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.