Personal and Team HillRunner.com race report: 2018 Al’s Run

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    Ryan
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    Al’s Run has been a special race to me for quite a while now. It’s always so humbling to see the great people who are willing to represent HillRunner.com. This year was no exception. Before I even get started with this report, I want to thank Jerry, Dan, Dave, and Josh for joining me and representing HillRunner.com. I hope all the regulars here are thankful for these guys being out there representing us. I know thankful doesn’t even do justice to the way I feel.

    As for this year’s Al’s Run, the roster was a little light this year but we had enough to form a scoring team so we gave it our best.

    For me, I was going in one big question mark. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to break 30 minutes or not be able to break 40 minutes. My left ankle and lower leg were a big question mark. They were improving with two weeks of recovery after the alumni meet but not quickly enough. In the two days before the race, I thought they might be solid enough to get through the race but I was far from certain of that.

    On race morning, as usual, most of the guys from the west carpooled. I got a little lost going to pick up Josh so I was running later than I usually would be but we all got together and I drove into downtown Milwaukee. We still arrived in plenty of time to get a parking space basically across the street from where I usually park and get to the starting area in plenty of time. We killed some time chatting before it was warmup time.

    None of us seemed too excited for a long warmup so we decided to go a little shorter than usual. With my leg issue, I sure wasn’t complaining about that. On the way back to the starting area, I stopped by my car to try out my racing flats. I put them on and thought a stride up the hill on the street I was on would be a good test since I think the bulk of the leg issue is a strained calf. The stride didn’t feel great but I decided it felt good enough that I’d be fine in the flats. Jerry, who also stopped at the car with me, and I then went back to our team meeting spot. We found the rest of the guys and our team was complete. After some more chatting and some stretching and loosening up, we made our way to the start.

    At the start, we decided to stay on the south side of the road because there was more shade. It was a warm and sunny day so any shade pre-race is welcome. I did a few strides, then decided the north side of the street would have enough shade thanks to the trees in the median. So I did a few more strides over there, staying in the shade of the trees whenever possible. Then I was able to get a spot at the front for the start.

    At the start, I didn’t get off to a crazy fast start but that was part of my plan to deal with the leg. Run mile 1 conservatively, maybe see if I can hit somewhere around 6:00-6:10, then see how things go after that. I saw Jerry ahead of me on the other side of the street but didn’t see anyone else from the team.

    After shuffling around a bit to find the position where I belonged, I found myself late in mile 1 thinking I should try to get up with Jerry but just not feeling like I quite had it to do so. So I ended up staying behind him.

    Just before the mile mark, we cross the Milwaukee river, then start up a gradual incline as we head east from the river. This is the point where I knew I was in trouble. As soon as I started up the incline, I felt the leg. It didn’t take long until I just felt like I couldn’t get any power out of my left lower leg. I could feel the uneven gait (also called a limp) because I had no power to get up and push off the toes of my left foot.

    I ended up going through mile 1 in 6:11, though some of the guys said that they had 1 mile splits about 10 seconds faster than was being reported. Either way, 6:01 or 6:11. That’s basically the 6:00-6:10 range I was looking for. But I already knew what was coming. I knew it would get bad, I just didn’t know how bad it could get. Would I still be able to chase 32 minutes? Probably not. 35? Maybe. 40? I couldn’t rule out any possibility.

    Early in mile 2, there’s an aid station just as you go around a left turn. Approaching the aid station, I was lining up to grab a cup of water to pour over my head. Just as I got to the aid station, someone came up on my inside to pass me. Not only was this individual trying to squeeze into a place she didn’t fit but she cut me off from the aid station. I was unable to get that cup of water I felt I needed so badly. To me, that seemed like a pretty rude move. I’m sure it didn’t really affect my run but it did kind of sum up how things were going for me and would continue to go through the finish.

    The rest of mile 2 was basically watching people go by me, trying to respond but not being able to no matter how hard I tried while running on what at that time felt like 1.5 legs. I went through with a 2 mile split in the 6:50s. I don’t remember the exact split.

    Mile 3 was much like mile 2. Battling but losing ground. I went through with a 3 mile split just over 7 minutes. My cumulative time at 3 miles must have been 20:11 because I remember thinking the last 2 miles were exactly 14 minutes.

    Mile 4 is always the mile where, for me, the race is won or lost. I knew going in it was going to be ugly but I was giving everything possible because there’s no use saving anything at this point. Somewhat early in mile 3, I heard Dan’s voice behind me. As he passed, he asked me if this was the mile to sit back, I’m guessing jokingly. I told him push it this mile and he said something about wanting to have a finish. Either way, he was running it well. He passed me and was moving up on others. I ran the tangents to prevent some of the bleeding but it wasn’t a good mile. I know I got to the 4 mile mark in under 28 minutes because I thought I can still get under 35 but I don’t remember how much under.

    In the final mile, I was still doing more of the same. Trying to run as fast as I could on 1.5 legs. I saw the pictures, I wasn’t a pretty sight but I was avoiding disaster and I had to be there for my teammates. I was still third on the team and it didn’t matter anyway, everyone was scoring.

    I did what I could, still getting passed. Then, after the second to last turn, Dave goes by me. I say something like go get them and he’s off. I’m still battling but I know I’m going to have no response, even after going around the final turn.

    So I do go around the final turn and I’m right. Nothing. I cruise in with a time of 34:46 and turn around to see Josh finishing just behind me.

    So, on a bad day, I still battled through for a sub-35. Not only that but our whole team was under 35 minutes. Obviously, not the day I was looking for personally but I am thrilled with the team result. For a bunch of old guys, we did very well.

    Team results:
    Gerald Cameron: 32:26 (40th overall, 3rd 45-49)
    Dan Husslein: 33:36 (63rd overall, 6th 45-49)
    David Dehart: 34:26 (70th overall, 6th 55-59)
    Ryan Hill: 34:46 (78th overall, 5th 40-44)
    Josh Jackett: 34:49 (79th overall, 6th 35-39)

    Team: 6th overall, 2:50:05 (340 points would have had us 4th in cross country style scoring but we know they score by time going in).

    Overall individual results: http://www.hermescleveland.com/roadracing/results/2018/Briggs/OVERALL.htm
    Age group results: http://www.hermescleveland.com/roadracing/results/2018/Briggs/AGEGROUP.htm#%207
    Team results: http://www.hermescleveland.com/roadracing/results/2018/Briggs/TEAMS.htm

    My watch didn’t start so no Garmin data.

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