Sunday, March 26, 2006

Success and failure, but mostly success.

I'm back from my weekend travels. I have been since last night. It was a good weekend. It was charactarized by success and failure, but mostly success.

We got away about five thrity and have an uneventful drive down. We got to N's Mom's house and got settled in. I did a few chores for her that she wasn't able to do and then was ready to go to bed. Even though I've probably been up and down her stairs at least a hundred times, for some reason I misjudged a step, kicking the aptly named kick plate with my bare toe. I ended up sprawled on the atop the stairs muttering curses. Once I'd walked off the pain, I realized that I'd peeled back almost a quarter of my large toenail.

As I laid down to sleep, I pretty much assumed that it was going to negativly affect my performance the next morning. It throbbed and even the pressure of the quilt made it hurt worse.

As a runner, you are supposed to set three goals for yourself headed into a race. The first goal is your ultimate goal that you don't say outloud for fear of looking like a fool if you don't reach it. The second goal is your more realistic goal and the third is your goal if things don't go exactly right on race day -- a time you'd settle for.

My ultimate goal and goal at the begining of the year was to break forty minutes in the 10k. My realistic, 'i'd be satisfied' goal was sub forty one minutes. I figured I'd probably come in between forty and forty one. I didn't know if I was in good enough shape to break forty.

As I've said before, the Azalea Trail Run is one of the premier 10k's in the country, attracting a very elite field.
The course is flat and extremely fast. In ATR 2001, Joseph Kimani of Kenya came within two seconds of setting a new world record in the men's open division in 27:41, and then in ATR '01 Abraham Chebii and Thomas Nyariki ran the 3rd and 4th fastest times ever in a 10K, finishing in 27:26 and 27:30, respectively! In ATR '94, the current world record for men masters (28:56) was set by Martin Mondragon of Mexico and in ATR '99 John Campbell of New Zealand established a world's best time for male grandmasters (over 50) of 31:02. So if you're aiming for a world record or merely a personal best, or if you just want to treat yourself to the visual pleasures along the course and throughout the city, come run with us.
Here is this mornings news story about the race.

The morning of the race, the Frog and I got up at five thirty to get ready and drive across town to the race site. We got there in plenty of time and found the location of our packet pick up. We pre-registered online three weeks ago and one of the critical portions of the entry form is Tshirt size. I'm a Medium. I always request a medium shirt. A medium will fit me. A small will not. A large will not.

When we got there, they informed us that they didn't recieve any smalls and had already given all the mediums away. It was a large or XL. Fuck that. I paid for a medium, I want a medium. This event is in it's twenty ninth year. It regularly attracts three thousand entrants. People follow a bell curve. Follow the trends from the pre-registered runners. Have the right fucking shirt when I show up.

I walked away with a large. I was pissed. Yeah I know it's a tshirt but with lots of Kenyans there I was unlikely to win an award, the fucking tshirt was my award. I wanted a medium just as I'd requested. It wasn't like I was late showing up. It wasn't like I registered late.

Moving on.

We warmed up for a mile and a half and then headed to the start. The frog and I wound away through the throng to near the front. Positioning in a race like that is critical, you can't start too far back or all the traffic will affect your time. You don't want to start too far forward so you can get the advantage of passing all the slower runners. We started about five deep.

The Frog was sick all week. He even took two days off work. I didn't know how well he was going to run. To hit forty minutes, I needed six twenty seven miles. I wanted to run pretty flat on that for the six mile duration.

Things felt good the first half to three quarters mile. I was a little concerned that my breathing was becoming rapid too soon, but still felt good. I tried to compare my breathing to those around me to gauge my fitness to theirs.

As we raced down oak lined Governement Street, we crossed the first mile in six twelve. I felt strong but was concerned that it was a little fast. I slowed a bit but didn't want to give up too much ground.

I dropped the Frog about a mile and a half. Being sick all week and not running since Sunday had taken it's toll. He was spent.

I hooked up with two runners who passed me on the left. I sat in just behind them and wanted to pace off them. We crossed mile two in a slower yet managable pace. By mile three the throng was getting thin and I was settled into a groove, feeling good we crossed mile three in six twenty six.

Mile four dropped in six twenty four. Pace was steady and under target. I felt good and was suprising myself. The runner I was with seemed to be continuing on strongly. We crossed mile five still under pace.

I knew then that I could bring it home under forty. I still felt good but didn't want to flare out. I picked it up just a step. Mile six flew by and I headed home. I entered the Male open shoot trailing another fellow by twenty yards. I wanted to reel him in. He spotted me behind and picked it up. I sprinted home, almost catching him. I crossed the tape in thrity nine twenty one.

I suprised the hell out of myself. I really didn't know if I would break forty, but I did. One of my other goals was top ten in my age group. I figured I could do it by looking at past results. Even though I perfomed so well, I came in eleventh in my age group. My time would have given me an award in 2005, 2004, 2003. There is some satisfaction in that but the fact that tenth place finished just a few seconds ahead of me irks me. Still, even though I failed at that goal, I feel I accomplished a lot. I'm satisfied.

I finished eleventh of eighty three in my age group. I finished ninety second of two thousand seven hundred and ninety three. I'd say that's pretty damn good.

It was a great race. I had a blast. If at all possible, I'll be back next year and I'll get the right tshirt.

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