Monday, February 23, 2009

Frozen Shamrock Race Report

Frozen Shamrock
The weather forecast was tentative. JP McBrides website on saturday said 'We still don't know if we will have the race, check this website tomorrow morning'. So sunday, I woke up, and it looked like a go, but it would be close.

I live less than a mile from the bar, so I decided to run to the race rather than ride my bike. I figured it would be a good warm-up, as well as get a feel for the temperature as well as my left foot: I sprained it last fall, and it's been good for a while, but a couple of weeks ago I stressed it again by not stretching after a set of hillsprints. I hobbled for a solid week, and only have been pain free for a few days, so I haven't run since february 6.

I made it to the bar pain-free, and generating lots of heat. I had dressed on the side of caution, with three layers, just in case. The wind was wicked, swirling around the buildings in downtown haverhill. I didn't feel it all that much on the way there, but once I got to the bar it was whipping around the side of the building in bone-chilling gusts. Many runners sought shelter in groups, or hiding in the doorways of the building.

Lining up a few minutes before the start, the first drops of rain made their presence known, much to the chagrin of a group of women behind me, but not to the guys from shamrock runners club, in particular the guy with the shamrock painted on his face - and bare feet. That's right...BARE feet - no shoes. I asked the guy if he lost a bet - no, he enjoys running in bare feet. The starting gun went off, and we surged forward. A surging mass of 800+ runners through the concrete, granite, and asphalt landscape of the former mill/industrial section of haverhill. We didn't start out fast at all, and I ended up zig zagging most of the way to the second railroad bridge looking for a lane, though passing Barefoot Man, he didn't look like he was having fun.

On the first cross of the river, I was in about 12th position, but the leaders were clearly pulling away. since my goal for the day was based on time and not position, I made sure to run within my limits, especially with the hill so soon into the race. It worked,at the top of the hill I was just pushing my anaerobic threshold. The first mile clicked by in 6:20 according to my watch, but the big clock read 6:15, hmmmmmm

The downhill was fun because I broke into a great rhythm with a long stride, and made up alot of ground on the two guys that passed me on the uphill. I passed one of them and was closing on the other, but lost him when the road flattened out. I held that spot past the two mile mark, which went by at 12:33 (6:13) by my watch, though the clock read 12:28.....oooookay

Coming back across the river, there was a substantial gap to the runner ahead of me. A friend of mine was standing in the middle of the bridge, and yelled out '14th place, there's a big group behind you, and you look like shit!!' He's one of my better friends.

Back onto washington street, A runner came by. Into washington square, another came by, then another. Heading between the mills on essex street, one more. I checked behind at that point and there was a good gap, but the way I was getting passed, I really needed to pick up the pace.

But here's where it gets odd. I crossed the line according to the clock at 18:58 and my watch at 19:03. Wait a minute....that would mean the last mile took me 6:30? Something was off. I mean, yeah, I got passed by a few guys at the end, but no way mile 3 took me 20 more seconds than mile 2, especially since mile three is the flattest section. Besides that, what was with every clock being 5 seconds faster than my watch? I hit start right when the gun went off.

My bridge buddy showed up at the finish after I had cooled down, and I mentioned to him That I thought the last mile was a bit long. "it is, he said, "by .05 miles"

Well, that would explain it. It would easily explain an additional 20ish seconds. But then I thought, we started the race half-way between the bar and the railroad bridge. If they start the race in front of the bar, you'd have a real 5K, rather than have a 4.85K/3.05 mile race.

But then it gets a little stranger; they posted my finishing time as 18:53. It said 18:58 when I crossed the line, and I hit my watch immediately after and it noted a few hundredths under 19:03. Where the hell do all these different numbers come from?

I ended up 18th overall, 4th in my age group. OK for a bike racer in february. Looking at it from my goal, which was time based, I did well. Doing the math, it comes out at 6:19 pace with their posted time and a 6:22 with my times. I'm cool with that.

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