Friday, November 27, 2009

Trotting like a big, fat turkey

running turkeyIt took about six seconds Thursday morning for me to realize it was not a good racing day for me. The 20 hours standing the day before (not to mention the restless four hours of sleep) left my body achy with an achilles that just wouldn’t quit.

Unfortunately, I just won’t quit either.

Except, of course, when it comes to following a training plan. Since the Akron Half, my training has been very unfocused and lackadaisical. I’ll have good weeks that stay on course/pace. But most have been like last week, when I ran 2.5 miles to BURGER NIGHT (and got a ride home from David and E-Speed) and that was it. For the week.

Sure, there’s been some cycling and a few 10+ runs, but nothing inspired. None of my training has been inspired for a while. I just lucked out on the Akron performance and need to kick myself back into by mid-December when I start focusing on Pittsburgh.

But first: the trot.

This year my dad and Neil both vowed to run the 5-mile race. In fact, Neil even requested a six-week training plan a couple months ago with a goal to meet a 42:00. While my dad wavered in the weeks leading to the race, he showed up on Thursday ready to run.

Registration and warm up were pretty quick, and the weather was a bit of a mystery until the gun (it was overcast but calm at home; dark, cold and raining on the way to the race; cool and windy warming up; sunny and breezy for the race). It was cool for us to hang with my dad at the start—not only was it nice to experience his first race with him, it was good for Neil to share his experience and tips with a first-timer—and I considered not racing and just running with one of the guys for fun. But to their credit, neither my dad nor Neil races at a “just run it” pace. So, I was on my own.

We wiggled closer to the front (last year’s bottlenecks were such a pain) for the start and took off separately into the race. I ran comfortably hard for the first mile, despite all my bad feeling parts, and crossed mile one at 7:05. To my surprise. I laid back for a 7:45 mile two and started to analyze how I felt that day. Was this a goal day or not?

Months earlier my goal had been set at 37:00. Not an aggressive target (just :42 off my St. Malachi PR), but decent considering the off-season race date. Little did I know how off-season I would feel.

So, as I turned into the third mile, I decided that I just didn’t feel like hurting a 37:00 amount. The big bummer: I knew this would be my first non-PR race ever.

Mile three was a leisurely 8:19. My dad passed me around 2.5, as I slowed for water, and I watched him run an admirably consistent pace through mile four (7:51). Then I overtook him back!

As we wound down the East 9th hill, I watched the shadows bouncing over my shoulder to see if my dad was catching up. I knew that if he caught me before the West 3rd hill there was no way I’d beat him.

Let’s just say Thursday was not a good day for hill-climbing.

Now, in most races, I don’t wimp it up the hills. I push it. Hard. In fact, when Neil booted his 5K PR to the curb (he cut 2:13 from his Holy Cross 5K to run a 23:07 Pigskin 5K) last weekend, I stood in the middle of the West 3rd hill, rooting people up the steep and scoffing quietly at anyone who wussed and walked.

I didn’t walk at all. But, geez, did I dream of it.

The course turned onto Lakeside, and I could see the red clock ticking at the finish. My final kick was still at home in bed, so I only picked it up a touch to finish in 39:10—2:00+ slower than my goal, 1:30 behind Malachi, my first ever non-PR race. Boo hoo. It was bound to happen sooner or later.

Little did I know my dad was nipping at my heels! He hated the final hill just as much as I did, but ran an impressively even-paced race (I think he literally ran five 7:54 miles)! I turned around and watched as he crossed 22 seconds behind me in 39:22.

Before the race, the three of us agreed to meet at the finish. My dad and I pulled off to the side to watch for Neil. As 42 and then 43:00 came and went, I looked with hope for Neil. It was his first 5-miler, and I had my fingers hard-crossed that he’d meet his goal.

Forty-four minutes… 45… 46… 47. Where was he?

We walked to the water, bananas and granola to see if he was grabbing food: nothing. I watched the seconds tick by and told my dad at 50 I would run back through the course to make sure Neil was OK. He’d just run 7:36 pace in a 5K. I knew he could beat 10/mile in five miles. What was up?

Worried he was hurt, I started looking for an open spot toward the sidewalk to start running back through the course when I saw… Neil!

He had been standing about 20 feet from us the whole time! Neil finished his first 5-miler in an inspiring 40:24 (8:05 pace… I’m so jealous). I had no doubt he could run a fast one, but wow.

So, while I trotted like a stuffed turkey, this year’s Thanksgiving race was totally worthwhile just to see these awesome guys run great races. And commiserate about that damned hill… and all the extra Thanksgiving treats we deserved.