Saturday, April 23, 2011

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.

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