Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sneaking in under 18 (Celtic 5k)

(Results) Today was the Celtic 5k, the second of three races in the Tour de Patrick, which brought us to scenic Worcester, MA. All three cities in the Tour de Patrick -- Pawtucket, Worcester, and Providence -- are gritty, working-class former mill towns. Of the three races, today's was the one where that was most clear.

The course started alongside a nice park, and ran 1.5 miles out on a straight, flat section of Route 9, past chain restaurants, auto body shops, and strip malls. We made a 180° turn around a traffic cone by the Friendly's restaurant, and ran back exactly the way we came.

Because I raced to a two-minute lead in last week's race, it became clear that I wasn't going to have to go all-out to win the series, so my coach devised a workout for today that would let me use the race in a way that would make me stronger for the spring.

After a two-mile warm up, Alan and I did the course at about 6:10 pace. The mile markers weren't out yet, and the street was still open to traffic, so we dodged red lights, cars, pedestrians, balloon sellers, and lawn chairs as we ran the course. We weren't sure where to turn around but we knew it was near the Friendly's, so we made a guess of where to turn, which as it turned out was exactly the right place! That was lucky. We ran 18:23, so we knew we had run too short of a distance, but we were confident that we had been going at least 6:10 pace, so it was not a problem in terms of workout value.

We got back at 10:40, 20 minutes before the start of the race. I put my long pants and jacket back on and waited a while before going to the starting line. I didn't do too much jogging or strides, because I figured I was pretty warmed up from the first run.

You can see Eric and me with our awesome Leader singlets. I am laughing at the pathetic excuse for a starting siren. Photo by George Ross.

The siren sounded and man, a lot of guys took off! I had been ninth overall last week, and I was figuring I could only do about 50th this week because of all the fast guys. I felt kind of tired in the first mile, which I thought was due to the first run, but I started feeling better as the race progressed, so it was probably due to my lack of sufficient striders. I passed lots of guys in the first mile, and then tucked in behind a high school team that offered to block the wind for me (such gentlemen!). Dramatic foreshadowing: I ended up 14th overall.

I am on the left side of this picture. Copyright Worcester Telegram.

I reached the turnaround about 11 seconds faster than in the first run, so I started thinking, huh, if I just do the second half a tad bit faster, I will break 18 minutes! At that point I knew the course had to be short, but if you can break 18 minutes for whatever reason (other than cheating), why not? My wind-blocking high school boys spread out into a line to high-five everyone coming the other way, so I was on my own with regards to wind on the way back. I timed the second female and I saw her 24 seconds after the cone, for a difference of 48 seconds -- much less than last week, but in the end, the gap would be almost two minutes again.

I was surprised to see my perennial rival Dave S just ahead of me after the turnaround, because I had already remarked aloud that because of my pre-race interval, I would certainly be behind Dave S during the race. But there he was, and I slowly began to catch him. Poor Dave; all the people coming the other way were saying "first girl!" and "first woman" (and mysteriously once, "second woman," maybe because the third-place male had long hair?) and he had to listen to this for about a mile as I inched my way forward. I passed Dave about 1/2 mile from the finish, and from there the race seemed to go very quickly. I managed to sneak in with just under 18 minutes on the clock.

They grabbed me right away for the awards ceremony; I seriously took about 10 steps to decelerate past the finish line and then I was turning around to walk up the steps to the stage. I said all of about twelve words in the microphone interview, because I was still breathing hard, and then they gave us nice plaques and took lots and lots of pictures. I was even interviewed for the Worcester Telegraph, none of which information ended up in this article (from which I took the picture seen above).

Once again, Alan was second to EL, and the Brown Running Club won the Gym Team competition and won a really nice plaque. The three people we brought to the race all ran PRs, even when the distance adjustment for a short course was taken into account. So it was a fun day, and I feel like I know Worcester better than I did 12 hours ago.

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