Sunday, October 5, 2008

Race Report - Army Ten Miler

After a lackluster showing at the Philly Distance Run Half Marathon two weeks ago, I was ready to take vengeance on the streets of Washington and Northern Virginia. I wanted to lay it all on the line and finish with nothing left. I was secretly nervous that my stomach issue would come back again and strike me down at another inopportune time, but I tried to think positive and stick as best I could to my race plan. That plan was to break 52 minutes (or 5:12 pace). 51:XX was what I wanted to see when I crossed the finish line. At 5 miles I wanted to be at 25:45 in order to give myself a little cushion then use my strength and experience in the distance to grind through the final five miles in order to smash this barrier.

The weather was near perfect at 8am when the howitzer boomed just north of the Pentagon. I had a good start and tucked behind a sea of Army guys from Brazil, Mexico, and the USA as well as some local aces. The pack was still coagulated together just before the first mile (5:03) but the pace “felt” right. I reminded myself that I was tapered and this should feel comfortable…maybe too comfortable. I also told myself that this could be the day I ripped a good one (e.g. – better than “only” breaking 52…maybe a 51:45 was in my cards? A huge breakthrough happened to me two years ago at this race). I crossed into DC over the Memorial Bridge and hit mile 2 in 10:05. Yikes! Either this WAS going to be “the day” or it would be my death. A lone Mexican came swiftly by be around the two and a half mile mark. He took 2-3 steps for my one. I felt like a giant running behind him. Another guy caught me but I wasn’t worried as I was already out pretty quick. I hit mile 3 in 15:15 and was basically now right on pace. As we made our left turn onto the Rock Creek Parkway, PACERS Matt Barrasi came up behind me and said “let’s go buddy”. I hadn’t seen nor talked to Barrasi since last December and at the moment decided to not say anything back and instead race. I knew Barrasi was a good guy to pace off of so I tucked in behind him. Slowly, then quickly, he seemed to pull ahead. In fact, he was surging. I hit mile 4 between 20:25 and 20:30, again right on target. Mile 5 was a “bull’s-eye” 25:45…just as I had hoped. The only problem was I was slowing DOWN into goal pace, rather than ramping UP into pace. I had had a minor side stitch for a couple miles but it wasn’t an issue. Aside from that I felt good and strong. I was excited at the prospect of a good time. “Just hold on” I told myself, “only 25 minutes left of running” and “only 3 more miles until you can really hammer…just hold on”. I held on, but began to lose focus. I was totally alone and chasing a string of guys maybe 15-20 seconds ahead of me…they weren’t coming back and I wasn’t catching them. Again and again I’d nod off only to snap out of it and put on a surge. Concentrate, concentrate. Attack, attack, attack. Don’t fall asleep or the wheels will come off and you’ll never get back on. Wake up. Snap out of it. Go! Mile 6 was a 5:20 mile…damnit! I was slowing down. Damnit, no 5:20s. Pick it up. Get on the team. Get on the bus. Go…

Soon after mile 6, I began to labor. My legs felt fine but I was lurching to one side and fighting a side stitch that now wouldn’t quit. My face was a twisted grimace and I was enraged when 1, 2…then 3 runners passed me. I had been chasing a Brazilian and was horrified that in my chase, 3 runners had caught me! I turned to spit and suddenly felt the urge to vomit. Damnit! No stomach pains, no stomach pains. Don’t puke or it’s all over. I eased up and immediately relaxed my cadence. I watched as the three amigos surged ahead. I ran helplessly in their wake. Mile 7 was another 5:20 (36:25). Damnit hang on! The next mile was the worst. I went back and forth from picking up the pace to relaxing it a bit (as a result of not wanting to throw up). Two minutes later I rounded the curve and headed left on 14th street. The sight of a new road gave me encouragement. We could now forget the dreaded Independent Avenue and look to brighter roads. The threat of puking faded and I felt as if had recovered enough. I FINALLY passed the Brazilian and pushed up a slight incline towards the 14th Street Bridge. There were two miles to go and my legs still had some fight in them. I know I needed to use them in a big way. The bridge ahead seemed to loom ahead for miles. It felt like the Brooklyn Bridge or the Golden Gate. I dropped my head and quickened my stride but wasn’t gaining on the trio ahead of me. I had a few more false alarms (throwing up) but by mile 8.5 I was rid of any major issues. A Mexican soldier came up to me and then whisked by faster than I could blink. I was getting rocked by runner after runner in the last few miles, what was going on. This isn’t like me! I then heard heavy breathing and footsteps behind me and was caught by Nate Carlson (former PACER now living as a CAPT in the Army in Missouri where running apparently sucks – according to him, not me!). I knew Nate and dug deep to hang with him. I pulled away slightly but then he found another gear and flew by me. Was the kick for the finish line beginning already? As we declined towards the Pentagon I struggled to chase down Carlson. As I was struggling ANOTHER Army guy came up on my left side. Enraged I said to myself “I’m tired of getting beat” then unleashed a late race kick that would have made Kennenissa Bekele’s jaw drop (not really, but you get the picture). Together Army guy and I put on a show for the crowd at the finish line running an Usain Bolt-like 100m towards the finish. I edged him out and finished with a time of 52:26 (5:14 pace)…a PR but well slower than my goal time. I haven’t had a kick like that since God knows when…which was evidence I hadn’t used my legs up earlier in the race.

In retrospect, I wish I had gone out a tad slower, but on the same token, I still had plenty of life left in my legs and it wasn’t the pace that hindered me in the latter part of the race…unless of course ALL this is interconnected? Maybe so? I know I can put together an even better 10 mile race. Of course that will have to wait until the spring.

The next plan of action is rest and recovery. My hip has been harassing me since late August so an entire week off is in order followed by a week of easy miles.

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