This article was originally posted by ksrunner at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.
Last week was the KC Corporate Challenge Track meet. The meet runs in the evenings Monday – Thursday. On Tuesday, I ran the mile run and on Thursday, I ran the 1200m leg of the distance medley relay and the 800m run.
After the half marathon a few weeks ago, I knew going in that there was just one guy to beat. Joe had beaten me soundly in the half marathon, I thought that I might have a better chance in the short races, but I knew that he still had a fitness advantage.
The weather last week was perfect and the track had been resurfaced since I had last been there. It was very nice. In KCCC, they accept two people from each company in 10 year age groups and then allow then on race day, you compete in 5-year age groups. This helps to keep the numbers down a bit, but in the middle age groups there are still lots of competitors. In the 100m and 400m on other nights, they run heats of eight until they get everyone in, but in the mile and 800m runs they put everyone together except for the biggest age groups (30-34 & 35-39) which they break into two heats. Still, we had just one heat for my age group with 41 runners in both the 800m and mile.
For the mile, I knew that Joe would be tough, so I planned just to stay close and hope that I could kick. Before I’d run the half marathon, I had thought ahead to the mile run and had hoped to break 5:00, but now, I just wanted to compete well. The track meet was running well behind schedule. I was glad that I had chosen to start my warm up after the relays completed instead of according to the time printed on the schedule. Joe mentioned that he had started his warm up too early, but I doubted that it would affect him too negatively. I was right. When the gun went off, I found myself unprepared for what happened. Joe took off at a much faster pace than I’d anticipated and I just tried to hang on. He went through the first 409 meters in around 66 and I was a second or two behind. I let him get away a bit and similar to in the half marathon, I hoped that he would come back to me later. His lead expanded a over the middle two laps, but then I began an attempt to reel him in. I did not make much progress and finished the race about 6 seconds back (4:57 to his 4:51). Third place finished in 5:34. I found out later that Joe was making some effort to pursue the record for our age group which remains at 4:40 (currently held by Mark Curp). Talking to him after the race, I learned that he would not be running in the distance medley relay on Thursday because he felt that he had a better shot at the 800m record of 2:09. His company has a lot more depth in distance runners and would only give up a second or two by running a younger runner who Joe had beaten at tryouts. That evening, I was understandably down about my chances on Thursday. The way Joe had taken off from the gun had hit me like a physical blow — affecting me both physically and mentally. The other thought that I pursued that night was that I want that weapon (hammering from the gun) in my repertoire. I’ve generally been the type of runner to run as easy as possible. Back in the day, I had the fitness and a nice kick to pull it off. That does not seem to be the case any more. Despite some disappointment, I felt that I had put forth a good effort. It just was not enough for the win that day.
Race time arrived on Thursday a bit earlier than on Tuesday since I had to run a relay before the individual 800m. I did not know who in my company would be running the other legs, but I was unaware of any particularly fast people being available and assumed that I would get the baton with a disadvantage. I did not give myself much time to warm up and did some of my warm up in the homestretch while waiting my turn with the baton. My goal was to pass at least two other teams. Anything less and I would feel that I would have been better off skipping the relay to give a better effort in the 800m. In the relay, our 800m runner performed fairly well finishing somewhere in the middle, but our two 400m runners gave up some ground. I do not know if I got the baton in last or second to last. There were 3 teams who had lapped us and some other teams who handed off just before us. I caught all of the latter in the first lap. Then I ran the next lap chasing the next person ahead of me. It turns out that they had lapped us and on my third and final lap there was no one in front of me. I maintained a good effort until about 150m to go. At that point, I glanced over my shoulder and saw that there was no one especially close, so I cruised into the finish in an attempt to save a bit for the 800m. One race down and I had achieved my goal.
Does anyone else remember a day when two races in the same evening were no big deal? As I waited for the 800m, my legs felt fatigued. I was still committed to get after it in the 800m and not to give Joe anything, but I was a bit concerned. After they got through all of the divisions of relays, I did a light warm up while they ran the older age groups in the men’s 800m. Then I headed to the starting line. Talking to Joe before the race, he mentioned overhearing a guy talking about Tuesday, "I thought I might have a chance in the mile, but two guys just took off …" I knew that unless there was a 400m/800m runner who was stepping up to give us some competition, that this race would be the same. The only such runner that I knew of I had spoken to on Tuesday and he said that he’s "semi-retired" and just running the relays this year provided that his knees hold out. Since he was there on Thursday, I knew that his knees must have held up. They started the race in a double water fall start. I decided to start on the inside of the outer waterfall. I am not always good about getting out quickly and have been cut off before, so I like to start a bit more outside. I almost wished that I had stared on the outside of the second waterfall. One guy got out very quick and could have cut me off, but he left me some room on the inside and I charged through. Joe had started in the inside waterfall and when I cut in, I settled right behind him. I was surprisingly comfortable with the pace, but after the first lap, I knew that I would not hold it and again Joe got away from me. In the end, Joe finished just off the record in 2:10 and I was again 6 seconds back in 2:16. Third place crossed the line in 2:20. Again, I felt that I had put forth a very good effort. As I came out of the last turn, I heard some cheering that I did not think was for me and I pushed hard to the line to hold off anyone who might be coming.
Though I had hoped to win my KCCC races, I enjoyed competing with Joe — probably more than I would have enjoyed winning a relatively easy race. These races have also served to provide motivation. I do not have any racing planned, but I do have a renewed desired to train. I don’t always need races to look forward to in order to enjoy training. Though it is still distant, it may be that next year’s KCCC is enough to look forward to.