"It's a little self indulgent..." - My mom
"After I read a sentence, I get mad at myself for caring what you're doing." -Karl Dusen

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lonely in a crowd of 9,000

I don't even remember where I ran on Wednesday- I think a Woodley in the morning, something from my barbershop -- where I failed to get a haircut -- in the evening, for 16.5. Thanks to backloading my mileage the prior week and frontloading it this week, from Thursday to Wednesday I ran 120.5, so I cut the next few days' mileage so I could recover a little for the Great Race.

I slept in Thursday morning, then finally got that haircut in the afternoon. I warmed up back to my place then did a 10-10-10 p-word run on my usual loop. It was really humid, and the little bits of hair from the barbershop were spreading all over my body, thanks to the sweat. I was a little fast for the first mile- maybe 5:54, and about 30 seconds ahead of schedule at 1.6 miles. I was right on for the first mile of the 5:45 segment, but fast overall, 5 seconds perhaps. I was slow for the 5:00 chunk- 2:33 at the first measured half and 5:07 for the measured mile, but felt okay. It was pretty uncomfortable, but given how much I had run the week before, I felt alright.

The next morning, I set out to do an easy Oak loop, but the humidity made me feel like garbage a little more than two miles in, so I went a little more, turned onto the W&OD and ran home for 5.

The next morning, in Pittsburgh, I did my pre-race 5 on the Schenley Park course.

When I woke up, my room felt cool, so I had a good feeling about the Great Race. When my mom and I left the house, though, the air didn't feel quite as light, and it was warming up quickly. We didn't have to wait as long as we feared for a bus ride to the start.

I warmed up to the first mile and back, seeing Jason Baim and Brian Romine along the way.
The gun went off quickly, thankfully giving me little time to tense up on the starting line. The hoi polloi cleared out relatively quickly and the pack was pretty well set before we turned onto Forbes and I heard the first few people yelling for me. Outlaw, Luff and Hanson were all up in the front, with Steve Strelick up there looking tall and Brandon G by my side. I heard and saw Scott Rosenblum and Sarah Ordaz near St. Edmund's. The leaders went through the mile in 5:10, I was a second behind, pretty much right on pace. The lead pack pulled away up the hill shortly after the mile mark, but heading down, I wasn't sure if the three guys in the chase pack with me, including Greg, were going to be running the way I wanted, so I put in a surge to catch up to the end of the lead pack. They kept accelerating when they hit CMU, and I noticed Outlaw start to fall off. I hit the second mile in 4:55, a few seconds behind the leaders, but a world away. As I turned onto Fifth Avenue, I already felt like I was done and saw black spots on the bottom parts of my eyes. Well, if I passed out, at least someone would see me...

I passed Outlaw near Central Catholic but he didn't go with me. Then I heard Gillian off to the right, a very enthusiastic pick-me-up. I hit that third mile in 5:25, about15-20 seconds slower than I wanted. I was hoping to go through 5k in 15:45 and go from there, but I forgot how difficult running alone on Fifth Avenue, especially in the sun, was. Jen Taylor, of all people, was on the curb cheering, too. I saw a dude in orange ahead of me, and kept myself going to catch him with a bit left to go in the fourth mile. I hit 5:03, giving me a 20:36 split, right on pace to break 32, which was my moderate goal.

The fifth mile is always the worst for me. Almost every time I have run the Great Race, I've
been alone in the fifth mile. In 2007 I had Cavanaugh with me, but even then I split 6:00 for it. This year, Beth Shutt was riding along the course and shouting to me, but I felt like I was plodding. All I had to focus on was Hanson in the distance, also struggling alone. I feared a bit better than before -- 5:38, and came through five miles matching my PR for the distance- 26:15. After that, though, it was ugly. A minute later, Greg, the guy in orange I had passed a while ago, and some other dude passed me in a pack as yet another person I didn't recognize yelled to me. The downhill on Boulevard of the Allies did me no favors, and I knew I was unlikely to match the 4:53 I had once run for it. Matt, Shafer and Jo all cheered on Fort Pitt Boulevard, but so was some yinzer who yelled, "Get up with them! Don't run alone!" His insight into the dynamics of distance running sadly lacked the pragmatism of how I would suddenly get about 100 yards ahead. I ran 5:14 for my last mile and 1:07 for the .2 -- terrible -- to finish 10th in 32:36.

On one hand, it was just 9 seconds slower than my PR, and I rarely run 10ks. I ran almost 140 miles in the 10 days prior to the race. It was 70 degrees in the middle of the race and a slight tailwind was just enough to keep a runner's body heat moving with him, so there wasn't much relief there, though at least it wasn't a headwind in mile 5. When I ran faster in 2007, the weather was ideal. A lot of people complained about the heat and humidity, so I know I wasn't alone in feeling their effects.

I also ran alone for the last four miles, which seems more and more ridiculous. I wound up in that situation because I wanted to run a conservative first half, but I wasn't competitive on my own in the second half. Might I have done better if I had stuck with the lead pack, gone out faster and at least had people with whom to run? Maybe if I had more confidence in my ability to hold up? A few days later, I realize I definitely should have stuck with the lead pack and seen what I could do. This three-week racing segment is supposed to be a test for what I can do without the late-season taper, and taking a chance like that is exactly what I should have done.

But those excuses don't make up for a lack of discipline and ability to keep my pace when I needed to do so. My third and sixth miles were troubling. I didn't take any chances by pushing myself in the third mile. My goals coming in were to run faster than 31:30 on a great day, under 32:00 on a decent day and under 32:27 on an acceptable day, and I didn't accomplish any of them. I did match my five mile PR, but that was eight years old, and I barely run fives.

Using the Great Race as a benchmark, I am a little short of the shape I was in during the latter half of 2007, definitely my best year. That said, I don't feel like it- part of it might have been the humidity, but I am not as competent running hard on my own.

I did get to run in the last mile with my mom, which was fantastic. She also didn't feel good about her race, though with all the people she had to dodge in the first few miles, I'm sure it didn't even feel like a race for a lot of the course.

That evening I ran 9.25 around Mt. Lebanon, feeling pretty wrecked by seven miles in and definitely dehydrated. That place is a lot hillier than I appreciated when I was running there every day...

The next morning, after a doctor's appointment, I ran in Frick, starting at the Biddle parking lot, wrapping around to the start of the Braddock Trail, down to the Nine Mile Run trail, up the Tranquil Trail and my usual two loops near the lawn bowling courts. I got to the bottom of the Falls Ravine Trail and stopped, with no interest in continuing, but having gotten in 6.5 miles. After a trip back to DC with Sam that was a veritable GRC Heritage Trail (we passed the Wiggy's Mom birthplace in Hopwood, Pa., the Towpath Birthplace in Cumberland and the Towpatch Conception Point Monument in the Shady Grove metro parking lot) I ran another 6 on the Seaton loop.

Wednesday morning, I am still wrecked from the race. My quads, especially, are heavy and don't respond when I want them to do something. My back is stiff and my head is pounding. Even my hands hurt. It's like someone beat me up while I was recovering from the flu. I just want to sleep. I got home and started to run the Double Pimmit, but eight miles in I was feeling poor, so I stumbled back home, and ate a most of a rotisserie chicken for dinner. I slept in the next morning, thanks in large part to a heavy morning rain that relaxed me so much that I just waited for my alarm to stop.

The weather is looking good for the Freedom's Run Half this weekend in West Virginia and Maryland. With a low of around 48 Friday night, I should hopefully have the tools with which to have a good race. It's a hilly course in miles 4-9, but that leaves seven miles that are fast. If I take the quick splits when I can get them and stay focused when it's rough, I can come out with a good race. The last three miles, especially, are consistently downhill, I want to take advantage of that and cross the line kicking, not sputtering. What I would like, ideally, is an opportunity to get in a rhythm that embraces an undulating, rural course and enjoy the uphills and much as the downhills. I see, at least in my imagination, a similarity to my Hickory Hill loop in Hanover County, Va, in both the weather and topography.

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