Personal and Team HillRunner.com race report: 2019 Al’s Run

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    • #64583
      Ryan
      Keymaster

      Team HillRunner.com
      Team HillRunner.com: Andrea, Josh, Ed, Ryan, Double, Cameron

      Al’s Run is always a special event for me because of Team HillRunner.com and the awesome members of the HillRunner.com community who are willing to represent this site. This year, after the challenges I’ve faced over the summer (documented at least in part on my Hootie Hustle report) I was less looking forward to my own running at this race but still very much looking forward to seeing our wonderful team members.

      As has become custom, the team got together before the race and had some time to catch up, relax and discuss goals before warming up. As for goals, for various reasons, nobody was coming out swinging for the fences. We all wanted to do the best we could on the day, of course, but for the most part there seemed to be quite a bit of uncertainty of what that meant. Personally, given the summer I had, I thought it would take a near perfect race to come in around 33 flat so that was my goal.

      We then headed out for our typical warmup and got ready for the race as we all needed. I split from the team to change into my racing flats and singlet and it looked like others split off as needed to take care of their own personal pre-race needs.

      At the start, I ended up lining up with Cameron to my left and a guy who seemed like a pretty serious runner but was wearing a walker’s bib (with no timing chip) to my right.

      At the start, I got out pretty well, with Cameron getting just ahead of me. He reminded me of my first mile goal (just settle into things and see if I could hold back to 6:45-6:50 to ease into it). I eased off just a bit with that reminder but felt like I was running easy.

      I believe it was about 100 yards in when a basketball made it onto the course. I had to do my best steeplechase impersonation (which is pretty pathetic) to get over it, felt the tightness in my left hamstring as I went up and over the ball, but fortunately cleared it without incident.

      After that, the rest of the first mile was pretty uneventful until, about 100 yards before the mile marker, my watch chimed for the 1 mile split. I knew right away that my GPS was messed up in the downtown buildings but I still glanced to just get a sense of how I was doing with my pacing. I literally did a double take when I was 5:54. Wanting a 6:45-6:50 mile, I knew I was way fast but this didn’t feel that fast. I was still feeling good.

      When I did get to the mile mark, I heard a 6:09 called out. I was about a second or so back yet so I figured I cruised through the mile in about 6:10-6:11.

      Then on to the second mile, where I know I always give back time. I wasn’t going to fight it but I did want to be a bit more aggressive than I was in the first mile. I did some passing, some people passed me. No big deal. I just ran this one out without anything exciting and heard 13:00 called out. That was slower than I was expecting but, heck, I’m still on 6:30 pace which is still way ahead of target. And I’m feeling ready to pick up the pace.

      So that’s what I did. Entering mile 3, I eased into a slightly faster effort. I passed a few people, then eyed up a couple Marquette jerseys. I worked my way up to them and passed them without trouble. Then another Marquette jersey came up on me running pretty hard. I tried to stay with him and at least stayed close through most of mile 3. As we approached Lafayette Hill, I figured I could lean into this downhill toward the lake and close what gap did form. I did that and cruised through mile 3 in 19:27. Still holding 6:30 pace, could I be in line for a low 32? That would blow the doors off my expectations.

      Into mile 4, this is the mile I like to take care of business on. I was hoping the Marquette guy would stay with me as I push the pace in this mile and he was making every effort to, even passing me a time or two, as we picked off runners one by one. Early in this mile, I also picked up sight of Cameron up ahead. He was a fair distance ahead at this point but I thought, if I can just close some in this mile, maybe I’d have a chance to run with him for part of the final mile. That would be fun.

      Cameron was taking far better tangents than most others in mile 4 and he led a couple guys into running better tangents also just as I was closing to make the pass. I was hoping I could quickly blow by on the inside while they were hugging the outside curb but no such luck. A few did let me do this but two made me work a little harder. Just before getting to the War Memorial and mile 4, another one made me work harder. As I approached to pass, he picked up the pace to hold me off. That lasted a bit, then he ended up a step or two behind me and we went that way through mile 4, which I believe was somewhere in the 25:30s.

      At this point, Cameron was still a decent but not impossible distance ahead. I could catch him but it would be hard. Then, potential disaster struck. My left shoelace came untied. I hate the laces on my current racing flats. I’m seriously considering changing them. Even double knotted, there is no guarantee they won’t come untied and that’s just what happened now. With less than a mile to go, though, I knew I only had one choice. Run with my shoe untied. I let it get into my head for a few seconds, then told myself to crush those thoughts. Instead, I changed the thoughts to being mad at myself over this and used that aggression to run with a bit more aggression. This I think neutralized any negative effects of running with one shoe untied and made the who experience a wash.

      I quickly noticed that the runners up ahead were not making the usual right turn into the Third Ward before finishing by the Summerfest grounds. It looks like we had a detour. I didn’t know what this meant for the finish line but figured all I can do is assume we’re going to run about the right distance and do some quick calculations in my head. I was still closing on Cameron and fully had my sights set on him. As long as they didn’t stop us short, I figured I had a chance to catch him. As we rounded the turn toward the Summerfest gate, I had the impression we might be finishing at the gate. That would be way too early, though, so I didn’t take off. Someone else has the same impression, though, as he blasted by me. It turns out the finish wasn’t there. We continued on and he faded but hung tough, better than I would expect after the way he took off.

      Now, I was closing on Cameron. The only question was how far we’d go before the finish line. I couldn’t see the finish yet so I knew I had some time. I tried so hard to pick up the pace but couldn’t even tell if I succeeded. However, I was closing on Cameron. Eventually, I was there. As I passed on his left, I tried to offer a word of encouragement and continued to give it all I could. It didn’t feel like I was sprinting but I was carrying a decent pace. My only concern now was that there were walkers finishing on the runner side. I wasn’t sure if they would get through the finish line before I would or if they would block me. Nothing I can do, though, short of getting there as soon as possible so nobody behind me could pass in a moment of confusion. Fortunately, the walkers did clear the finish line just before I got there and I was able to finish without incident.

      Cameron was a few seconds behind me, we congratulated each other and then I doubled back to catch the rest of the team finishing. A couple minutes later, I saw Josh coming in with a hot finish. Just behind him was Ed, with Double just behind Ed.

      It was interesting to see our finish times, given that none of us ran together during the race:

      41 Ryan Hill 31:30.8
      43 Gerald Cameron 31:34.2
      76 Josh Jackett 33:20.9
      81 Edward Pankow 33:30.3
      84 David Dehart 33:38.6

      To her credit, Andrea who is laid up from running right now while recovering from a knee injury still came out and did the walk. A little extra thanks to her for coming out and representing even while she couldn’t run.

      The team overall did quite well. I believe everyone beat expectations and we ended up finishing 5th overall, less than 5 minutes out of a top 3 spot. Cameron was concerned that the course might have been short and I’ve tried to convince myself that it was but, when I look at the map, I just can’t see how. It looks like as much was added on by running through the Summerfest grounds as was removed by not running through the Third Ward. Maybe it was a little off but I don’t think it could have been by a significant amount.

      Personally, I’m ecstatic with this. I seriously thought going in that it would take a perfect race and maybe a bit of a miracle to break 33 minutes given the summer I had. I never would have expected mid-31. That said, I think I’m still going to shut it down after this and begin thinking about 2020. I have one more 5K in October but I’ll run it well rested and maybe with a touch of base.

      Individual results
      Team results

      Garmin data (you can see things got a little funny in the first couple of miles due to the buildings)

    • #64602
      ksrunner
      Participant

      Ryan, Thanks for sharing your race reports and challenges. Great effort at Al’s Run.

      Sadly, though I read them at a perfect time, I did not learn from it and I went and made my own bad decisions which have set me back. I’ve been struggling with Achilles issues. While I’ve been waiting to get back up to speed, I decided I would start by walking. The approach that I took was to decide how much time I would like to spend running and walk for that amount of time. Gradually, I would incorporate running into my walks — increasing the run/walk ratio until I am running the full time. I started with just 3-4 30s runs over the course of 60-90 minutes of walking and progressed to approximately 90s run / 90s walk. I’ve gotten excited about the progression and my goal of running a sub-5 mile in 2020. But, on Monday (I read your posts on Sunday.), I tried 2 min running with 90s walk and over did it. In hindsight, I recognize that my body was telling me that I should back off from the 90s run/90s walk ratio, but I wanted to progress. I ended up aborting my plan and just walking home the last two miles. I’ve taken a couple of days off and tomorrow I will start again with 100% walking. It is frustrating, but I need to remember that I can only do what my body will currently allow and that I should back off at the first hint of distress to avoid future setbacks.

      Good luck with your remaining races this year.

      Steve

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