I believe I still have a couple of other races I haven't reported on. I still intend to write reports if people still care to read them. I'll start with my most recent race and the one that got some mention here, though.
Going into the race, I wasn't totally sure what to expect. This year has gone much better than last year. However, I attempted to do a double peak for both the Stout alumni meet and Al's Run, only two weeks apart. In retrospect, I'm just not carrying enough fitness to do double peaks only two weeks apart anymore. I could get away with that with very good results in the past. It just doesn't work any more. So I was going into this race fit but flat. I just didn't have my sharpness that I had two weeks earlier. I figured, based on the summer of racing, I was in mid-28 shape in ideal conditions. Would I still be up to the task? I wasn't sure.
I met with Double and Jamie at the Pettit and drove in. Apparently, I missed a couple of calls from Woody (sorry Woody) either meeting up with Double and Jamie or driving in. Fortunately, the calls were just to let me know he was at our meeting place, not that he was lost or wouldn't make it or any bad news like that. Next year, I'll keep my phone on me with the ringer at maximum volume the whole time.
We found a good parking space maybe 1/4-1/2 mile from the starting line just off the course. We walked up to our meeting area and found Woody and met Laura, Woody's significant other. Cameron quickly showed up and we all got to chatting. It was great seeing the guys I haven't seen for years, catching up with everyone and meeting Laura, another great person and runner who we can hopefully add to the Team HillRunner.com roster next year.
A little later, Ed showed up, we got a few team pictures (I'll try to get one and post it later), then headed out to the road as warmup time was nearing. We got a bit separated so I began warming up with Woody, Laura and Ed. As we were warming up, Corina from the PRO team came by and joined us for a block or so. It was great seeing her out there. Then, she peeled off as the team headed to my car to drop team gear. Shortly after, Ed and I split from Woody and Laura and did the rest of our warmup on our own. After we made our way back to the start line, it was great as it always is to see all the runners I see way too infrequently. I chatted with Rick Stefanovic and Jim Gross for a short time, I said hi to a few others and I completed my warmup with a few strides. As we were lining up, I ended up making my way next to Bango (the Milwaukee Bucks mascot). We gave each other a high five, then we traded a few elbows lining up, cross country style.
At the gun, I realized that I got on the correct side of the road: the slow side. Bango took the lead on our side and a couple of other runners edged ahead of me. Bango called it a day at about 100 yards, the others crossed over to the other side where there was a swarm of runners getting out hard. Now, I was all alone in the lead on the left side of the median. That was kind of fun, even though I could see probably 100 runners ahead of me on the other side. Once we lost the median, I was probably around 50th place and moving up. The deeper I got into the first mile, though, the more I noticed both a slight headwind and the heat. Neither was a real problem in itself at that point but I could tell both were going to take something out of me.
I cruised through the mile mark without hearing a split. Into mile 2, I held position through the eastbound part, then took the turn northbound. Going up a slight incline after the turn, I heard someone coming up behind me. Soon, George Ogutu was there on my shoulder. I decided I'd let him take the lead and hang with him for a while. He moved ahead and, immediately, Jim Gross was on my shoulder. I ran with George and Jim basically for a good portion of miles 2 and 3, each of us rotating into the lead at times as we felt good. I cruised through mile 2 in 11:57, slower than I was hoping for but not a disaster, especially given the warmth and the headwind we had been facing for the whole race to this point. Still, I wanted to get on track for something faster. We hit a slight decline and I leaned into it, moving back ahead of Jim and George. I wasn't trying to run away, just get a more honest pace going. It seemed to work to some extent, they both hung with me and we seemed to be going a bit faster. After a bit, Jim took the lead and we were again trading off.
Nearing the end of mile 3, I was having a little trouble keeping up with Jim. George had fallen behind us Down the hill to the lakefront and the 3 mile mark, I used the downhill to pull even with Jim. That didn't last long, though. As soon as the downhill was over, he pulled away and I couldn't respond. 3 miles in 17:57. Not thrilled but I'm battling at least.
I told Ed mile 4 is a good chance to move. It's a tough mile mentally and does a lot of damage to a lot of people. You can pass a lot of people here. I told him to count the number of people he passes in this mile. I decided to do the same. Even though Jim was getting away from me, there was another guy he was already passing who I thought I could get. It took a long time to pull him in but I eventually did. I then got one more before the 4 mile mark so, with nobody passing me, my net gain in mile 4 was 2 positions. Not outstanding but moving in the right direction.
Shortly after the 4 mile mark, I heard someone behind me again. I tried to keep him behind me but I just couldn't. As he was moving up for the pass, I told myself I can at least go with. George then shot by me and I just couldn't go with. I just didn't have enough left to even attempt to maintain his pace. Not long after that, I heard someone else behind me. Again, I tried to keep him behind me but just couldn't. Next thing I know, Rick is going by me. Again, I tried to maintain contact but just didn't have anything left. I battled in, could barely even muster up a kick when I saw the finish line and crossed, knowing I gave it everything I had, in 29:48. Not what I was looking for going into the race but I knew I gave it everything I had and ran the best race I could have on that day.
Team HillRunner.com had a good showing. Double came in 10 seconds behind me in 29:58. Cameron and Woody were almost equally close to each other, finishing in 30:56 and 31:11 respectively. Ed rounded out the team scoring in 32:19, which I believe was a PR. Jamie struggled in the heat but still finished in 34:38. All around, a good day in not ideal conditions.
We were third team overall and first in the corporate division with a 2:34:12 time posted by our top 5 runners, for an average of 30:51. Second in our division was 2:43:59. The PRO team ended up in the community division, winning that division in 2:23:20, with the Marquette (MU) Running Club second in 2:25:39. These divisions still baffle me. Every time I talk with the Al's Run people, I'm told HillRunner.com belongs in the corporate division. I'd think PRO belongs in the same division as us but I'll take first in the division I'm consistently told to enter our team in.
It was good catching up with the guys who could make it out to my place after the race and strategizing for next year. We once again have a title to defend!