Sunday, June 16, 2013

Charlottesville Men's Four Miler

Today is June 16th and I ran my second race of the year today, the Charlottesville Men's Four Miler. Ridiculous! Usually I've run close to a dozen races at this point in the year with the FARC Coldwell Banker Elite Grand Prix Series, the Marine Corps Historic Half, the Colonial Half-Marathon or various other races. But 2013 has been a slow year from me, mostly due to injuries. I started out the year injured, and started to recover in time to run the Civitan's 10K, but hurt myself again right before that race. Since then, I've been holding back a lot in training. Looking back, between Memorial Day and last Friday, I did zero workouts, took two days off, and ran no faster than 7:26 pace on any runs. I did one twelve-mile run last weekend that was very painful, but otherwise I was sticking to 4-6 mile runs for the most part. Not exactly the peak training that I would like to have under my belt heading into the celebration of our Nation's independence.

I mentioned earlier this week that I was going to run this race because of the team competition. I really enjoy being a part of the Ragged Mountain Racing Team, and didn't want to miss the opportunity to participate in the team competition. A couple of the team members are out of town and some other guys were running on a team for the UVA Hospital. We needed four guys to score, and I was counting on being the fifth guy and not scoring behind Seth, Thomas, Lee and Alec. But again, I was just happy to be participating.

I didn't want to run too terribly slow, but at the same time I didn't have any confidence in my hamstring to survive. I'd said out-loud to people that I'd shoot for 6-minute pace; 24 minutes. Slowville. Could I do that? I didn't know, so yesterday, I went down to Riverview park to run, and decided I should test out my legs. A half mile in, I knew I didn't want to do any strides, so I decided to pick up the pace on the way back. (It is a two mile bike path, so four miles out and back.) I ended up running almost 5 miles, at 7:53, 6:43, 5:56, 6:34, 6:16. The last two miles were faster than I planned, but I was trying to get back to KC before she finisher her walk/jog. BUT I FELT GREAT! So I modified the plan a little bit: 6 minute pace for the first two miles, then pick it up and see what I can do without hurting myself. Really though, without hurting myself. No real kicking. It is not worth it.

Fast forward to this morning. The weather was pretty good-- far better than I think Mark had expected as of Friday. I thought it was pleasant. I drove to Scott Stadium to register (I never, ever wait until race-day registration) and meet up with the guys to warm up. On my way there I saw RMR members Nicole, Amy and Melissa out for their long run before volunteering at the race. Seth, Thomas, Lee and I went for a warm up with Sallie and Danae, Lee's girlfriend. Things felt fine. My hamstring was tight, but not painful. I told my teammates about my successful run the day before, but they seemed more worried that I'd left it all out there and less hopeful of the promise I thought it indicated. Afterwards, I hit up the bathrooms in the Stadium, stretched, and changed.

As a team we were wearing blue RMR singlets. According to Mark, we're supposed to wear black or white, which are the two that I have. But the group decided that we would wear blue, so I borrowed Joel's. He was running for the hospital team, so I didn't expect him to have on RMR at all. Wrong. He wore another one I hadn't seen before, and Bob Thiele had on the black singlet. So two of the hospital team was wearing RMR, and one of the RMR team was wearing RMRS. Alec apparently doesn't have his RMR stuff anymore. Details.

Heading over to the starting line, I saw Chuck Love and Brian Kayser. I figured they were both going to beat me today. KC was at the starting line and asked how I was feeling. I told her I felt fine and was ready to run really slowly! Mike London, the UVA football coach, was the official starter. I'd forgotten he was going to be there and was standing right next to him while Mark gave his pre-race instructions. Then I looked over, and the man is HUGE! Not like, fat huge, but just a big man! I tried to get KC to look over and see us and maybe take a picture (Sue would have loved it!) but it was no use.

The starting line was at a 90 degree angle to the direction we were going to run. We were literally facing the stadium and had to start. Very strange. But Mike London said go and we were off! I got pushed by whoever was behind me and passed very quickly. That's fine though. Let them go. I needed to run a 6-minute mile. Joel and I were running together and I said to him that I didn't want to lose to someone that I pointed at, and he did the same. Then Joel took off too! We left the stadium parking lot and took a right onto Alderman Road.

After we crossed McCormack Road, there was a sign marking the 1/2 mile. I could count and had myself at 17th place. Seth and Bob were out in front alone, then there was a chase pack of 9 guys, which included Alec, Thomas, Lee, and recent UWM grad and 2013 Battleground Relays 5k winner Scott Plunkett. Then there were 5 guys between them and me, which had Joel, Chuck Love, Brian, and a little boy that couldn't have been more than 10 years old. I thought "Hey, top-15 won't be bad." Normally I wouldn't look at my watch at a random place on the course, but this was marked so I looked and it was 2:49. So a little fast, but that's ok. We were about to start on the rolling hills and I'd slow down for sure. I felt very relaxed and my hamstring felt fine. I was in control.

Apparently not too in control. I passed a few people in the next half mile, including Brian, and hit the first mile in 5:29. That was surprising, but it isn't like I was going to hit the breaks all of the sudden and just stop running. I felt great, so I just went with it. I crossed Ivy and headed towards the track. I saw Thomas take some water, so thought it would be OK to do so myself and went for it. I heard some female voices cheering for me on the right side of the road, but have no idea who it was. I made a mental note to remember to look on the way back to see who it was. Heading down towards the law school, I started closing in on Joel. I passed him right before the cone to turn around and said to him that I was going to take it wide, so we wouldn't run into each other. Coming off the cone, I moved up quickly to Chuck Love before getting to the two mile in 5:21. That was a pleasant surprise, as I still felt really good. I didn't really foresee myself going much faster, and said to Chuck that he'd better not out-kick me in the end. I didn't expect myself to be kicking against anyone.

As we got back towards the track and Alderman Road, I started to move past Chuck too. There were runners coming back towards us, but I really only realize that now as I sit here typing this. I guess I was so focused on the people ahead of me that I didn't even notice. Chuck and I passed someone else before the water stop and were told that we were in 8th, 9th, and 10th. I looked on the side of the road and only saw Dave Hryvniak and some ladies I didn't recognize, so the cheer-ers remain a mystery. I didn't think it was RMR people because I'd already seen them back at the mile marker...

I passed another runner, I believe he was a high schooler (only because he and his mom parked near my car and I heard them talking before the race started) right before Ivy Road and looked up to see Thomas, Lee and Alec. Thomas had passed the two of them, and it looked like Lee and Alec were coming back to me. I didn't put together the places at the time-- the only thing going through my head was "score for the team." I knew I still had almost half of the race left, and just set out to catch Alec. The course was rolling at this point again, and I went through 3-miles in 5:17 before catching him. Someone told us that the guy in front of us (Lee) looked tired and to work together to catch him. I just kept going. My hamstring was getting tight, but I still felt in control and wasn't working that hard yet. But Alec was the last person I would pass. I think I got to within 10 meters behind Lee, but the finish took us down past the AFC and behind the stadium, which was mostly downhill, and I started to get a little more cautious than I'd been. Lee is basically a miler, and I've been out-kicked by him in many workouts and two races. I guess I gave up a little bit...

I entered the parking garage behind the stadium and took some turns in the dark (I was wearing sunglasses) before emerging onto the football field! The jumbo-tron was on and I could see Lee finishing on the screen. He crossed the line and the camera turned towards me! I thought to myself "LOOK SMOOTH!" but it didn't translate very well. I don't think I looked too good. I hit the line in 21:17, closing with a 5:08! Pretty awesome negative splits for the day-- 5:29, 5:21, 5:17, 5:08. I got 5th place. Our RMR team went 1-3-4-5-6, with RMR members running for the hospital getting 2nd (Bob) and 11th (Joel). I picked up my second "1st place Men 30-34" age-group prize, a free hooded sweatshirt from Ragged Mountain Running Shop, and a $20 gift certificate to South Street Brewery for being on the winning team.
Me on the Jumbo-tron!

Cooling down, there were a whole bunch of us, and I talked to Chuck Love most of the way. We went back onto the course and cheered for the other runners who were finishing. I felt good still, but was sore. I made sure to stretch a lot before the awards, and today I tried to rehydrate adequately while also foam-rolling for a long time once I got home. Tomorrow will be interesting, to find out how much these two days of running "faster" kicked my butt. I'll probably take it easy this week still, and I'm going to take Friday off to fly to Atlanta.

If the length of this post wasn't any indication, I'm really pleased with this race. Did I completely abandon my pre-race plan? Yes, although to be fair I thought that I was running 6-minute pace the first mile. It is almost as though I tapered really heavily for this race, doing nothing challenging in almost three weeks, so I certainly had the freshest legs of anyone on the roads today. And the weather was ideal. I don't think it will be nearly this nice on July 4th. But it was a good day. It was fun to have people in front of me to pick off. That isn't something I usually get to do. The guys who finished ahead of me ran well (especially Seth!) and did a great job! I ran smart and came out ahead of where I thought I would.
Team RMR in Blue + Alec & Bob in black and Joel in white.
Cass Girvan, the legend behind 434Photo in Charlottesville, will hopefully provide me with some more awesome photos from this race which I will share and tell tales of his greatness.

Note: As of this moment, results from this race refer to me as "Bert Johnson." As I registered this morning at 6:30am, the woman writing on my bib said she needed to get her glasses, but failed to do so prior to reading my entry form and writing down my last name. Luckily, after calling me "Brett" she got my first name right. We may never have figured out that "Brett Johnson" was really "Bert Jacoby." Fortunately Mark caught this during the awards.

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