I won the 2007 Kevin Gatons 5k in 15:37, by an almost-30-second margin. Three years later, I finished in 16:59, 11th place. It was not an encouraging sign.
The Gatons race has become a great chance for high schoolers, fresh off of the state meet, to come out and take a shot at a 5k after months races of two miles or less. The result is a 4:40 first mile every year.The last three years, I have been at the head of the pack through the mile, and three years ago I surged ahead and dropped everyone else. The last two years I have made it into the third mile before I fell off when we hit the downhills.
This year I was facing a little more intense heat. I got a late start heading out to Greensburg and arrived about 40 minutes before the race started. After hitting the bathroom and getting registered, it was 30 minutes. Having been stymied by the course last year, I wanted to run it completely as a warmup. Shafer accompanied me for the first mile, then turned back. When I got to the second mile mark, I told some girls managing the water stop that I wanted someone to throw water in my face when I passed by, because I would likely need it. The weather was rough...After changing into my flats, I saw who I would be up against. No Moravec or Becker this year, but the trio of Mt. Lebanon guys who made states had shown up- Rad Guzenhauser (9:07 3200m), Sean Staltari (9:27 3200m) and Alex Moran (4:20 1600m). As proud as I was that they made it to states, I was loathe to be beaten by them, so that ratcheted up the pressure. When Rad introduced me to a kid from North Hills who ran 9:15 a few days before, I realized that the race was only getting tougher and I would have to run beyond what I had displayed a capacity to do previously this year, if I wanted to win. All I could do was go out with the leaders and hope their orientation toward shorter races would come to the surface and my long-distance training would pay off.None such luck.
The gun went off and I, as always, was far behind. I moved up swiftly, but the effort to do so drained me. I felt like my legs were gone not even a half mile into the race. Bobby Wolfe from Baldwin took it out hard. Everyone chased him. They had the legs to do so. I had four 400s under 72 seconds to my name in the last year- I was not going to be running 4:40 this year.
The first mile was a warm mess, and I split 4:59. I knew that wouldn't last, with the course's main hills coming up in the second mile. I started to drop back, realizing I was putting myself in jeopardy, not of losing the race, but of putting myself through more pain than was necessary. This wasn't a race to try to win, it was a workout with other people. 10:35 for the second mile. Yeesh. I started to jog toward the top of the hill. Shafer came up on my left. We reached the water stop. Nothing. They didn't throw the water on me. Finally, pointing to my face activated the last teenage girl to fling the cup....right into my stomach. Great, none of the relief for my face, but plenty of water added to the sweat in my shorts and shoes, which were starting to sound like sponges.
It did provoke me to speed up a little and use the downhills. I was more aggressive in the third mile this year, though the uphill near the stereo store flummoxed me. At this point, I knew sub 15:30, sub-16 and 16:25 (my typical 5k time, sadly) were out of the picture -- I just wanted to fend off Shafer, Jim Hommes and Brandon G so I could be the first Hound across the line. My kick was nonexistant, I just kind of faded into the finish line, as some Norwin runner outkicked me.
I snuck under 17:00- 16:59.1, and held off Shafer (17:05) Jim (17:06) and Brandon (17:14). I was just a little less than one minute behind Wolfe, who won. The slower winning time (about 23 seconds faster than typically) made me feel a little bit better later on, but first, I wanted to get a four-mile cooldown so I could have 11 for the day. After heading off with the Hounds and some of Jim's runners, I immediately fell back and struggled through a rough time. I ended up cutting it off at three miles.
3 days ago