The lasting effects of the poor sleep after my midnight drive to Virginia and subsequent illness just 36 hours before might have hung over me.
Running twice a week might have affected my fitness.
There's a chance the driving rain with temperatures in the mid 30s had something to do with it.
Or perhaps there are mysterious forces at work.
For whatever reason, I am glad I'll be putting away my racing flats for a while.
Steady rain against the windows dashed my hopes for a pleasant racing morning on Thanksgiving. I had two races--the YMCA Turkey Trot and the Gutbuster--and given the $50 in registration fees I had paid, I wasn't going to miss them.
My mom bailed on the Turkey Trot, so I headed down the mountain to the north shore and parked next to the Trib building. I sat in the car until 10 minutes before the start, then jogged off to a spot under the Fort Duquesne Bridge to get out of the rain. With five minutes left I headed to the line and saw who was gathered- Ryan "Perverted Justice" "Predator" Hanson, Jeremy Cornman, Brandon G, and Dan Mazzocco. Dan said he was wearing Hello Kitty band aids on his nipples, but I did not confirm that. We headed out onto the course and I tried to hold back, aware that the 5k run concurrently with the five mile would no doubt cause chaos for pacing. The clock seemed to creep ahead while I was running out of breath 1200 meters in.
Greg Byrnes, another of the Northside Dragons, eased up alongside me. They scurried away and I just kind of let myself move along, with no real purpose in my steps. We wrapped around a Heinz Field Parking lot and past PNC Park, then over the Clemente Bridge, then around to the old YMCA building on the Boulevard of the Allies and back. I started moving up through the pack shortly before I saw Larry Quinn before Commonwealth Avenue. I passed a few people who were running the 5k, which gave me a charge- at least I was running faster than they were. After the split, the next 1.9 miles were boring. Out to the casino, back to the starting line, then back around to the finish line next to PNC Park.
The rain made my skin itch, but after a few miles my skin got numb. I spent the last mile inching up on this dude, and I made a strong move to overwhelm him with about half a mile to go, then just held on. I had gone in hoping to run 5:30s, but fell way short of that- I ended up in seventh place at 30:05- 6:01 pace. Yikes. Anyone who doesn't run fast for some reason or another will say "oh, it's just a tempo run." Well, that's the kind of tempo I do on moderate days, so I can't even use that cop out.
No time to dawdle, though, I had a half hour to get to the Gutbuster. I ran to the car and skedatled out to Frick Park. I managed to change into some dry clothes, a tight allocation of resources because I forgot a bag of cold weather running clothes in Virginia. This time I wore a long-sleeved shirt, since I would be out running a good bit longer at a slower pace over difficult terrain. I saw Maureen and Robin and chilled (literally) with them before the race started. To keep the trail race true to its essence, we started on a narrow trail, rather than the wide parking lot, and I wound up a few dozen people from the starting line. Everyone pretty much walked out of the start to avoid a huge puddle, so by the time I got to the line, the leaders were gone, and I bagged any idea of competing for the win.
That did not preclude aggressive running, however, and I drove hard up the Falls Ravine Trail. Straight up for one mile. My watch said 8:22, but more than 45 seconds of that was before I ran. As soon as the downhill started (another mile) I started moving pretty fast, passing seven guys. I eased up on the turn onto the Tranquil Trail and followed three guys who looked pretty used to trail racing. I took it easy up the Biddle Trail and renewed my chase on the Clayton Trail. I caught all three before heading back down the Nature and Falls Raine trails. I saw Luke Briola leading the race back up the second loop as I was finishing the first, and given how strong he looked and how bushed I was after pushing that much for four miles in about 28 minutes, and given his lead on me, I acquiesced once again to the lure of a hopeless cause, shifting out of the competitive focus that had somehow reverted.
The second loop was just a horror show. I walked up part of the Falls Ravine Trail and exclaimed to Steve Garrand how tired and hungry I was. When I finished six miles, I repeated my hunger claim and Dan Holland said there were cookies at the finish. Splendid! Something to motivate me!
I was well into no-man's land now. Three runners had passed me near the top of the Falls Ravine Trail and I ha left my one pursuer at that point in the dust (or mud) on the way back down. I saw Leslie directing traffic at the bottom of the Biddle Trail and tried to hit the hill hard for him, but after a minute I was once again reduced to a walk. I was so cold, so hungry, so tired. Just 1.3 miles to go. Maybe I could break 60, though the walking made that goal difficult. I tried to let loose on the way down the hill for the last time, giving Timmy Wu a high five on the way. I sprinted as fast as I could, given the ground conditions, but when I hit the bottom, with .2 miles to go, I was empty. I moseyed on into the finish just over 61 minutes and headed straight for the food. The cookies were all gone. The g-d two and four mile runners had eaten them! I headed straight back to the car, peeled off my soaking wet clothes and took my racing flats off for the last time until I race in Virginia Beach in March.
It's so cold in Pittsburgh, and I am starting to feel pretty cruddy, so I'm going to stop running for a little bit. I might get a few miles here or there, but for the most part, I am done until I recover from my tonsil/tongue surgery, which is scheduled for the 6th. I hope to be back running in time for the WPIAL alumni run on Christmas Eve, but for now I will just ease up dramatically and hopefully build on the insatiable hunger to run that will motor another high-mileage year.