Saturday, June 27, 2009

Helen Keller 5 Mile Race

Today was definitely a lesson in humility! I fully expected to go to Tuscumbia and run a 32 something and place somewhere in my age group. Really, 33+ didn't even enter my mind as a possibility. Try 34:45. Yep. 34:45. Now, the course is a little long (as certified courses are) and I thought I had run more like a 34:30 or so. I'm not sure why my time and the official time are off, but I'm sure it's my mistake and it doesn't matter anyway for a time that slow. 11th of 206 overall and 4th of 17 in the 35-39 Age Group.

Overall results and Age Group results are available at the Shoals TRAC website.

I really don't know why I was so slow today except that it is HOT! The race start was 8:00 AM, and it was already near 80F by then. The sun was beaming and with the dew point near 70F, it was miserably hot and humid. Also, I had no idea what the course was like. This is a race that demands more respect than I gave it! A sub 35 minute 5 miler should not be that difficult. I guess I'm not as fast as I think I am. I'll have to work on that.

Having said all of that, this race was well run and well staffed. There was a rush of people registering this morning, and the process was very quick. I didn't have to wait in line for the pre-race port-a-potty. There was plenty of water at the start/finish and on the course. There were sprinklers at the start/finish and along the course. That it also coincides with the Helen Keller festival is a neat bonus, too. This is an excellent event, and I may do it again to get revenge on the course. I may not do it again because it was so miserable. It is HOT. It deserves respect. It is not a fast race.

The Start
I rode over with Scott to the race today. I can honestly say that the ride is the only part of this race that I enjoyed! The race started just a little late. That's probably because there were so many race day sign ups (including me).

I didn't get as much of a warm up as I wanted, but that's no excuse for today's performance. I'm just not fast.

At the starting line, I met a guy from NC, Ronnie Michael. He looked fast! We were chatting and I found out that he is a Marine here visiting family. I thanked him for his service. Then I found out that he is in my age group. Oh well. He asked my target pace and I told him 6:30. He said that was what he was aiming for, too, so I decided to try to stick with him.

Mile 1
The first mile starts slightly downhill, but mostly flat. It crosses the finish line, which is unusual. After the finish line, it starts a steep descent. I started a bit fast, like 5:40 pace or so, but that's not unusual for me for the first 200 yards of a race. I backed off fairly quickly, but then let it fly again going down the hill. All I kept thinking was... I know I'm going to have to climb back up this hill! After going through a park, we turned and started back up the hill. It wasn't as steep on the way back up, but it was still what I would call a major hill. The one mile mark was just over halfway up the hill, but I didn't see a clock or a split timer. I hit the mile in 6:25 (according to the Garmin), exactly as planned and I still felt good. There was a lot of passing and fighting for position in this mile. Scott was near me, ahead and behind and ahead and behind and Ronnie, who I met at the start, was probably about 10 seconds ahead. The second place woman, Sandy Lynch, was in this pack also. I saw Scott try to pass her a few times in this mile, but she was cutting him off or holding him off, depending on how you look at it. :)

Mile 2
There is still half of the major hill to climb at the beginning of mile 2. Again, here I felt good and held on surprisingly well up the hill. I passed Scott up this hill. After topping the hill, I got passed by a couple of body-builder types. I tried to keep one of them in sight, but he was stretching his lead. I just kept Ronnie in sight. I passed Sandy after topping the hill and before the 2 mile marker, but I don't really remember where on 5th street that I made the move. I could tell that she was going to try to hang close. There was aid at about 1.6 miles and I wet my head and mouth. The heat was starting to catch up to me. I hit the split in 13:21 on the clock, and 6:45 on my Garmin. My garmin was only about 3 seconds before the clock, so I'm not sure how I lost 6 or 7 seconds from the official time. Maybe I was late with the start button?

Mile 3
I don't remember much about mile 3 except that was one rolling hill after another. I don't think any of the hills were more than 20 feet, but they just kept coming and coming. I passed a much younger guy here. It may have been Tanner Ryan, but I'm not sure. He didn't seem to try to stay close, but I didn't look back to see. I started to struggle mightily on this mile. I wasn't holding anywhere near the 6:45 pace of the previous mile. I still had Ronnie in my sight, but he was extending his lead. I hit this in a disappointing 6:54.

Mile 4
This was the worst mile for me! I remember just begging for the 4 mile split. Where is it? It can't be far now? I was gaining on Ronnie, so I wasn't the only one struggling during this mile. it was mostly a gradual uphill after a downhill first quarter. I was just fighting to hang on. I passed two vehicles that were stopped by traffic control for the race that had smoking drivers. I did not need to inhale cigarrette smoke at this point in the race! Gaining on Ronnie gave me some encouragement, but I didn't want to make a move too soon given the way I was feeling. Finally I could see the split! No! that can't be the right time! 7:12. Yuck.

Mile 5
I knew I was going to pass Ronnie, the only question was when and what kind of effort would he make to hold me off when he heard me coming. I probably could have and should have made the move sooner, but I didn't want to blow up because I pushed too soon. There was no one behind me pushing me, so I waited until about the 4.5 mile mark. The course has you go out a long loop before the finish. I made my move at the turn of that loop. I was determined to make the move strong, so I did. I heard him staying close, but I was NOT going to look back. I didn't want him to know how tired I was! So, I ran the last half of that mile at a faster pace. When I knew I was about 200 or so yards from the finish, I let go! I was determined that he would not overtake me! It took some good effort to hold him off, but I managed to eek out a 5 second lead at the finish. He ran a hard finish, too. Nice job, Ronnie!

I mentioned Sandy Lynch. Until after the race, I had assumed that she was the winner. At the last stretch, a younger woman poured on a sprint to overtake her for the win. I never saw the winning woman during the race, so she must have run conservatively at the start.

That's as close to puking as I have ever gotten at a race. I was really a little concerned after crossing the finish line that I was going to lose it. I have no idea why an almost 35 minute 5 miler felt so hard, but it did. It took 5 minutes before I could even drink water.

Looking back at the race, I was not pleased with my time, but I am pleased with my finishing kick. I was pleased that psychologically I was able to overtake someone who had led me the whole race. I was pleased that I didn't get "chicked". It's really unusual that I finish ahead of the winning woman. And finally, it's a positive thing that I did not get passed after about the 1.5 mile mark.

Oh yeah, and I'm thankful that I am able to run most every day and that I'm able to run a race basically on a whim. It was a great day, if a slow time!

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