I'm not sure if it was the lay off after the minor ankle sprain a few weeks ago, or that I just had a _really_ good day at the Lawrence TIP 5K, but my time at the Feaster 5 Miler on thanksgiving was was lousy. I never quite recovered from the hill up to Andover Center, and the lack of miles in addition to favoring the left foot the past few weeks lead to my left gastrocnemius cramping at ~ 2 1/2 miles.
I wasn't sure what to expect in general, never having run in a race with more than a couple of hundred people. I knew this event was going to attract a significant amount of regional talent, so I had no illusions of placing in any position that would get my name printed anywhere other than the overall results sheet. One thing I wanted to make sure of, was that I didn't have to run through alot of traffic at the start. With that in mind, I got the the start line 20 minutes before the scheduled start, then just jumped around and stretched, while the road filled in around me.
I was surprised how many people were dressed in bare legs and one or two thin layers on top. There's an old rule of thumb in bike racing 'geared' at keeping your knees healthy, which is to wear knee covering below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It's quite rare that I do not follow this advice, and since I'm really only starting out in competitive running, I'm not about to start experimenting with what's worked well for me for the past 20 years. So I wore two medium weight layers on top, gloves, doo-rag (I don't have a real 'doo' to keep my head warm) and medium weight tights. This is still significantly less than I would have worn if I were riding on the road that day, but about the same as I would wear mtn biking.
As the start time approached, the pomp and circumstance one would expect with an event of this magnitude began. Tom Licciardello made the most of his MC duties. He was comfortable, yet energetic. Also gracing us were Bill Rodgers, Dick & Rick Hoyt, and Barry Burbank. We were also treated to not only the American National Anthem by MVS member Tracie Gardner, but God Bless America by Joey Griggs, the same confident tyke who sang our National Anthem at the Lawrence Veteran 4 Miler.
I was reminded of the scene in the movie 'Mystery, Alaska', where a local town hockey team managed to get the New York Rangers to come to their town and play. The residents of Mystery were used to playing in single digit weather, so in order to chill the Rangers who were used to playing in climate controlled arenas they contracted Little Richard to sing long, slow, soulful, bluesy versions of both the American and Canadian National anthems. Fortunately, it was pushing 40 degrees by that time in andover, and I was in a swarm of warm bodies.
mile 1 - 6:29 - I started out running well, comfortable, and smooth. According to Cool Running, I had a 5 second differential between the gun and my start, so I probably had a couple of hundred runners in front of me. I was passing people and getting passed. At one point, about 1/2 mile in, I got passed by a a kid, probably high school, wearing nothing but running shorts and shoes. brrrrrrrrrrrr. He must have lost a bet. We hit the hill to Andover center, and I dialed it back a bit, following my breathing. The first mile ends pretty close to the top of the hill, and it showed 6:29. I was cool with that, considering the hill.
mile 2 6:32/13:01 - This is what I get for not previewing the course. I'm very familiar with all these roads, by bike or car. Running them is a different story. From the top of the hill in andover center to the left turn on Morton Street is flat by car or bike. Not on foot. Neither is Morton Street. I attempted to pick it up after hitting the center of town, but that started pushing me into an anaerobic zone. Too much, too soon. Finally the downhill section on Bartlet allowed me to stretch out. Going past the park, a Dixieland band struck up a tune. Whenever I hear a banjo, I think of "Last Child" by Aerosmith. Allegedly, there is a banjo somewhere in that song. It's listed in the album credits. As a teenager, I listened to Last Child hundreds of times (loud, soft, with headphones, but never backwards, that would be just wrong), trying to hear the banjo, I never could make it out.
The water station came up, I reached out to grab a cup, and muffed it. No biggie, I didn't really need it. Then as the mile marker came up, I noted 13:01. Damn. I could feel I didn't have the lungs to pick it up. This was going to be a disappointing day.
Mile 3 - 7:26/20:27 - At the two mile mark the road starts a small incline again, and zig zags through some side streets in Andover. I passed a large throng of residents and a home made sign that said 'Give Us A gobble'. No thanks, I feel enough like a turkey at this point, lets not make it worse....but worse it got. Coming around that corner my left calf cramped. I slowed to a walk/limp. One Samaritan running by asked if i was OK. I'm not sure what he would have done about it if I said no, but I waved him on anyways. I walked half the length of Washington ave, which explains the 7:26 time for mile 3. Alright, let's just turn this into a fitness run, screw the racing. Take it slow on the hills, Stretch out on the downhills, and pace the flats. Once I started running again, I was in the group of runners with the strange breathing and odd gaits. The was a 'stomper' coming up behind me before we started the downhill, One foot would land with a loud STOMP.
Mile 4 6:53/27:20 - There was a decent amount of downhill and I usually do well at stretching out. It's quite rare that I've been passed running downhill. I managed to use this to catch a few runners that had just passed me. The next water station was successful. However, coming back onto high street is where the 5K and 5M course come together, and also where the walkers are on the course. I tried to keep a pace through, but the slow pace of the walkers, many of them spread across the road, made that difficult. Not because they were in the way, there were only about three times in the last mile and a half where I had to alter my course (one woman walker actually took a sharp right directly in my path. I managed to avoid her but had to hold her as I went by to void knocking her down). It was more of a case where it's hard to judge your own speed when there are literally several hundred people moving in the same direction as you but slower. I also had a number of people pass me at good clips. I'm thinking they started late, maybe were running the 5K, but there's no way I could have hitched onto their pace.
Mile 5 - 6:30/33:50 More downhill, more stretching out. As I got to the intersection of rte133 I knew it was downhill, flat and less than a mile, so I started digging in again. Three young men came by me very fast....Geeze, where the hell did they come from? Coming to the railroad bridge a dixieland band was playing, with a group of walkers that had stopped to sing "when the saints go marching in". Just under the bridge is where the woman I mentioned above walked in front of me. Earlier, when I was walking to the start line, I took a glance up the finish hill. There was a banner a bit more than halfway up, and unfortunately, I took this for the finish line. I hadn't bothered to look at the course map on the Feaster Five website which _clearly_ shows the finish about 50 yards past the _top_ of the hill in the Brickstone square parking lot. I was cooking it down the little slope and into the corner, intent on keeping some momentum for a strong finish.
Now, my eyes aren't as good as they used to be. So I wasn't too concerned when I came around the corner for the last 100 yards to the banner and didn't see a timer or sensors across the road. No, I didn't freak out until I heard the guy with the megaphone on the step ladder under the banner yelling "200 yards to go!"
TWO HUNDRED YARDS MORE UP THIS HILL?!?!?!?!
Ugh, I faded like an old Polaroid. A little kid sprinted by me. I'm lucky I wasn't walking when I crossed the line.
128th overall, 20th out 393 in my age group. Mill City Relay coming up, unless I get kicked off the 'team'.