Sunday, November 6, 2016

Men's 4 Miler (5 days to go)

This morning was the Bill Steers Men's 4 Miler, and important race on the RMR calendar each year (despite the fact that the race moves all over the calendar). Nine of us were slated to race, once again pitting Team Mark against Team Harry for all of the marbles. Last year, though some amazing twist of fate, Team Mark AND Team Harry ended up with gift certificates to Devil's Backbone, so we made a day off it a few weeks later to booze it up for free. Pride may or may not have been on the line as well. Teams were as follows:

Team Mark: Sean, Thomas, Lee, Steve (scratch due to illness), me
Team Harry: Matt, Charlie, Andy, Dan, Alec

Since 5 of those 9 are racing marathons in the next two weeks (Alec and I next week in Richmond, Charlie, Thomas and Matt the following Sunday in Philadelphia), effort was varied across the board. Alec and I were messing with Sean this week, trying to make him worry about the competition from Bryan Flynn, and there was an amazingly written trash talk email by Alec (re: locker room talk that isn't demeaning to women or anyone else besides the people who received the email-- but it was VERY demeaning to those people.) The Philly guys worked out yesterday, and Alec and I actually worked out before the race.

Worked out is a loose term, all things considered. I jogged around JPA with Lee for 10 minutes before shedding some layers and heading out for 4 miles with Alec as a "marathon simulator." The plan was to replicate race morning, starting with a 6:30, then 6:15, 6:10, 6:05, or whatever we end up agreeing to do next weekend. That didn't happen. With a windy and uphill start, we casually strolled to a 6:20, as Alec commented about how easy 6:30 pace felt. The second mile of the course is more challenging, and we slowed to a 6:25 as we kept up the conversation. On the faster third mile, we rolled to a 5:59. Then we didn't quite finish the 4th mile (thankfully) because we weren't going to run into the stadium and Alec wanted to pee. The pace for that last segment was 5:57. So I guess we got done what we wanted to do, but didn't really accomplish the goal.

I jogged back to the car as runners were already lining up at the starting line. Things were getting loud by the line as I hurriedly got out of my warmer clothes and trainers and into my racing gear. I needed to pee too, but couldn't tell what was going on and heard a lot of cheering, so I sprinted to the line as spectators started to spread out of the way for the start. I hopped on to the line with no less than 10 seconds to spare before the "gun" went off (lady said go.)

Things started out quickly. My heart was racing from sprinting to the line and I tried to stay calm as the field exploded out of the gate. I let a lot of people pass me in an effort to remain controlled, and I could hear Charlie and Alec talking behind me. I looked around, sort of hoping that they'd be right behind me and I could group up with them, but they weren't there. The field hugged the right side of the road while I took the middle and the wind all to myself. Rounding the corner onto McCormick, I crossed through the classic CTC 1/2 mile mark in 2:39. "Well, time to start going backwards now or else I'll be crawling home later," I thought. Alec and Charlie must be laughing (if they had been, I'm certain I would have heard Charlie so now I assume they weren't.) I did start to scale it back, and grouped up with Lee (Team Mark) heading up towards the lawn. I actually told him to get out of my way as we got to the water stop because I wanted to get a drink. I don't think he believed me or understood, because he laughed at me and stayed right in my way as I drifted right towards the volunteers. We went through that first mile in 5:27. Not as bad as I thought it was going to be, and probably one of my slower first miles ever in this race. Also, very, very slow.

"And the middle miles seem to float on by." Lee and I worked together through the next one. I commented to him that it was nice of him to stay with me and help me out but that I'd understood if he took off once the downhills started. He responded something to the effect that he was doing all that he could do right then. Our second mile split was 5:24 and we caught a group of 3-4 runners that included Dan Foley (Team Harry) and some dude wearing a Hanson's jersey. We split around them and broke them apart as we started downhill at the light to Grady, and Dan came with us. He must be 8 feet tall, it's not very often I feel short when I'm running a race. Just across the Beta Bridge, some dude in a neon yellow singlet came out of nowhere and started putting down the hammer. Lee went after him and closed the gap quickly, but I took a little while longer to get rolling and couldn't catch up to them until Brown College.

I was on their heels at mile 3 (5:24), and going down the hill I caught yellow jersey, who was a little behind Lee already. I took the tangent on the right side of the road and he must've felt me move because he got right in front of me, so I stepped off the gas, went left, and went right around him up to Lee. I got next to him at the gates in front of the Chem building and let him know it was me. I didn't have much confident in beating Lee from there... I've been in too many situations with this joker where he puts an entire minute on me in the last 200 meters of a race, so I just kept trying to grind it out with him to stay with him as long as possible. Yellow jersey tried to mount a comeback on Alderman, but we were dialed in at that point. I even tried to move on Lee as we turned left around the clock tower, but when he countered, I didn't respond. I knew that this wasn't important, nor would it be worth it if I were to somehow out-kick Lee if my legs were toast at the end of the day. He pulled further and further away as we went down behind and into the stadium. I took a quick glance over my shoulder going into the parking lot and knew that I didn't have to worry about anything.

Entering the stadium is always awesome. Football players have it so lucky that they get to do that every week during the season. And that's with thousands of screaming fans. We might have had 200 people there tops. At least one of those people shouted my name as I shut it down heading through the line. Last year I really gave it everything I had to get to the tape, but today I really eased my way in. That doesn't mean I was any more comfortable finishing... I ran 21:35 after a 5:17 last mile. That got me 11th place, and 2nd in the 30-34 age group. I'm fairly confident that this is my first time losing my age group... although as I write that, I remember a little race in Lynchburg in September where I was 5th (had to look it up). So never mind. Lee finished 9 seconds ahead of me. All 9 of those seconds were put on in the last quarter mile. Well done, Lee. As usual, you embarrassed me in the homestretch.

Most importantly, I beat Alec and Team Mark put 4 runners in before Team Harry had 3, so we won. But the 9 of us will split the winnings, a nice $125 gift certificate to Kardinal Hall. I suspect we won't be able to use it until December though, if we can ever manage to get everyone back together again.
Not Team Mark & Team Harry

So, what about that marathon? Dana asked me if there was anything that I was training for (clearly not a dedicated blog reader like Scott and Rachel). I laughed, as we all know I don't like to use the word "training" to refer to my endeavors this fall. It sounded stupid to say out loud that I was going to run a marathon next weekend after averaging 43 miles a week in my buildup. Although, I've been in the 50s the last two weeks! Despite the low mileage, I'm reasonably confident that I can finish this thing. I said last week that all I have to do is drink lots of water and avoid getting hit by a car. It may not be as simple as that though, as the knee pain that I mentioned from my last long run has persisted into a consistent pain throughout the day. So in addition to water, I need some ice, ibuprofen, foam rolling and stretching. And easy mileage. I'm mostly looking forward to just getting out there and doing it.

Exciting news though, is that supposedly Tim will be joining Alec and I for 16 miles. We're still trying to convince Sean to run some with us too, and today I may have gotten him sold on running from mile 17 to mile 25 with us. We'll see. We don't need the pacers, obviously, but with the marathon, I say the more, the merrier!

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