This is the race for which I won two free entries by placing second in my age group at the Hank Aaron run. This would determine whether being beaten in the kick for the age group win and a free watch there would pay off or be a bust. Available for the overall winner was a $100 gift certificate ($40 toward a pair of shoes and $60 for a biomechanical evaluation so essentially $40 for me) from the store that also happens to be my sponsor. If I win that, it's better than a watch. If I go home with another medal, the watch would have been nice.
Going into the race, I was a bit nervous. Ever since the marathon attempt, my legs have been very flat. I'll get an occasional good day where I feel at the top of my game but that's only once or, at best, twice a week. The rest of the time, I'm dragging around and I just feel like I'm ready for a break. Can I time things out so my legs are ready to go on race day? I spent the 2-3 weeks before this race trying to figure out how to do that, as well as resting up so I could be ready to go for the final phase of my 2010 racing season. I found a weekly schedule that I thought would work but I wasn't sure how well it would work.
I gave the second free entry for this race to Ed and we met at my place to carpool in to the race. It was a cool, windy morning. Really, if not for the wind, the temperature would be about perfect for a race but the wind made it pretty bitter. I saw Ted Shue there, fresh off an Ironman about 2-3 weeks earlier, and one or two other guys I figured could be competition if I'm not at the top of my game. However, if I was at the top of my game, as Ted said to me at the start line, there shouldn't be much competition for me there.
At the start, one guy went out right with me. We were shoulder to shoulder off the line and into the run for a bit. He was on my right side as we approached a right turn and, just as I was about to position myself for the turn, he drifted a bit back so I went into the lead to get around the turn. Then, we were running north into what seemed to be a northwest wind. I was checking shadows and noticed that there seemed to be two guys behind me. I was checking positioning because I didn't want to be doing all the work in breaking the fairly strong wind for someone else but they seemed to be going off my left shoulder, taking the wind right along with me. I thought for a moment that maybe I should just hang with these guys through the mile and then let the racing begin in mile 2, then I changed my mind. I accelerated just slightly and found myself steadily pulling away. Pretty quickly, I was by myself.
The rest of the way, it became a game of running hard enough to win without killing myself. Between how I have been feeling and the fact that this is the first of 3 races in 15 days, I didn't want to fully extend myself. Around every corner, I glanced over my shoulder. I was steadily building a lead over Ted, who moved into second, and wasn't feeling threatened. I ran hard but held back just a bit. I did pick it up a bit with a half mile to go. Near the finish, we ran up a little hill where I really didn't feel like hammering it so I didn't. As I rounded the last turn, I saw 17:10-17:11 ticking off on the clock. No reason for a big kick, I'm not chasing sub-17 or anything like that any more. I just maintained the steady effort through the finish line in the 17:15-17:20 range and grabbed some warm clothes while waiting for Ted, Ed and the rest of the crew to come in.
Final results: 1st, I believe somewhere around or just under 17:20 (I can't find results online and didn't see official results with the correct times).
I did a little tabulation of my races so far this year. It's apparently been a good year for me, aside from the marathon meltdown. I've started 8 races so far this year (finished 7). I've gotten free entry into 6 races (4 through my sponsor, 1 won from another race, the alumni meet is no entry fee) which means I've only paid 2 entry fees to run 8 races so far this year. I've won $140 toward shoe purchases and I believe $100 in other gift certificates as well as one of those free race entries I used. Three wins, a third place showing, and three outside of the top 10 against strong fields. Likely just two more races for the year, one for which I got half of my entry fee paid and the other for which I am the likely winner and I will probably come home with a gift certificate. Whatever happens in these next two races, though, it's been a good year.