Saturday, April 23, 2011

Scott Carlson Memorial 5k

(Results) After last week's frustrating near miss, I wanted another chance to run fast. A little sleuthing told me that both of the women who beat me at the Carlson race last year would not be racing this year, making it likely that I could grab the $250 for first place. Also, the weather forecast was 100% chance of rain, plus 15 mph wind -- decidedly nasty weather that would eliminate anyone who was wavering. But not me!

We got there just after registration opened so I could get my size S shirt, and so we could see whether Alan should register or just run with me. He decided to register after EL and a high school team were the only fast-looking guys. It was only lightly raining during our 3-mile warmup on trails. I had heard that the NB flats were slippery on wet pavement, so I tried them out, but the traction was fine, so I wore them for the race (and never thought about it again, so that was a false rumor). It was cold and raining, so I ran about an extra mile doing light jogging and strides in the 10 minutes before the race started, just to stay warm in my singlet. I saw a couple of intense-looking women, but I could tell that they were masters runners, so I was not too concerned. According to the announcer, this year had a record-breaking field, despite the rain! Hopefully this will contribute to a speedy cure for ALS.

The race started and we ran up the initial hill. I went out behind JY, who goes out fast in every race. I was hoping to run between 3:30-3:35 for the first 1k (this course marks every k and every mile!). I passed a group of the high school boys' team before the 1k, and hit it in 3:34. Great! It was windy and rainy and I had to remember to look ahead so that I could cut the tangents properly. There were two high school boys ahead of me, one in the team uniform and one in a white cotton undershirt, and I worked on catching up to them. I passed the mile in 5:46. Great! I could see Alan up ahead, and it was clear that he would get second place, also great!

The guy in the uniform came back to me and I passed him just after the mile. Then we ran past some girls who were cheering, and he surged to pass me. I kept running the same pace and caught him again. We passed 2k in 7:10, for a 3:36. Very consistent! As we made a gradual right turn, I saw some runners in black (not in the race), and when they cheered for me I realized it was some friends who were out for a 20-mile run. We hit 3k in 10:44 for a third k of 3:34, still consistent! I was very happy to be running such an even pace, running the times I wanted without having to go all-out do to it. We got to 2 miles in 11:30 for a 5:44 second mile. I was wondering if this was good, and then I remembered that my goal last week was 11:35, so I realized I was on pace for sub-18.

A little before 4k, a man passed me who was clearly a masters runner (gray hair). He ran near me for a while and I tried to draft off of him and the uniformed high school runner, who was still right near me. (The drafting was unsuccessful, because it was a crosswind.) I figured he didn't know, so I told him: "Catch that blue guy, get 100 bucks." About 30 seconds later, he asked me what I had said. "Pass the guy in blue, third place. 100 bucks, no joke, three deep," I replied. During the race, this seemed like perfectly clear communication to me. Now that I am typing it, I realize that the only people who could parse that message are the sort of people who would already be well aware of the prize structure. But I figured that, as a masters runner, he probably wasn't picking up cash very often, and it would be cool if he could. He never did understand what I was saying -- he asked me after the race -- and he didn't catch the kid, in any case.

I went through 4k in 14:21 (new 4k PR! Previous 14:48) and it was all downhill to the finish. The men were running away from me and I tried to stay with them to run a fast time. I went under the bridge at 3 miles and saw 17:11 on my watch. Wow, it would be a fast time! I kicked hard as Alan and JJ cheered for me. I saw 17:40 come and go on the clock, so no PR, but still close. My official time was 17:43.7 (for a fifth k of 3:23). My second-fastest 5k ever!

I was impressed to see that the second and third finishers were quite fast also, both under 19:00. They turned out to both be very accomplished multisport athletes, one a recent national champion duathlete and the other a Hawaii Ironman champion, both masters runners.

The rain really started to pour just after I finished, so I quickly put on more clothes and Alan, EL and I headed out for a four-mile cooldown on the trails. It was not wet in the woods, and we had a good conversation. There was a nice post-race spread with pizza, fruit and sherbet. I was very happy with the cash prize, and even happier when it turned out that they double-dipped and I got a great goody bag for the age group! Alan got one too, of course, so now cumulatively from this race we have:

$400, two tech shirts, 8 PawSox baseball tickets, a one-hour massage certificate, $45 to a gift shop, two chocolate bunnies, 24 marshmallow Peeps, two Army water bottles, two Army lanyards, an Army mug (what are we going to do with these? This is a Navy family), a red baseball cap, two fancy pens in cloth cases, two ALS wristbands -- and hopefully, someday, a cure for ALS.

RI State Police 5k Foot Pursuit

(Results 4/17/11) I had been planning to do this race for a long time. They were giving $100 for first place, plus an extra $200 for breaking the course record of 17:58. Considering that I ran 17:40 last fall, I figured I could probably run under 17:58. I had heard that times in this race completely depend on whether it's windy, since the last mile is along the beach, so I checked the wind direction all week, and was very happy to see that it was projected to be about an 18 mph south wind -- perfect! It would push me to the finish line.

Rain was forecast, but when I arrived it was a brilliant sunny day. As forecast, there was a very strong wind. I did the last mile of the course as my warm-up, and found that we would have a strong headwind on the way out, and hopefully a strong tailwind on the way back. But it wasn't the kind of consistent push that I was expecting; something about the buildings, road curve, and seawalls made it come from different directions at different locations.

Huge headwind on the starting line. I jokingly asked my friend Hunter (who is very tall) if he was planning to run a 5:50 first mile -- obviously, I wanted to draft off of him. The race started and I tried to stay behind various men, balancing my desire to run fast with my desire to avoid running into the full force of the wind. The first mile had some uphill, and I found a guy at a good pace, going up the hill. He was wearing a T-shirt that said TMS. I wondered if it was my TMS? I passed the first mile in 5:50, as advertised, but I felt like it had taken a lot of effort to run that pace. (Hunter was at least 5 seconds ahead.)

The second mile was about 3/4 mile of gradual uphill followed by about 1/4 mile of downhill. I slogged that mile, trying to motivate myself to put in more effort, but discouraged by the hill and the headwind. The men were running away from me. I had a goal of 11:35 for two miles, so that I could break the course record. Instead, I glanced at my watch as I made the turn onto Ocean Road, and it said 11:47. A 5:57 mile! Who am I to try to run under 18:00 if I run almost six minutes for a mile of the race? I became very discouraged and I didn't think that I could go under the time.

For the last mile, there wasn't much of a tailwind. A guy in a Cobras singlet slowed down and I passed him, but then he sped up and went away again, and I didn't go with him. Too bad, because he dipped just under the women's course record! I got to three miles in 17:33 for a 5:46 third mile; not bad. People shouted, "run hard! kick it in! lots of money on the line!" but I know that you have to get to 3 miles in about 17:27 in order to break 18; it's hard to make up a lot of seconds in the last 0.1 miles, because percentage-wise it's a huge increase in speed.

I finished in 18:06. Just before the finish, this police officer passed me:

Photo by George Ross, Digital Photo Concept

I should mention that this race was (obviously, from the title) sponsored by the police, and so the police presence was huge. I always run with my car key pinned to my shorts, rather than hiding it on or around the car, because I don't want to take a chance of someone stealing the car. But if there were any race where I would take the chance, it would be this race, with a line of six police cars parked close by, and troopers in uniform (see in background of photo, above) everywhere!

Interestingly, while there were tons of police in the parking lot and race headquarters, there were none on the roads; the roads we ran on weren't even closed after the first 1/2 mile or so. But it makes sense, because there was barely any traffic. The only police officer out on the course was the one who inspired the race, a guy who was hit by a car while running, and now competes in races by pushing himself backwards in a wheelchair with one foot. One of the men I was running with shouted encouragement to him as we passed.

For my efforts, I received $100 and a race hat. There was a nice barbecue after the race, and I had fun hanging out with my friends KC and AH. There was even a Del's Soft Frozen Lemonade stand giving out free tiny cups of Del's! I had three of them; it was very delicious. I felt like I should have run faster, especially considering the generous prize for doing so, but luckily there are always more races.

Wild for Winsor 5k

(Results 4/2/11) Doing this race was poor judgment. The night before the race, we happened to be looking at upcoming races, and noticed that there was one the following day in Smithfield -- a RI town in which we had not yet run. Also, it was a new race, so we figured no one else would have found out about it. Might as well show up and run a 7-minute pace 5k and pick up $50, right?

On the starting line, I saw TH, as I expected, and I decided to let her go and just run for second (first place = shoes; second place = cash). She ran well, in third place overall at certain times during the race. Unfortunately for me, some other legit people also showed up, so I found myself running a 6:05 first mile just to hang with second place (IN). Luckily this slowed to a 6:20 second mile and 6:30 third mile, but I threw in a kick at the end just to make sure all that fast running paid off! It turns out that the woman I was running with (IN) is an ultramarathoner; she told me after the race that she has no kick. Not surprising for a person who does a 50-mile race one weekend and a 5k the next! That's an impressive range.

All in all, doing this race was a very poor choice. I had done a track workout the day before, and the whole point of a track workout is to stress the body and then recover, in order to improve. A 19:30 5k is not burning up the road, but it's certainly not recovery pace, either. I had been having calf pain, and while I didn't feel it during the warm-up or during the race, I felt it afterwards.

The experience taught me that I shouldn't do a race unless I am planning to go all-out and really race it, that when I have a goal race, I should focus on it and not let small road races distract me from that long-term goal. I hope that I can remember this in the future!