"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

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lonely on Hains Point

Two days before the Cherry Blossom race, I took a last look at Hains Point, running 10 miles from my office in the afternoon. Saturday morning I ran an easy Park++.
Then came the race.

Never before has a PR felt so miserable. It certainly didn't feel like my best 10 mile. Every other PR I set, I do so with ease, but this one was a struggle.
I woke up at 3:30 and couldn't get back to sleep. The ride to the race was uneventful and easy. I felt fit and ready to go during the warmup, and figured out Evan, Wertz and Luke all wanted to run 5:20s. That seemed pretty ideal to me.

The first mile was a mess. Dudes with gray hair, idiots in costumes who started fast and were fading halfway down Independence Avenue. Evan and I cruised along, but I had a feeling the pace had to be too easy to be right. A shame, because I could have seen myself keeping that with no problem for 10 miles. I hoped there was a chance I was on pace and was in better shape than I thought, but as we made the turn to the Lincoln Memorial, the clock was passing 5:15 and we split 5:31.When we reached that point, Evan was ready to go, and I knew that staying behind would be a good way to lose my pacing help. We surged, launching around a pack getting onto the bridge and tracked down Dickson, moving closer on the cemetery circle and catching up on the way back to DC, splitting 5:14 for the second mile in the process.

We cruised up Rock Creek Parkway to the Kennedy Center and one of the unnecessary 180 turns that plague the course. We came through in 15:12 and hit the 5k in 16:30. I was hitting my goal splits of 5:20s, but we were obviously going a little faster, and I decided that running 5:15s with a group of people, which now included Wertz, Rich Saunders and Luke, would be a better move than trying to stick to 5:20s on my own.

We scooted down Ohio Drive and hit another 5:15. I tried to watch the race develop in the front with the Pacers. I couldn't account for everyone, but my attention was focused mainly on the pack we had going. Dickson had dropped us in the fourth mile, but I was now leading the group and still feeling pretty relaxed.

When we turned onto Independence, I pushed it a little bit and think I shook the pack up.I felt the slight uphill, but kept pushing, feeling like as soon as I stopped pushing, I'd start falling back. We hit the fifth mile in 5:27, but made it halfway in 26:40- dead solid perfect. I made up for the first mile's malaise and was in position to just pass the next five miles with this tremendous pack. Then the doubt crept in.

We actually started heading downhill a bit as we headed over to Hains Point. I remember my right arm suddenly flailing and nearly whacking one of the fences between us and Tom Jefferson. I fell a step behind. I heard Evan bid me continue, but I wasn't home to answer. I trailed by a few steps as we started toward the point, and even though I was close enough to lunge at one of the guys in the pack and tackle him, I was running a different race. My next mile was solid- 5:22, but the rest of the pack was 5:20, and the gap only grew from there. 10k in 33:10, mile seven in 5:34. I hit that awful turnaround at the edge of the peninsula that seems so excessive, when the old Marine Corps Marathon course turned through the parking lot prior. I don't really hate Hains Point, just the tip. I saw a runner pull over to the side shortly after. I tried to yell to him to finish, to help me, but I was wheezing and gasping and wouldn't have made much noise. I was going to be on my own. Mile eight in 5:35. I caught a few fading advance start women, and tried to reel in a guy who had fallen off the pack badly, but it wasn't happening. Mile nine in 5:35. At least I'm consistent when I'm dying. A crowd of GRCers waited near the turn toward 15th street, as encouraging as ever. Then, they started encouraging Matias. Oh man, I had no idea he was anywhere close to me. If there was any motivation left for my race, it was to avoid being outkicked, but this was going to be an effort. He was charging like hell, the bull that he is. The cheers got closer in comparison for him and me, like radar speeding up when the target gets closer. He charged up the hill near the Holocaust Museum and I climbed it like I was afraid of offending the ground by stepping on it too hard. He caught me and said it was time to go. I tried to pick my legs up but they wouldn't go. He told me again. I rejected his offer, with an  unspeakable oath for emphasis. He pulled away and we crested the hill and somehow I had a charge left to kick it in down the hill. That incline is a ball buster, but the slope is a hell of a gift. I somehow summoned the strength to finish in 5:31 for a 54:19 total, five seconds faster than 2010. As the public address system broadcast that I was from Falls Church, it only put an exclamation point on my fury and disappointment.
Yeah, I was having a rough time (pictured above)

I saw Nora standing near the chute waiting for Geoff and I unleashed my disappointment when she asked how I did. The whole thing had shades of Philly for me--I was ready to blow my old time out of the water and watched it fade away in the last miles. Sure, I PRed by five seconds, but that previous best was from two years ago, when I was just getting used to this training regimen. I am immeasurably stronger, but evidently in this sport, when you have a definite measure, it was only worth a five second improvement. Is that all I could improve in two years? I wound up 35th, it was a weak year. Two years ago I was 49th with practically the same time. How can I spend so much effort on something silly like running and not have more to show for it? Well, first of all, photos from Dustin Whitlow, Michelle Miller, Cheryl Young and Jimmy Daly, respectively.

With more time, I felt better. I realized that was the end of the fourth week since I started running again, a little more than two weeks after I came out from under the pall of my allergy problems. The first week back I was just trying to readjust to the impact and how it beat up my legs, the second I was constantly on the edge of feeling human. I had a solid 91 mile week two weeks ago, but in that whole month, I had one solid hard workout and one solid long run. Most importantly, my 27:39 second half was still faster than the 27:47 for which I got credit at Van Metre (when in reality I ran 28:17). So, I was able to run much faster for 10 miles than I was for 5 miles three weeks before.

Several people remarked that I looked solid whenthey saw me (they obviously saw me in the first half). I ran an easy five that afternoon to get the crud out of my legs.

Monday night I worked late and got home after dark, setting the stage for a Slade Run. I averaged 6:30s and did so with no regard for how fast I was running in the middle. I love that loop in the dark.

Tuesday night was the same situation, and I went out to the New Virginia Manor Loop, where I unwittingly ran 5:20s for the two four-mile loops sandwiched in the 13 miles.

Wednesday night, I felt bushed, and ended up just running six easy miles around BCC during the workout.

Thursday, I met up with Karl in Vienna and we took the W&OD west to the cross county trail. We stopped along the way to check out a parallel trail to the north, then caught the other trail. It was nothing short of marvelous. Soft, scenic and restorative. We eventually turned back and grabbed some greek food for dinner and ran back to his car for a total of about 13.5.

The office closed early Friday, so I had a little more sunlight for my workout- 2ks at McLean High School. It was a bit windy, though, and I misjudged my effort to fight the wind, coming through the first lap in 72, then calming down to a 4:55 mile and a 6:17 2k. Then I was a little more on track with a 6:19 second 2k. I hit the 1k in 3:06 for the third, right on, but couldn't breathe, so I gave up and took a long cooldown home for 12.5.

1 comment:

  1. Considering the amount of miles you were logging in a pool only a few weeks before CB, I'd say you still did pretty well for yourself.

    Unrelated, I heard the words "Butcher of Damascus" emanating from the streets of Crystal City last night. I can only assume that was you. Thanks for the lift during the otherwise grueling experience of tapping into tempo pace (pacing Brian's PR attempt) for the first time in recent memory!