The Trolley Run is a four-mile point-to-poiint run in Kansas City, MO. The course is mostly downhill with a couple of minor uphills in the first half. So, typically, it is very fast. The weather for Sunday, rain and a headwind, tempered that downhill advantage a bit, but since it wasn't particularly warm or cold, the conditions were pleasant for running.
Not having raced yet this year, I placed a bit more importance on this race. I wanted to run fast. I had five good weeks leading up to the race with 3 weeks in the 60's mileage wise followed by a week in the 50's and a week in the 40's for race week. In the week leading up to the race, I had a couple of minor pains crop up and wondered why they couldn't have came up on a week that I wasn't racing. By the end of the week though, I was feeling pretty good.
The Trolley Run has thousands of participants. I like to arrive early at such races because driving stresses me out and I would rather not deal with that kind of stress on race morning. Other than not finding my name in the list of registered runners, everything went well race-organization wise. Even that problem was minor as it was easily and quickly handled by having me fill out a new entry form so that I could get a number. With the rain, the usual crowds may have been diminished a bit, but they appeared even smaller since everyone was huddling along the perimeter under the eaves of buildings to get out of the rain. I hung out there myself pinning my number on my singlet and waiting until about 30 minutes before the race to warm up. Warm up was uneventful and after I removed my extra clothing (including my HillRunner.com shirt), stuffed it into my bag and handed it off to the people who would take it to the finish area. By this time, the temparature was rather nice and I was comfortable in my shorts and singlet. I jogged over to the starting area and lined up at the start -- talking to a few friends while we waited.
They sent off the three wheelchair athletes about 5 minutes ahead of the field and then it was our turn. There was a bit more jostling than normal at the start and I allowed myself to be pushed back -- content to follow Ken, one of my over-40 rivals, for a time. The field did not take long to spread out and soon, I went around Ken, as I felt I should be going faster. I had stuffed my watch into my bag and they did not have clocks at the mile markers, so I have no idea about splits. I went through the mile comfortably. In the next 1.5 miles, I was passed by some people, latched onto others as they passed me, and passed some other people. Around 3.5 miles, I stopped letting anyone go as they passed. A guy in a blue singlet pulled even. I thought that he might be Christian, another over-40 guy whom I do not recognize on sight. I had seen a picture of him once and I only knew that he looked younger. So, I stayed with the guy in the blue singlet for a short time. Then, either just before or just after mile 3, I pushed ahead focusing on the male runner about 20-30m ahead. In the push to the finish, I passed the second place woman, but I never did catch the guy I was focusing on. As I neared the finish, I saw the second digits click to 00. I squinted at the minute digits (worried that they might read 22), but saw that it was 21 and that I might better last year's time anyway. I had picked up the pace multiple times in the closing mile including at the last corner about 400m out, but remembering that last year I had been passed in the last few feet, I kicked a bit harder to insure that it would not happen again. I maintained my place finishing 24th overall in 21:18. I bettered my time from last year by about 5 seconds and was about 5 seconds behind my course PR. I learned later that the guy whom I thought might be Christian was not. Christian finished about 30 seconds ahead of me.
Coming into the race, I had thought that sub-21 might be possible. I don't generally race for time goals, but I do usually have some fairly accurate ideas about what is possible. For a time after the race, I second guessed my effort level thinking that perhaps I had not pushed hard enough. At last year's race, I ran the whole race feeling that I was running right on the edge of bonking throughout the entire race and finding my legs wobbling under me as I stopped in the finish chute. This year, I felt under control throughout the race and even as I pushed for the finish, I felt that I still had some reserves to call on if someone were to come upon me and challenge me in the closing meters. But, as the day wore on, I reflected some on the John Wooden quote at the bottom of Andrew's posts: "There is no such thing as an overachiever. We are all underachievers to varying degrees." Perhaps I ran a bit closer to my peak performance last year, but I have no doubts that I also ran very hard this year -- especially now that I am two days out from the race and still feeling the lingering effects of a hard effort.
Reflecting on my race now, I recall at one point I was passed by Jay. Jay is a good local runner -- not one of the very fastest guys, but a good consistent performer. I suspect that he is also very good at running even or negative splits. I have noticed that though I usually start faster than Jay, he usually passes me at around the midpoint of the race. At times in the past, I have tried to sick with him when he passed, but did not have what it took. I think that the next time that I find myself in a race with Jay, I might watch what he does and perhaps key off of him -- starting a bit slower and see where that takes me. If I don't start slower or if I miss him at the start and only see him as he is passing me later in the race, I will resolve to once again try to stick with him as he goes by. Thinking this reminds me of my early high school days when I moved up through the ranks on our team by focusing on the next best runner on the team each week. I think that I can learn something from Jay.