Sunday morning marked a milestone in our preparations for New York as we started three straight weekends of racing before finishing our final two high mileage, 22-mile long run weeks and then the final 2 week taper to the New York Marathon on November 6th.
After several high mileage weeks in a row, I wanted to race a bit over the next few weeks to remind my mind, legs and cardio system what it feels like to really “race”. That is one thing that I found lacking in my early marathon training cycles where I lost that eye of the tiger preparing for only one race after 18 weeks. It was easy to start clicking off the miles in the marathon forgetting that you need to be pushing it a bit, finding that somewhat comfortable “uncomfortable” feeling where race-pace lives.
Today’s event was a 5-person relay covering 26.2 miles. My teammates, all over the age of 40 were going for the Men’s Master’s Title in the event that was won last year by my good friend Scott Birk’s team. Scott, you may recall was the runner who was killed tragically when he was struck by an automobile out on his morning run earlier this spring.
Scott’s team from Riverplace would be our main competition. They had singlets made in Scott’s signature race-day black color, with his likeness on the front of their jerseys. It was a beautiful tribute to Scott, and I have to admit it had me a bit misty-eyed when I saw them before the race.
Our team – called, 5 Sorta Fast Old Guys was composed of:
Brendon Cahoon – Running the 12K leg.
Joe Marruchella – Running 10K
Lee Toowey – Running 10K
Mick Swope – Running 5K
David Boone – Final 5K
If we all ran to our abilities, it looked like we would have a chance at finishing under 2 hours and 45 minutes – a pretty smoking fast Marathon Time, which goes to show you just how “elite” the professionals who can run a 2:05 marathon truly are. Simply incredible athletes.
Pre-Race: When we arrived on-site Mick, Lee and I who carpooled together caught up with Brendon and set up camp. We retrieved our timing chip that we would have to pass from runner to runner at the exchange area and got ready for a quick warm-up.
Brendon and I went off for an easy run a little over a mile and chatted about one of the runners on the Riverplace team, Michael Budde. Michael is a tremendous local runner with a marathon PR of 2:50 in his younger days. now 44 years old, Michael is the top runner in the age group I share with Brendon, Mick, Lee and David locally.
Brendon was chatting about how he hoped to stay with Michael and keep him in contact during the race. Brendon said to me, “you know, everyone has that one runner that you just can’t seem to stick with during a race. The one who is just faster than you, but pushes you to try to hang with them”.
I took a few strides, looked over at Brendon and said, “Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. I’m warming up with him ….”
It was good for a chuckle, but is 100% true. Brendon keeps me pushing at these events, trying to close the :05 second/mile gap that he always seems to have over me no matter the distance.
Leg 1 – 12K:
After a short 5 minute delay as there appeared to be some issue up on the Capital of Texas grounds, the horn went off and Brendon thundered away. Brendon was hoping to run this leg somewhere around 45:30. It was a warm morning on Sunday, with temperatures forecast to reach 100 degrees again by the afternoon. Fall has still not arrived in Austin, and with the 12-15 mph wind that was blowing out of the Southwest, it was going to be a tough day to post a really fast split.
If anyone was up for it, it was Brendon.
The route took runners West through the circle on Auditorium Shores to the turnaround point and then back past the starting line where we caught a glimpse of Brendon locked into his pace. Like clockwork, 20 meters behind and to the right of Michael Budde.
As Brendon went off to the capital I had a Gatorade and made my final porta-poty stop. in 40 minutes or so it would be go time.
I went off for another warm-up mile and got back to the starting area for a quick sip of Gatorade 42 minutes after the race started. I said a quick “see ya” to Mick and Lee and headed up to the start line. At 45:30 I started to look for Brendon and a few seconds ticked past. Just then I saw Michael Budde come over the line in his black singlet and I started to shake loose a bit. Brendon should be behind him in just a few moments.
At the 46:20 mark I saw Brendon come into view – I ran out into the road, shot a quick two fingers in the air for Dom and took two quick hops into the air. Brendon came across the line at the 46:30 mark, about 1 minute slower than anticipated which told me everything I needed to know about the route.
It was going to be hot. Probably measure a bit long and the climb up Congress to the Capital was going to be punishing. Boom goes the dynamite.
Leg 2 – 10K:
I grabbed the timing chip strap from Brendon and took off west toward the circle. Waaaaay too fast, but I knew that was going to happen. I have been having trouble settling into anything but 5K pace over the first half mile lately, and as I closed quickly on the runner from the Riverplace team, I knew I had done it again.
The first half-mile split came in 2:52, much faster than the 3:05 I was hoping for. I slowed coming out of the turnaround and fell into a much more steady pace. Just lock in here I thought and keep it steady.
Unlike a lot of short race courses, this route had a lot of technical aspects to it. Two cone turnarounds, a long climb up Congress Avenue which would be close to 100 feet of “ups” in just under a mile, and a long rolling hill section over mile 5, when a 10K runner’s legs start to leave them.
I hit the end of the first mile with a time of 5:57. I had made a correction, but was still a bit too quick at this point. Going to pay for that later I thought.
As I made the turn up toward the Capital which loomed large up on the hill I stayed steady and my next half-mile split was spot on at 3:07. The hill got steeper as we approached the Capital grounds and I knew I would be giving back perhaps :10 or :12 seconds over this section.
3:16, 3:15 to the top, climbing a little over 82 feet. Solid, now it was time to try to get back on pace.
The next three and a half miles would start with a run down Congress. I decided to play this a little bit conservative as the temperature was in the upper 70’s and I would need to save a little bit for the return trip up Cesar Chavez to the 1st Street Bridge.
3:08, 3:08 – back to back identical splits as I took a splash of water at the aid station and tried to keep steady.
3:11, 3:11 – again smooth turnover and identical spits, but I was starting to lose a little steam as we reached the final turnaround.
Just 1 1/2 miles left before the final .20 mile kick to the finish. I grabbed another splash of water and followed the center line of the course back towards the 1st Street bridge. I thought about last year’s Run for the Water 10-Mile race that features the same route to the finish line and let my mind wander back 11 months before. A much cooler day where I ran a fast 1:03:57 on the 10-mile course.
3:08, 3:11, 3:12 were my final 1/2 miles as I hit the middle of the bridge, crested the last hill and started to push to the finish.
I had be measuring the course a bit long throughout the race and it proved to hold true as I made the final turn off of the bridge and headed back to the transition area. I hit the 6.2 mile mark about 100 yards from the finish line and ended up with a distance of 6.28 miles.
Final Time for my leg: 39:23 – 6:17 pace. I was hoping to run 6:15 and fell just :02 seconds/mile short.
All things considered after a tough week last week and a 22 miler on Sunday, hot weather and a hilly course, I’ll take it. that same effort should bode well at the IBM uptown Classic if the weather cools off a bit before next weekend’s race.
Leg 3 – 10K:
Lee posted a 10K time of just over 40:00 minutes.
Leg 4 – 5K:
Mick ran a tough 5K leg that measured long at 3.25 miles in just a hair over 20 minutes.
Leg 5 – 5K:
David took the timing chip for the final leg and he too finished just over 20 minutes.
Our team time of 2:46:55 was good enough for 1st place in the Men’s Masters Division as we were able to edge out the Riverplace team who finished second with a time of 3:02 and change.
On a hot, steamy, windy Sunday 5 sorta fast old guys ran a full marathon at just under 6:24 min./mile pace – not too shabby.
The best part of the day was honestly spending some time with some good friends and making a difference along with the other 2,500 competitors for the races charity – Junior Achievement. The real winners of the day.
I’d be lying though if I didn’t admit that winning was pretty darn satisfying. If we want to defend our title next year, we better hit the training hard. I think our showing up and taking down the team from Riverplace was akin to poking a sleeping tiger with a stick.
We better run faster of get a bigger stick next year.
Mick, Brendon, Lee and David – thanks for leaving it all out there today. You guys are the greatest.
One down, two to go on the road to New York.