Sunday, November 20, 2016

All I do is win

It is the third weekend of November and I ran my third race of the month today, the Kelly Watt Memorial Race. My fall racing season has ended with a third place finish over the two mile cross country course. I'd consider the season a success. Today's race first:

The seriousness with which I approached this race was tremendously lacking compared to years past. Two years ago, the team was preparing for Club Cross Country Nationals at Lehigh and we did a 3 x mile workout prior to the race to get in a bunch of intervals on the grass. Last year, I probably arrived well in advance and warmed up adequately before hand, although I wasn't in the best of shape at the time as indicative of my adjusted racing schedule. This year, I didn't set an alarm, slept in (thank you, Sam & Henry), hung out with the family before realizing I needed to leave for the 9:00 AM race.

I briefly allowed myself to entertain the idea of winning today on my drive there. I didn't think that Sean was going to be there. Matt, Charlie and Thomas are all in Philadelphia getting ready to run the marathon tomorrow morning. Adrian and Alec had tried to psych me out earlier in the week about the fitness of the Albemarle boys XC team, but I'm not about to start worrying about what high school kids can do. But then I remembered that there were several other RMR guys who could show up-- namely Dave, Andy or Steve, and the moment was lost. Arriving at Panorama Farms though, Lee pulled in next to me and I knew for sure that I wouldn't be breaking the tape-- his miler kick had been my undoing many times before. With a marathon in my legs from a week ago and only one run since then, I knew that today was likely to have a similar result.

Saturdays are for cross country
Lee and I had a very short warmup with Lindsey Graybill that was a few minutes too early for my liking. We finished and I had way too much time before the race was going to start. During that way too much period of time, Nick Ward came over to our pile of stuff and asked me what I was planning to go out in. I laughed a little and told him that I had no idea, but that I'd just run a marathon the week before so it might not be too fast. He said he'd heard about the marathon, but was hoping that someone would be going out fast, as in, 5:10 pace, so that he could go out with them but not have to lead. I definitely laughed in his face. Go out in 5:10? Me? Not today, my friend. I suggested that he talk to Lee, or see if maybe Sean was around and running, because I would be doing no such thing today. Nick meant business though, as the Western boys had run their annual post-season mile time trial and Nick went 4:34. Today's race was going to be the longest race of his life and the tipping point on whether he tried his hand at the 5K at Foot Locker South in a weeks time.

Everyone was trying to psych me out before this race, as even Lindsey was doing strides and drills getting ready to go to the line. I was just not in the mood for such seriousness. The weather was warming up and it was a perfect morning for a short little jaunt around Panorama.

After Kelly's best friend and mom gave their memorial speeches, we were off. As is typically the case, there were some eager beavers going hard out of the gate, and one of them actually started throwing some elbows at me as the path narrowed 200 meters in before the first turn. Nick was doing exactly what he wanted to do/didn't want to do and got out hard and built a sizable lead immediately. I made my way around the turn and found myself running in 6th place behind Nick, three children, and Lee. I decided to hug the rail on the left side and try to run the shortest path possible, and found myself breathing easier than I did on the warm up, so I thought I'd make a go of it. Just like two weeks before in the Men's 4 Miler, I found myself running on the left side of a crowd with Lee running on the right, the two of us working off of each other, striding along effortlessly.

I saw Cass on the course taking pictures (two out of three photo credits go to him) and a couple of other folks cheering, including Beth Keith, librarian TA at Cale and mother of Monticello runner Eli. I'd talked a lot of trash over the last year and a half to Eli and the other Mustang Harriers, so a trio of them came today to try and take down this old man. I gather that Eli must've been close to me somewhere in the first 800 meters as I heard Beth cheer his name while I was approaching her. He was not one of the three who went out in front of me though.

It look a little longer to pass all those kids than I thought it would, but then it was just me and Lee, chasing down Nick. As we continued to head away from the start/finish area, I mentioned to him that it looked like we were gaining on him. Lee agreed, and we focused on trying to reel him in. I knew in my heart of hearts that I wasn't going to be beating either of these guys today, but I might as well hold on for the wild ride for as long as I could. Lee and I kept moving up and back on each other... not necessarily surging, just doing a better job on different parts of the terrain than the other one. There was no mark for the mile on the course. I had an idea about where it was, but not enough confidence to bother looking at my watch ever. We just kept pressing on.

Around a mile and half in (maybe), we take two 90 degree turns to the left. This is when Nick had the opportunity to see how much ground he had on us, and when Lee decided he wanted to cut the course. He was right behind me as I took the first left, but then he was right on top of me because he was treating it like a cone instead of two turns. (I filled an official protest after the race to Adrian Lorenzoni but I think it fell on deaf ears. Not really.) This part of the course is fast and downhill, so Lee started to separate in his effort to catch Nick. I didn't have a whole lot to give at that point so I just leaned in and tried not to fall as I rolled down the hills. We hit the bottom of the course and the stream that's probably a quarter mile to go and then headed straight uphill to the finishing stretch.

Nick and Lee were clear 1-2 at that point, and I'm sorry to say that I looked back going up the hill to see that I had a lot of ground on #4. The question as just about who was going to break the tape first. I entered the gate to the last 200 (thousand) meters and watched the race unfold like a freakin' spectator. Tick, tock, tick, tock. Lee couldn't quite catch Nick and I just strolled on in, losing so much ground on Lee that Alec was shocked to hear that I'd even been with him at the mile. I finished in like, 10:46 or something like that, only a few seconds slower than I was last year.

Maybe I had the wrong attitude in thinking that I wasn't going to beat either of those guys, but I know my body right now isn't going to let me do those sorts of things. This was my second run post-marathon and I was just happy to get it in. I had a lot of fun, got to see some friends I don't see as often as I would like (Lee, Lindsey, Nick, Cass), and got my heart rate up for about 10 minutes. My (sanctioned) racing season is officially over for 2016. As I've mentioned before, I'll run the Turkey Trot with KC (CASE RACE AGAINST TEAM RESNICK!) and then I think I'll celebrate Boxing Day three days early with my friends.

Somber reflections of the year to come in about 6-8 weeks.

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Race Photos