Fish Day 8K. Going into the race, I was not quite sure what to expect. I always seem to run in the low 28s at Fish Day. I was coming off the Walleye Run 5 mile that would roughly equate to a 28:15 8K, give or take. With an extra month of pretty hard training, a little more race sharpness and a course I know well, I felt I was ready to improve on that time. With a more challenging course, a bit more fatigue from that hard training and less favorable weather, I could see a slower time. In general, I figured I'd be right back into that low 28s range.
Race morning, everything went as normal. As I was out on my warmup, I ran into Andy Ruffalo and warmed up with him for a bit. He's heading over to a big bike tour in Europe later this summer so he's doing a lot of biking but he was at the 5K in West Bend, where he won by running a sub-5 last mile. Obviously, his running is still going pretty well. I probably won't see anything but his back for the first mile and I probably won't see him at all after the first mile. I also saw the InStep team and actually had them in mind. Kane Baker and Jeff Kobinsky would likely be very close to where I was running so I could definitely see myself hooking up with my old teammates to work together through this race. There was a concern, though. During the warmup, I didn't feel bad but I didn't feel that usual race day sharpness. I wasn't too worried about it, though. Sometimes, I have to get into the race before everything clicks.
At the gun, the usual contingent of 2 milers and high school runners/alumni took off hard. It's not the typical road race contingent of high schoolers and alumni, though. At this race, they take off and keep going. I saw Ruffalo up with the lead pack but I focused my sights on Kane and Jeff. Jeff was right with me, Kane a little ahead. Also nearby was Brian Udovich, pushing his daughter who shortly before the race decided she didn't want to be there in a stroller. About 1/4 mile in, though, I found myself thinking I hope this is faster than I think it is. That was the first sign of problems.
As we made the first turn and really began climbing, I could just tell something wasn't right but I still figured I could push through it. I kept working up the hill and through the mile mark, expecting a decent split, which I would take to be in the 5:40s given the nearly all uphill first mile. When I heard 5:54, I knew it wasn't that bad but I also knew I had to get going to be where I wanted to be. I worked on picking up the pace and made a bit of a move but I again didn't feel that sharpness and just couldn't maintain. This was the story of miles 2 and 3. I'd feel a little bit of something, push, then find out my legs just couldn't maintain. At mile 3, I was hoping to still hear a sub-18 time. When someone ahead of me went through and I heard 18:12, that was a blow to me mentally. I tried to mount an effort to at least get to sub-6 pace but just couldn't do it. About this time, Holly Ochs went by me and I fought so hard to hold with her. I did for a bit before she started pulling away. Then, I heard the crying of Brian's daughter closing in on me. I had heard her most of the way but off in a distance. Now, she was getting closer again. Brian came right up behind me a couple of times but I was able to hold him off. As we went past the 4 mile mark, I was still holding him off but wondering how long I could. With about a half mile to go, he passed me and I had nothing left to respond with.
I came around the final turn and, to my dismay, saw 31 minutes on the clock. I came through the finish line in 35th place, 31:07. A completely frustrating, lackluster effort. I just didn't have it. That was the flattest I've felt on a race day in years. I honestly can't even remember the last time I felt like that during a race. I was just completely helpless out there.
I'm still going over what happened leading up to this race and on race day. Was it just one of those days? Is there something I did in training or some other aspect that led to these dead legs? Most likely, some combination of those two things and other factors.
I'll figure this out, though, and I'll be back. That much I can promise. Saturday was a frustrating day for me but, in the end, it will just serve to make me refocus, retool and come at my next races with a new determination.
I can't wait for me next race, my opportunity to get the bad taste from Saturday out of my mouth. In fact, if I feel like I'm getting my legs back under me, I may find something sooner than I originally planned to fire these legs up.
BTW: The quote in the subject is from Jeff Kobinsky as we were talking after the race. That's the "glass half full" view of my run on Saturday.