I returned to racing today and things went very well. First and foremost, my hip is A-Ok!
Me and a another old teammate started a high school alumni cross country race at our home course of Hathaways Pond. The course was founded in 1980 so there is a bit of history. In high school, it's a pretty big deal to break 16:00 on the challenging 2.92 mile course which includes rolling terrain and the infamous (sandy) Powerline Hill. It is said that your "Hathaways time" is pretty close to a fast/flat road 5k (ie - same effort). My PRs from freshman to senior year are as follows: 19:24, 16:51, 16:22, 16:01. As I mentioned, it's a huge deal to break 16, but I died on the wire trying to do it. What's even worse was that I was beaten by my high school rival the day I ran 16:01. However, 16:01 is the fastest time run by Barnstable High School runner in the last 15 years and it's still the 4th fastest Barnstable High School time ever. The course record is an eye-popping 15:12 (9:15 2 miler and later a low 2:20s marathoner) and our school record is a very respectable 15:39.
My 10 year high school reunion was Friday night and I went to bed sometime past 1:30am after banging on a Burger King window begging for food well after the store had closed. I fell asleep dehydrated with beer on my breath but woke up like a cockatiel at dawn. I decided I would go for the record! I drank coffee and sobered up like Doc Holiday before a gun fight. I downed water and donned my running gear and drove to the course. I got to the course an hour early and marked some of the turns with baby powder and waited until 20 minutes before the race to warm-up. I felt like garbage as a labored over the course. I was breathing hard (something I often I experience after drinking too much the night before) but eventually I warmed up. I got to the starting line and the old coach was already placing people on the line. I did a couple of striders and wiggled into me now very tight red and white mesh Barnstable High School singlet. The past two years I've run 15:36 and 15:39 respectively but there was an alumni, Jason Lyon, who now runs for Dartmouth who said he was in shape. It would be a battle. My stomach churned at the idea of "racing" someone else but I guess that's what a race is. The starter pistol fired just as I slid my hands into my gloves. The weather was damn near perfect for racing. I tucked in behind "The Big Green" and we battled over the undulating course for the first mile. The first half mile is very tough and includes a couple of small hills. It's very hard to get a rhythm; in a sense you just tough your way through it by surging, weaving and tactically making moves. At one point I remember shifting my hip (a la Elvis) as I made my way around a tight corner. After the first half mile the course flattens a little but it's still tough to get a good pace. I had been trailing and was happy to let someone else push the pace. We hit mile one in 5:20 and I realized we were a bit slow (5:10 would have been fast/ideal on THIS course). I immediately threw in a surge on a down hill and tried to stride away. We emerged from the first loop (1.25 miles) and came out to the parking lot where ma and pas clad in winter garb cheered on the sidelines. I felt pretty exhausted as we entered the second loop. I was breathing hard and laboring pretty good. I slowed the pace up involuntarily but I quickly realized, if I am exhausted, Lyon must be exhausted too. I decided to surge. On the next downhill, I let my legs fly and then fought like hell for the next 5 minutes to put some real estate between me and Lyon. I hit mile 2 in 10:38 and headed for the finish. I ended up holding on for the W and running a PR 15:30.
I was very happy with this effort as I ran 9 seconds faster than last year just a week after running 25:12 for 8k. I think this proves I am in good shape without putting in too much training. Most importantly my hip was not an issue during the race nor was it an issue after the race. I won't say I am healed, but this is a very good sign. The strategy of "flexible response" (inch forward, see how it goes, adjust accordingly, inch forward...) seems to be working. Either way, I have bounced back from my downtime pretty nicely. Next up - JINGLE ALL THE WAY 10K in a few weeks? Perhaps...