final road section and I could tell that I had put a decent size lead on the now 3rd place runner. I could no longer see Jake in the lead, as he was probably 45-60 seconds ahead of me and had already made the turn onto the sandy road off of the pavement. I glanced at the course volunteer point us off the road and into the woods and said hello. He said something about me doing well but I didn’t hear it. The footing on the road wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great either. There were mixed soft sand sections, followed by longer grass and some mud. I was able to run very even despite all of this, knowing that soon the race would be over. I really could not see the runner behind me anymore, but again, I was thinking about having a healthy lead on him before the last two tenths, as he would most likely be able to out-kick me, no matter how spent he was. Just as I made my way around the softball field and passed right field and headed into the back end of the campground, I noticed that he was near third base. I had at least 200 meters on him and I knew that unless I fell or cramped, that he would not catch me. The plan, so carefully crafted over a few second stretch a few miles ago had worked. My sixth mile was a 5:48 with identical 2:53 half-mile splits.

I ran through the campground, crossed the park road and into the final stretch of the course. This is where all of the people were at and they began to clap as I came in. I turned on the jets of what I had left and crossed the line at 35:59.82. For some reason my dad thought I would run about seven-minute miles and that it would take me 45 minutes to finish. He was surprised when the lead runner came through at 35:12 and was not ready for the finish line photo when I came in 47 seconds later. I stopped to catch my breath and then went over to shake the hand of the winner, Jake Keehan. He had run 8 seconds faster per mile than me, though I don’t know if this was his best, as he wasn’t really pushed. If he is a college level runner, then he is capable of at least a 16:30 5km or a 2 minute 800 based on standards for running at that level.

With this time, I had broken my previous 10km race PR and gotten under 36 minutes; a goal that I never thought possible. The only part that I question is that I measured the course slightly short on my GPS, at 6.13 miles. With the heavy cloud cover, I could have jut been off or it could have been short since it was not certified. Given this, at 5:52 pace, I still would have run 36:27 and been under my old PR. The other thing that I considered was that this course was measured by how it was driven, but by running the tangents, it could be run short. A certified course is measured on the tangents, but this was not a certified course.

So this was a hilly course, and I had survived getting passed and passing right back a mile later to finish second. I would consider this a very successful race. At awards, I took 1st in M30-39. There were only 58 total 10k runners, but the competition at the top was very good. Once again, I was a single runner away from taking the overall trophy.

I didn’t win the race, but I felt like a winner. I had run a great race with Mom and Dad watching making them proud.