This won't be as exciting as the reports out of Boston, but I enjoyed myself anyway.
On Sunday, I ran the Trolley Run (4 miles). Though I hoped to run well and perhaps to win the Master's division, I did not get too worked up about it. I like to bring a feeling of calm anticipation to a race if possible. That seems to be where I find my sweet spot for consistent good race performances. I think that I succeeded in that. I ended up not running the tune up race that I'd posted about earlier, but I think that it wasn't really necessary.
Going into the race weekend, I was starting to feel a little run down. It seems that between daylight savings time and long days associated to spring on a farm (goat kidding and gardens) we get a little behind on sleep every spring. My workouts have gone well, but I have just felt a bit tired in the days leading to the race. I ended up taking Friday (unplanned) and Saturday (normal - I've missed most Saturdays in 2011) off. I didn't worry too much about it though and thought that it might even be beneficial.
As I stated in an earlier thread, this is one of those area races that I like to target to run well. Though I didn't have a specific time goal in mind, I expected to be somewhere between 21:13 (best time on course set in 2005) and 22:30 (time from two years ago). I know that I am fitter than I was two years ago, but I don't think that I am as fit as I was in 2005.
I arrived early and rode a bus from the finish area to the start. It was about 6:30 when I arrived at the start and the race started at 7:45, so I figured I had about 45 minutes to kill until I needed to warm up. I found a place out of the wind and settled in to wait and watch the other runners until it was time to go. I did not think much about the race. I felt a small amount of anxiety because it was race day, but mostly I felt pretty calm and I was just relaxing as much as possible until race time.
For warm up, I just ran about a mile or a mile and a half -- just enough to put off the chill of the morning. By the time that I was finished with the warm up, the weather was nearly perfect. I had been cold before I started, but as I removed my extra clothing the coolness felt nice. I dropped my bag at the bus and then headed to the start where I ran a couple of strides and talked to a couple of friends who were running and then positioned myself about 2 rows behind the front. I worried briefly if I would be up to the fast pace, but dismissed that thought quickly. I also thought briefly about Magill's recent article on even pacing. I didn't really think about what might happen during the race. I was just there in the moment waiting for the start. Then the director counted down from three and we were off.
The early pace felt very fast and I reined myself in a bit right away. Somewhere in the first mile, I looked over and found myself running next to Mark Curp whose name some may recognize as a former 1/2 marathon world record holder. He's 52 now, but since one thing that I would like to do is to win the Master's race, I wanted to stay with him or ahead of him. I ran near Mark for the first 2 miles during which time, I heard frequent cheers for him. The first local woman was running just ahead of us. At the first two mile marks, I noticed a chorus of GPS beeps and saw a couple of people checking their splits. It's nice not to worry about that. Throughout the race, I felt that I was running right on the edge of too fast. At one point, I started to develop a stomach cramp and slowed slightly hoping it would subside. It did. As the race progressed, the cheers for Mark faded a bit as I moved ahead. I passed a few people, but was also passed by one or two people. Around 2 1/2 or 3 miles, Ron K moved up beside me. He's in the 35-39 age group, but I know that he turns 40 sometime this year. So, when he moved up, I moved with him. We traded places a couple of times. About 3/4 mile from the finish, I tried to pull away, but I knew he was still fairly close with about 1/2 mile to go as I heard someone cheer for him. I crossed the bridge over Brush Creek heading North. The next runner ahead of me was a too far off for me to catch and I was not sure exactly how close anyone might be behind me, but I expected someone to be close and picked up the pace around the corner. As I neared the finish, the clock was still clicking toward 21:10 when I first noticed it. I felt briefly happy since I knew I would get a pretty good time for me. But, about 30 yards from the finish, I saw a shadow move up beside mine and I started kicking in earnest. Though I got up on my toes in my sprint, it wasn't enough and the guy behind me nipped me at the line. It turned out not to be Ron, but that didn't really matter.
I was disappointed in being outkicked, but despite that I was very happy with my race overall. Even though I didn't know my exact time, I knew that it was on the fast side of what I deemed possible and the wobbly feeling in my legs told me that I'd put in a very strong effort. I actually had to stop and put my hands on my knees for a moment because I thought that I might fall. I left the chute and went to where they were printing "result receipts" and learned that my official time was 21:26. A little later, I found myself walking with Mark Curp. He recognized me from the race and said good run. As we walked, a friend of his approached and as he reviewed his Garmin, I learned that our mile split was around 5:08 -- probably my fastest single mile in 2-3 years. Mark had parked near the start and was going to run back to his car with his friend. I invited myself along to run half way with them. Though I felt a bit like a third wheel a little later since I didn't participate too much in the conversation, I heard him talk about running his best time at Trolley (18-something) in his 30's. I also know that he ran under 20 at least once in his 40's and he was less than a minute behind me at 52. When I turned around to go back to my car, he asked my name and shook my hand.
Stats for the day:
Master's Place: 2 (Runner up in both attempts since I turned 40. Only about 10 seconds behind the Master's winner.)
Winning time: 18:00
Overall, I am very happy with my race. I think that it is good to finish a race feeling satisfied with your performance, but motivated to keep working toward future improvements.
- Effort. As a runner, I think that I've historically run overly conservatively during the middle portions of a race and then finished strongly. I've improved in this area in the past 9 months, but this race seemed to be one of my best ever in terms of effort throughout the race. I thought that I would list two things, but I think this is enough.
Areas for improvement:
- More even effort. The first mile was about 5:08 and I averaged around 5:22/mile. The first two miles are probably the two slowest topographically. Most of the elevation loss on this course occurs in the second half. Looking at my race with Magill's recent article in mind, I realize that running a race at an even effort will take a lot of practice and discipline. I am not certain how to go about it, but I think that I have improved in this area since I've been running without a watch. Perhaps it is just a matter of time and experience and focusing more internally than externally in the first mile of a race. I also thought perhaps I should line up a bit further back, but it still makes sense to line up approximately where I expect to finish so, if there were about 15 runners across the starting line, lining up in approximately the third tier was about right.
- Compete aggressively. Though I think that I am competing pretty well since late last summer, I feel that I am competing primarily defensively -- protecting my position rather than going after those ahead of me. I've also noticed that I seem to be targeting master's runners while not concerning myself about others as much. I think that I need to adopt a more aggressive attitude during the late stages of a race and expand my focus to include everyone -- not just those over 40. I think that working toward this might also help contribute toward a more even effort by giving me something to focus on while pushing through the late race discomfort.