Saturday, March 11, 2006

Striking distance

This morning was the 5k at the airport. I didn't go into it with many expectations. I generally place in the top ten or close to the top ten in most local races. That's what I was expecting in this race. This race was unique in that it wasn't in town but was out at the airport. It was neat getting to see the entire race course as I surveyed the vast expanse of open area around me. We raced down the (now completed, old satellite photo) 5,300 foot runway, turned onto the taxiway, looped back onto the runway and finished with a half mile straightaway down the taxiway.

My PR in a 5k is 18:16 set at a notoriously fast point to point course about forty minutes from here. I ran 19:05 in December and I was hoping to break the ninteen minute barrier this morning. I needed 6:07 per mile.

The Frog and I warmed up with the one mile kiddie race. We could have taken them all by a solid two minutes but we figured that wouldn't exactly be politically correct. Rather than run through the finish, we ran to a hanger near his car and then picked up my knee brace from my bag.

I didn't exactly eat well Friday night. N and I went to Sonic for Orange Creme Slush's. I ended up getting a foot long chili cheese coney and an order of chili cheese tots with a Coke. Not exactly healthy racing food. At the start, I felt alright but I just wasn't hyped up and ready to lay it on the line.

At the start it took me a few hundred yards to find my groove and ease into my pace. The Frog is a bit faster than me and I know I can't keep up with him. I've come to accept this and I dont' try to hang with him at the start anymore, it just isn't a good racing strategy for me. I let him slide away ahead of me as a guy in an orange shirt jumped way out ahead.

There are always a number of people who go out really fast that you know aren't in racing shape and will fade rather quickly. I knew I didn't have to pay too much attention to most of them, and it's fairly easy to tell who they are.

I decided to slide in behind some guys I was confident would pose a threat later in the race. It was my objective to sit in behind them, keeping them within striking distance until just after two miles.

About half a mile into the race I felt the tell tale loosening in my left shoe. Thinking back to our warmup, I'd told the Frog to make sure I double knotted my shoes when we got back to the start. He did but I suddenly realized that I'd only done the right shoe. In between shoes, I'd gotten distracted with talking and forgotten to double knot and tuck my left shoe. Now I was paying the price, again.

I veered to the left and looked behind me to know that I wasn't going to impede anyone. I reached down and tied my shoe. By the time I was back on my way, I'd lost a good fifteen to twenty seconds. I attempted to come out and make up a decent amount of time quickly.

I passed the one mile mark at 6:37. Roughly thirty seconds slower than I wanted. Ok, so breaking nineteen was now out of the question. I just needed to regain contact with the pair I was originally trailing. I spent the majority of the second mile pursuing and slowly trying to reel the pair back in.

I did a decent job. I was patient and bided my time, not wanting to exert too much effort to catch them only to bonk before the finish. I crossed mile two in 13:17. I was still in good position and feeling strong.

Right at the turn onto the taxiway I was able to make a move. I passed the two with ease. That put me in fifth, up from seventh. They didn't seem to make a move to press on me. I set my sites on the next man in line.

He knew I was on him. He kept looking back, checking on me. I should have taken it as a clue that he was almost spent but I didn't. My pace had quickend heading into the homestreach but I wasn't at a sprint yet.

When I caught him, I could tell he increased his stride rate to try and match me. I listened to his breathing and knew he was closer to the threashold than I was. His breathing was labored and quick.

Setting my sights now on third place with about third of a mile left, I asked him, 'Do you think we can reel him in?' Third place was a solid thirty yards ahead of us. My partner said sure. We quickened. Not ten seconds later when it became clear to me that I could and would catch third, I muttered, "Oh yeah, we've got him.' My partner said, 'You might.'

I knew he was cooked. I plowed on, digging deep. I passed third with just over a tenth left. It was as if he was standing still. He couldn't match me coming in. I finished super strong.

I ran a good race. One that builds. Not one that comes out strong and flames out at the end. It's something that's taken me a while to learn but it's definitely the most successful tactic for me. It's worked well two weeks in a row. Whether it be strategy, endurance or talent, I seem to have more to draw from at the end than most people.

I finished third of one hundred seven. My finishing time was 20:02 not what I was hoping but I'll take it. Considering the shoelace incident at the begining of the race. I did pick off four runners though in the last six tenths. I rose like a phoenix from seventh to third in a matter of minutes. I'm really proud of that accomplishment.

Next weekend I have the Kappa Delta Shamrock Run. Over two hundred co-eds running because they have to. That should be nice to watch.

The week after is the next real race, a world class race that has nearly seen world records recently. The Azalea Trail 10k in Mobile. The Frog and I are registered, hopefully more will be going with us.

As for now, I have to work off this drunkeness so I can run seventeen training miles tomorrow. Goodnight and good luck.

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