Monday, October 8, 2012


I said I wanted to run 5:30 pace. It was a nice even number. I don't think I'd even looked up what that came out to when I started saying it. The new standard to be an "emerging athlete" for Ragged Mountain is 2:24:02. Just below 5:30 pace. So that was my new goal. [Spoiler alert: I didn't run 2:24]

Admittedly, I didn't really expect to run that fast.

January in Arizona, I felt a lot of pressure. I'd run 2:32 twice, 2:33, and 2:34. My marathoning was going backwards. I popped a big half-marathon PR in September of last year, so I knew I wasn't as slow as I'd been running, but I still needed to prove it over 26.2. I went there hoping to break 2:30, got a little overwhelmed and ran 1:13:18 for the first half, and then faded to high 2:27.

I didn't feel that pressure this time. (I would have written about it yesterday in the hotel but I couldn't get online.) I knew after crashing the last 4 miles in Arizona that I could run faster than I did, I just needed the chance. I didn't think I could really run as fast as I'd stated. I mean, that's a BIG drop. I ran 5:38+ pace in AZ and said I'd do 5:30 here? That's huge. But we've got to have goals right? I wanted to go there to run a PR and wasn't going to rule out running out of my mind at the end of it with my training partners at my side. So that's what I set out to do. I told Thomas yesterday that I'd like to go through the half around where I did in January and see what kind of pain I could put myself into at the end.

The weather was great. It was cold and not too windy. I got to the Elite Developmental Tent around 6am and grabbed a spot at the table. I admit I was anxious waiting for the rest of Blitz Mountain to show up but I was texting KC and trying to avoid the staring eyes of other people in the tent. It was tense in there; one person sitting at each table staring at everyone else as they walked by. The tent is pretty sweet though. We had all the water, pretzels, and Gatorade products we could ask for, along with heat and porta-potties. It filled up quickly and I went to warm up with Jon, Chris, and Thomas. Charlie just did drills and strides. We warmed up for about 5 minutes and then came back to the tent. I used the bathroom for the 10th time or so. Using a porta-pottie in the dark is a leap of faith.

They were escorting us to the line at 7:05 and 7:10. I opted for the latter, and we ended up leaving at 7:15 while I ate my GU. It was warm enough that I left my extra gloves in the tent, which was a good choice for later. I used the bathroom 2 more times before the race started, including once in the actual corral. The gun went off and we were gone.

Thomas and I at the start
I got passed by 1000 people immediately, including Jon and Chris. Thomas stuck with me while Charlie ran on his own on the left side of the pack.  We went underneath the road and were in the darkness for the first few minutes. Popping out we grouped up and then were together for the next hour and a half. Our first mile was a slow 6:07, which was a bit slower than we'd talked about, but I wasn't concerned. We were walking and had plenty of time. We immediately started passing back those who'd gone out too fast. The next two miles were identical 5:42s, and then it was time to go to work. I think we went through 5K together as a group of 5 before leaving Jon and Chris behind. I wouldn't see them again until we were in the tent.

The next 10 miles were pretty much the same. The three of us ran together. Occasionally one of us would pull ahead of the other two by a little, but then we'd group back up. We'd move up on a big group of people who I expected us to stay with for a little bit, but we'd just go around them and move on to the next one. One guy, Doug, latched onto us around mile 7 as we tore through his group, and he ended up staying with one of the three of us all the way until the end when he beat Charlie. Every once in a while I'd tell Thomas that we need to relax a little, and we'd slow down for a bit before getting back into it. We were running well to get back onto the pace we wanted, but I was still surprised to be running miles as close to 5:30 as we were. After our 9th mile was 5:26, I commented to Doug that I was trying to stay at 5:30. The race was pretty uneventful. I had a little side stitch in the first 5 miles or so but that went away, and my hips were a little tight at the beginning, but really, uneventful.

We hit the half in 73:15. Pretty solid. I was relieved as we passed it because approaching it I thought that we might be under 73 minutes. I didn't want that to happen. I felt relaxed and like the pace wasn't that challenging, but I was still mindful of the fact that we were only half way there. The half was right between two 5:29 miles. After 14, I felt Thomas put his foot on the gas. There was a pack ahead of us that had a woman or two in it plus some pacers, and I thought maybe he was trying to latch on to that group. He had a few meters on me when Charlie got up next to me. We ran together for a little bit before I threw in a big surge to catch up to Thomas and the group. Charlie must have followed, because as Thomas went around the group on the left and I followed, Charlie was right there on the other side of the group moving up to the front. I worried passing that group, that I might be getting in deep a little too early. Especially when the next mile was a 5:23.

Bold splits are official
I knew I didn't want to run 5:23 at mile 15. That is still a long way to go before the finish and I wasn't ready for that. I dropped back from Charlie, Thomas and Doug with no intention of sticking with them. I worried that KC was going to see me and think that I was dying, but I felt fine. I just had to run my own race, and my race wasn't low 5:20s yet. So I fell back. We went around a corner that had a camera and a jumbo-tron. I could see myself in the background while the camera showed Charlie, Thomas and Doug. Even though I was behind them, I looked like a giant. I'm just apparently a lot bigger of a person than they are. Who would have thought? Their arms and legs looked like they were going so much faster than mine too. Hopefully that's because I was running easier than they were. Despite that conscious efforts, I didn't slow down much. Charlie effectively dropped Thomas and Doug, and then I started moving back up on them. I knew Thomas was in trouble when I saw him going to the far left to grab bananas from a random table of bananas from a spectator. He told me that his legs were cramping up, and I responded "Just run 5:30s." I moved back up to Doug and he said good job, to which I responded "I just want to run 5:30s."

Getting into the 20s, I started thinking about the end. I couldn't quite do the math, but knew that I was doing well. I started to slow down a little, but I started to hurt too. Doug pulled away from me as we passed mile 21 and a female African runner. At 35K, I wanted to get some water, and there were the tables with the elite water bottles. I had noted at the previous elite water tables that the last one was just regular water bottles. I'd considered getting one at the stop before, so this time I went for it. I even asked though, and they said it was fine. As I reached down to the right to grab a bottle off of the table, my right hamstring spasmed! I spilled most of the water out of the bottle and tried not to fall over. It was sort of like jumping up and down for a few strides but I managed to get back into it. I think I'd really been accelerating during that mile, but with the cramps in my legs I ran a 5:33. I wonder what I would have done that mile otherwise. But I kept going. I didn't go much faster, as this was when the wheels started to come off a little bit. My heart and lungs and mind were fine, but the legs were just spent.

I started to do the math in my head, but it was a little tough because I didn't have a definite number to work with. In Arizona I was able to go to 2:30 and take comfort in being under that. Here I wasn't as prepared to do the math since all I was doing was taking it one mile at a time. But I knew I was in good shape because I was getting down to 4 miles to go and I wasn't completely cratering. Over the next two miles, I saw my sister-in-law Kim and my nephew and niece, Jack and Grace. I threw my GU pouch to Grace because it had been bothering me for a while. I got excited and started to get into a rhythm again and start moving. I had been able to see Charlie the whole time, and kept looking up at him the whole time, and it seemed like he was coming back to me! I envisioned myself catching him and us finishing together under 2:25. (I said I wasn't doing the math very well...)

Then it happened again at 41K -- leg spasm. I almost came to a complete stop this time, trying not to fall to the ground. The streets were crowded with people cheering, and I used that as much as I could to keep going. I knew I'd made it so far, and that I could go without stopping like I'd done in Chicago in 2009. All I had to do was run that last mile and a half! I got passed by two runners after the spasms, but didn't worry about it. I was going to PR at least, I knew that much for sure.

I had stopped worrying about tangents. Every time I took a turn (which there weren't many of in the last 3 miles, but before that...) I took them as wide as I could to avoid any unnecessary sudden movements. It was very inefficient, but it's what I had to do to keep myself from locking up. Somehow the gap to Charlie still seemed to be getting smaller, but I was running out of road to catch him. I wondered when Thomas was going to come back at me when I heard those two runners pass me. One more came and it wasn't Thomas still. I started to see signs, 800m to go! I was around 2:23 I think, and I knew I could finish a half mile in less than 8-minute pace! Around the turn and up the only hill of the race to mile 26, I saw KC and Sue standing at the mile marker! She was cheering for me, and I took the split without looking at my watch. There was nothing I could do at that point, no adjusting pace. Just finish without rigging up down the home stretch. The race clock said 2:25:07 and there was a sign that said 300m to go. I wondered what I run 300s in on the track with marathon pace but realized it didn't matter. Just go! I took the last turn and saw the finish line; it was so much closer than I remembered it being 3 years ago. I could do this! Just cruise it in. I got passed by another runner after the turn and he and the guy in front of me started to kick. I watched them race to the line and the passed runner gave up. My mind wasn't in for a kick, I just wanted to get there so I could stop.

I saw the clock in the 2:26 teens, and tried to dig. As it turned into the 20s, I strode to the line giving it everything I had left. I didn't know which line was the actual finish line, but I went as far as I could. 2:26:29 on my watch. I guess I started it wrong or stopped it wrong, because my time was 2:26:31 officially. Who cares? It wasn't going to be under 2:26 so a few seconds doesn't matter. It was a PR nonetheless, by 1:18. I moved from a 2:27 guy to a 2:26 guy.

Results for the day:
1. Tsegay Kepede (ETH) - 2:04:38 CR, PR, #9 All-Time
9. Dathan Ritzenhein (USA) - 2:07:47 PR, #3 US All-Time
1F. Atsede Baysa (ETH) - 2:22:03
2F. Rita Jeptoo (KEN) - 2:22:04
44. Charlie Hurt (USA) - 2:25:54 PR
48. Bert Jacoby (USA) - 2:26:31 PR
8F. Renee Meivier Baillie (USA) - 2:27:17 Debut, #8 US All-Time
77. Thomas Adam (USA) - 2:32:13 PR
97. Jon Healey (USA) - 2:34:53
167. Chris Healey (USA) - 2:40:39

Now we just have to see how our team, Blitz Mountain, does. 3 years ago, Team VA was 2nd place behind a pro Nike team out of Oregon. I saw a lot of guys wearing Western Mass singlets, but we passed a lot of them. I think one of them may have been one of the 4 people to pass me at the end. We'll see...

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