Monday, November 3, 2008

A Drastic Improvement

The TIP 5K in Lawrence
Waking up to temperatures below freezing in the early fall and maintaining motivation to head out for an athletic endeavor can be a daunting task. But, buoyed by the promise of temps warming to the 50's and my last personally surprising performance, I held fast. Since I had done some prep work the night before, I had my equipment ready to pack, all the that needed doing was to pick the appropriate dressing for a bike ride in the cold, now hovering in the high 30's. Unlike my last day out, I had plenty of time to make the Claddagh without pushing into the high aerobic zone.
As I rolled into the parking lot of the bar, I was at first taken aback at the fact that there were only three cars in the lot, and one was a pickup with a bunch of orange cones in the back. What the fuck?
Daylight Savings Time.....
Well, not only did I arrive in plenty of time to register and not have to hammer to the event, I now had an extra hour to kill. At least it was warming up nicely. The front of the Claddagh faces southeast, the wind was from the north, and the sky was a striking intense blue, similar to someone's eyes whom I met recently. I sat on a bench in the front of the bar, basking in the intensity of the sun, allowing my black tights to absorb the infrared and warm me in an almost reptilian splendor. As the participants began to arrive, I lay there with my eyes closed, taking in the conversation of the passers by. Of note:
her: so you're wearing shorts today?
him: yes, but not these, I have a pair of compression shorts I'll be running in.
her: oh, that'll be cute, all you'll need is a potato to stuff them with.
him: actually I have a tube sock I'm going to use
her: no, I meant for the back
(yes, I really heard that).
The other conversation I heard was between a couple of volunteers, as to whether or not the police had rousted the homeless people from under the bridge into the park were the race was to be run. Hmmm.....
There was no pomp or circumstance leading to the start of this race. Nope, just an 'ok people, line up here behind this pole, runners ready....BANG'.
I really had no clue where we were going. I just followed the leaders. We dove off the main road to an access road, were the police car turned abruptly off and we suddenly were being led by a bicycle - into a paved path which twisted, rose, sunk, then looped back upon itself, back out onto the road where we fell into the park, and behind the police car again. Now, I prefer running on hiking trails - a.k.a. 'single-track' in mountain biking vernacular - rocks, roots, mud, berms, the more technical the better, so when we started winding our way through the park, I felt very comfortable. I could tell most of the other runners weren't comfortable with the constantly changing path, and I soon found myself in 4th spot, behind a very, very short person. If he was more than 12, I would be surprised. Just before we exited the park, I was passed by a guy whom I was sure was in my age group. Just after he passed, he stopped abruptly to retie his shoelace. He would repeat this at least six more times, and every time he would be just a little bit more in front of me. The last time I would see him crouched by the road (about mile 2) I just reach him, then he took off and I didn't see him again. He ended up winning the overall.
mile 1 - I started my HRM at the gun - or so I thought. I went to check my time as I approached the one mile marker, and realized the damn thing was still waiting, so I have no idea as to my one mile time. No matter, I started it at the one mile point, I can do the math later. But, later, it was the general consensus that the one mile marker was short. People behind me were commenting that they marked 5:35. No, I _may_ have turned a sub 6 first mile, but I'm not convinced, and I certainly didn’t run under 5:30.
I was gaining on the little person in front of me, and just as I passed him was when I was caught and passed (for the last time) by Mr Wardrobe Malfunction. Behind him was another guy, and as we neared the two mile mark, I was in 5th.
mile 2 - 6:40 This was not an unexpected pace, though I felt I was running faster. I was closing on the 4th place, obviously a teenager, and just as I caught him the runner behind me caught us both. He was smaller than me, and not as easy to find a draft on, and was running faster than I could maintain anyways. He moved into 3rd, and I waited until it looked like he was pulling away, then went around the teen to try and pace him. That wasn't going to happen. I checked back, and the teen was only about ten feet back, with a sizable gap to the next runner. Since I knew the teen was not in my age group (though my wife tells me to grow up frequently) I decided to drop back and use him to avoid the wind cramps I suffered the last time I tried to pick up the pace significantly in the last 1/2 mile. As we got down to the last 1/4 mile and less, I tried to come around the teen a couple times, every time I did, he would pick up the pace. Whatever...don't say I didn't try and take a pull. Hey, If you can push the guy in front of you to run faster, that's less work _you_ have to do (drafting 101). Even though we were running faster, I had managed to recover slightly since I wasn't pushing any wind. As we took the 2nd to last left onto the short stretch of essex street, I kicked hard and stretched, leaving the teen in my wake. Looking back as I took the last left into the finishing stretch, the kid was more than a few seconds behind me with no one else visible, so I coasted into the finish.
Finish - 18:48 (6:08), 5th overall, 6:04 pace....wait....6 fucking 04? Two weeks ago I ran a 6:34...I took 30 seconds off in two weeks? that isn't right...Then I started to hear about the marking discrepancies. Most people thought the 1 mile marker was short, and that the 2 mile marker was long, then came the rumor that the course was short overall. Even if the course was a tenth short, that would make my pace 6:16, which is 18 sec/mile faster than two weeks ago.
As usual for the Claddagh, they put on a good feed after the race. In that time, I managed to 'network' with a couple other MVS members, Rebecca Connelly and Dave Dargie. Rebecca won the women overall, and Dave won the 50+ group. Still, I had to figure out the course length. I'm funny that way, comes from riding time trials on bikes. So today, I took my GPS and measure the course. It comes in at 3.05 miles. Also, I noted the 2 mile mark read 2.11. There was no mark on the road for the 1 mile mark, so that's still a question mark.
What this means, is that my pace was a hair under 6:10, I'm not going to rest on this as an indication of increasing speed, it could simply be a 'good day'. I'll have to do a couple more runs this year before I make an assessment.

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