Thursday, August 02, 2012

Have fun and turn left (St. Mary's Feast)

(Results) Usually, when someone says "tank top" in a running context, they are wrong, and should be saying "singlet." In this race I had the unusual experience of the opposite: They advertised that you could choose between a race T-shirt and singlet, but in reality, it was unequivocally a tank top. Alan and I both chose the tank top option, and now we both look like matching hicks.

The race information was unclear on where to go to register for this race, so we followed the time-honored strategy of getting near the start and then looking for people in singlets. Without the nice man in the singlet, we never would have found it, because it was in the basement of a small building hidden behind lots of food vendors in the festival!

Funny things heard while sitting inside in the air conditioning before warming up:

"Do we have to put money down on this race?" It would be awesome if you could just ask them to deduct the entry fee from your future winnings. But no, you have to cover your bets in road racing.

"Do I have to put down my real age? I'm just going to subtract 10 years and be 43." And she did, too.

Anyway, the race. We lined up and the only runner I recognized was JoAnn. "Have fun and turn left," I joked to the woman next to me. "Oh, do we turn left?" she asked. I explained that in fact, the course did turn left, but it is usually a track racing joke.

The gun went off and she and I ran together. It soon became clear that this was a two-woman race for the win. We hit the mile in 6:05. I was breathing easily, but so was this other woman! Who was she? I became concerned that she might be this Irish Olympian from CT that I've seen in race results but never met. I asked the woman if she was from CT. Nope, from RI. Really, there is a woman in RI who can jog along at 6-minute pace and I don't know her? I was shocked.

(I asked because if she were the Irish Olympian, I might have slowed down and just raced for second place, because she would probably beat me anyway, and I wanted to conserve energy for the next morning's 5k, where more money was on the line.)

After about 1.5 miles, I detected a slight increase in her breathing: it was getting harder for her, but not for me (yet). So I took the opportunity to surge. I put a few meters between us, and also passed this guy who had been running right ahead of us. He and I went back and forth a few times, but in the race for first female, that was it. I didn't have a very big gap, but I did keep it for the rest of the race.

Lots of people were out on their steps, or lining the roads, cheering for us! That was nice. Some were even spraying the runners with their garden hoses. This race is called the Summer Sizzler, and for good reason; it is almost always over 90° (it is in the evening). We lucked out this year, as it was only in the mid-70s.

The spectators helped me, because I didn't want to look back to see where the closest female was (because that shows weakness), but I did want to know. So when a spectator cheered for me, I counted breaths until they cheered for the next runner. In the second half of the race, it was consistently 12-15 seconds. Of course, there was no way of knowing if the next runner was female or male. (It turns out it was a male, though the females were not far behind.)

After the race, I caught up with the second-place woman, Renae, and we exchanged contact info so we could run together sometime. New running buddy!

Alan also won his race, so at the awards we were both happy to win $150. I also got a gift certificate for a large pizza; he got one for a wash, cut and style at a hair salon. And they gave me a big bouquet of flowers:

My first time winning flowers in a race!

And then we went home to eat, sleep and recover for the next race, just 16 hours after the first.


Anonymous said...

Question about strategy - do you ever slipstream behind a frontrunner you feel you can easily beat, until you're almost at the end - and only surge past at the very end?

Diana said...

That is considered very mean, and if you do it, people will hate you, and you'll get a reputation in the running community.

My opinion is that the further from the end you take the lead, the more acceptable it is. For example, I did a 5k this spring where I was in this situation, and I took the lead with a mile to go. I think a mile to go is totally fair. I think a half mile to go would register no complaints. The longer the race, the further out you should pass the person, to make it not mean.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. I was watching the Olympic women's road race, and that's exactly what happened - literally about 5 seconds before the end. Maybe cyclists are more cutthroat - or slip-streaming gives you more of an advantage there. Thanks for the answer :)

Diana said...

Yeah, slip-streaming gives you more of an advantage in cycling. I've heard that a cyclist uses 30% less energy drafting in the peleton than when pedaling alone. Sometimes you see them stop pedaling, because the pack is pulling them along so much.

Wind resistance is proportional to the square of your speed, so a cyclist going 30mph is 3x as fast as a runner going 6:00 pace, so there is 9x as much wind resistance for the cyclist. That's why cyclists draft, and for runners there isn't much advantage, except when running into a strong headwind.

In running, the advantage of drafting is psychological: the other person sets the pace. This is still a major advantage, which is why major races hire "rabbits" to run the correct pace.

Anonymous said...

One of the most bizarre sporting events to watch is sprint cycling, where the two racers can spend most of the race pedaling very, very slowly, not wanting to take the lead, because the person trailing has both an aerodynamic and tactical advantage (can initiate the actual "sprint" and catch the leader unaware).