Posts Tagged ‘Summer Sunstroke Stampede’

Wednesday night marked the 7th race in the 2011 Sunstroke Summer Stampede race series.  I had to miss last week’s race as I was traveling on the East Coast, but with 3 more races needed to be elibible for any year ending awards, I decided to take advantage of the slightly lower temperatures and race again just 4 days after the Holland Cornfest 5K on Saturday.

Compliments of a pretty significant thunderstorm that rolled through Northwest Austin at 1:00 a.m. Wednesday morning, temperatures dropped 10-12 degrees from where they had been over the last several weeks.  This was our first rainfall of any kind since May 30th, breaking a streak of 17 consecutive days that reached 100 degrees.

Oh yeah, and summer only started on Wednesday.

This was going to be a tough race to predict as I had really been training hard since our race on Saturday.

12 miles at 7:24 pace on Sunday.

15 Miles on the Tri-Bike Monday morning.

1500 Meter Open Water Swim Monday afternoon.

6.25 Miles at 7:17 pace Tuesday morning.

Another 1500 Meters Open Water on Tuesday afternoon.

My legs were definitely feeling it from all the racing and training.  I was not exactly showing up with a knife to a gun fight, but I knew that I had very little chance of running my fastest race in the series on Wednesday night.  I was just a little bit on the tired side.

But it was cooler out ….. maybe that would help me a bit I thought.  That is the funny thing about racing.  You never really “know” what is going to happen.

Pre Race:  Dawn and Landry were not going to be able to make it to the race on Wednesday night, so my choice was between running my warm-up to the race from the house (2 miles) or driving to the trail head and running my warm-up there.  I decided to run over to the race from the house after a little bit of back and forth.  I knew my legs were a little heavy, so a good warm-up would certainly help them.

I wanted to gradually ramp up my pace and finish the two miles in 16:00 minutes.  Leaving the driveway my legs didn’t have a lot of snap to them.  The temperature felt a great deal cooler at only 90 degrees, amazing how nice 90 can feel when compared to the 100 or 101 we raced in the last few Wednesday nights.

By the time I pulled up at the race start, my legs had loosened up a bit and started feeling “runnerish”, still not perfect by any means, but not enough to change our race strategy.  My warm-up took 16:06.  Pretty darn close.  My friends Joe McClellon, Brendan Cahoon, Sean Lilly and Tom Munier all made it to the race.  There were some fast runners in attendance on Wednesday night, I wouldn’t have any problem finding some folks to chase.

Mile 1:  I was looking to complete mile one with 1/2 mile splits of 2:53 and 3:05 for an opening 5:58.  At the start of the race I settled in around the 7th or 8th position and started making my way around the lake.  My legs definitely didn’t have their usual get up and go, my pace felt a little bit labored, but I decided to just hang in and see where it took me.

The first 1/2 mile came in at 2:49, definitely a bit too fast given the circumstances.  I tried to slow down my next 1/2 mile and get back on target.  This is a tough part of the course to manage as it can be fairly technical with a few small looping turns, a hill and then a 90 degree turn up onto the surface of the dam.  You are never really “locked in” to a consistent pace – so managing effort is all you can really hope to do. 

As my watch beeped my second 1/2 mile split came in at 3:08.  Mile one – 5:57.  Just :01 ahead of my planned opening mile.

Mile 2:  I was pretty encouraged by my first mile and took aim at a runner ahead of me.  He had gone out quickly and had been more than :20 or so in front of me through the first mile.  I increased my effort just slightly and posted a third 1/2 mile of 3:05.  In the next 1/4 mile we would be approaching the turnaround point and the water stop, I thought that if I kept steady I would catch up to him before we made it to the aid station.

I pulled past the runner, grabbed a quick sip of water and headed back towards the hill that would take us up and over the dam to the finish.  My fourth 1/2 mile came in at 3:01 for a second mile of 6:06.  A pair of really solid opening miles on this course, but I could feel my legs going away from me racing again so close to Saturday’s effort up in Holland.

Mile 3:  As we hit the incline of the hill I heard footsteps closing in on me off of my right shoulder.  I had a feeling it would be my friend Sean Lilly as he had been hanging back a bit from me at the turnaround.  Out of the corner of my eye I spotted his blue race flats and Sean cruised past me on the climb.

As we reached the concrete switchback that takes the trail up and over the dam my fifth 1/2 mile came in at 3:18.  :05 seconds slower than our race here two weeks ago when we set our personal best on the Brushy Creek Course.  I had given back most of my margin vs. that performance.  It was going to be a tough last .60.

I hit the dam without anyone to chase and with nobody on my back.  This has been the theme of my races this summer, with only the exception of the race back on May 25th when I was duking it out with Sarah Mark over the closing 1/2 mile, I have been racing virtually all alone in the closing stages of these 5K races.  It makes it tough to keep pushing hard to the end of the course, but it is definitely good for building on that mental toughness to keep running hard when your body is sending you very different signals.

At the last turn before the final 1/10 of a mile my watch beeped with a final 1/2 mile split of 3:13.  I had fallen off pretty badly over the last mile posting a 6:31.

My closing miles this year in the series on the Brushy Creek Course have been:

Race 1:  6:32

Race 2:  6:28

Race 3:  6:26

Last Night: 6:31

Definitely a outlier as we had been trending down on our closing mile since the series started.  My final mile in Holland on Saturday came in at 6:05.  Now the elevation over that final mile was -8 feet net, comapred to the +46 feet net on the Brushy Creek Course, but it was still a bit disappointing that I couldn’t hold on just a bit longer.

Finish:  The final .10 came and went in :42 seconds for a total time of 19:19 tying to the second my course PR from two weeks prior.  All things considered I should be happy with my race just 4 days after racing so well and so hard at Holland, posting a course record there of 18:51.  But somehow finishing with the same time as two weeks ago is bittersweet.  On rested legs I think we could have held on a bit better over that final mile.

We’ll get another chance on July 6th.

Post Race:  My time of 19:19 was good for 8th place overall, 1st place in the 40-44 year old Age group, My friend Brendon took home the Male Masters award with his time of 18:46.  Sean ran a great race in 19:04 just a couple of seconds short of his PR at the 5K distance for 7th place, 3rd in his age group of 35-39. 

Tom finished at 24:16, good for 5th in his age group of 45-49.

After catching up with my friends for a bit, it was time to run back to the house for a 2-mile cool down.  I was looking to once again cover the distance in 16:00 minutes.

The miles ticked by quickly and as I crested the hill and made the left turn onto our street I saw Dawn, Landry and Kayla out for their walk.  I ran down to the house, clicked off my watch and joined them for their evening walk around the neighborhood.  I even took Landry for a couple quick strides in the B.O.B. stroller.  She seemed to like going fast a bit.

My time for the cool-down run?  16:00 flat.  Pretty locked in right now, feeling good as the calendar flips to July and our first triathlon is now just over a month away.  Still a long way to go with our training, but things are certainly looking like July 31st might be my most “interesting” birthday out of the 44 I’ve had.

How many years do you have the chance to possibly drown, maybe experience a bike crash at over 20 mph and run 3 miles as fast as you can when you are hungry and tired ….. sounds like fun to me 🙂

Wednesday nights for the next couple of months means racing as the Summer Sunstroke Stampede proceeds through a 12-week race schedule.

To be eligible for any year-end series awards, runners must compete in at least 8 of the 12 races.  Your 8 best times are averaged together and awards are given for 1st Place Male and Female, 1st Place Masters Male and Female (over 40 years old) and the top 3 finishers in each age group.

I decided that this year I was going to make a real effort to race in at least 8 events, which means that on two occasions at least, I would have to drive downtown through evening rush hour traffic to make it to the town lake trail.  6 races on my home court, literally on the trail that runs behind our home, 6 races in enemy territory.

The downtowners”.

Lots of fast runners down there, heck, there are a lot of fast runners and great athletes in Austin.  It’s a combination of the ability to train year round due to our great weather, the access to all kinds of great endurance sport venues to race and train as well as the city’s own “vibe”.  It’s pretty much “cool” to do anything you want in Austin, whether that pursuit is frisbee golf, pitching washers, hiking, rock climbing, cycling, running, sculpting or painting.  Whatever you’re “into” it’s pretty widely accepted in Austin.

We’re still “keeping it wierd” 24/7 here in the Live Musical Capital of the world.

Pre Race:  This week was going to be a little more complicated from a logistics standpoint.  Not only did I need to drive downtown for the race, easily an hour with traffic that time of night.  But Super-wife Dawn is out-of-town on business.  Little Miss Landry was going to need a sitter while Dad was out racing.

I picked up our little Angel at Daycare just before 5:00 p.m. and dropped her off at Aunt Sarah and Uncle Tedd’s house to play with their 3 1/2 month old Tyler.  Landry now almost 9 months old is a pretty happy little camper most of the time.  She would just need a couple of hours of attention, a diaper change and maybe a switch into her PJ’s.  I’d be back before she knew it.

After dropping off Land I took my place in the long line of cars snaking their way down Mopac into downtown Austin.  I drank my Gatorade, ate my pre-race bagel, made a few phone calls and after 45 minutes of patient driving pulled up to the race.  Not too bad actually.  I tried not to think about the fact that the drive took twice as long as the race would, but I paid my $10 and warmed up along the trail.

I ran into some of my good runner buddies, Sean, Tom and Brendon.  First time I saw Brendon since our post Austin Marathon dinner out at the Salt-Lick.  He continues to build on an amazing year of training and racing, coming off of a PR at the Boston Marathon and another PR at the 5K distance a week ago at the Chuys’s 5K here in Austin.

I would be racing for 2nd place Male Masters with Brendon in the race.  Fine with me.  If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.  No other way around it.

Mile 1:  Being a new course I was unsure just what lay ahead.  I felt as if I should lock in behind a runner named Derek that I met last week on the Brushy Creek Course.  He bested me by 7 seconds during our last race, I felt like we ran pretty evenly paced.

With little fanfare we lined up more or less single file as the trail is very narrow at the start and there is a ton of people out for their afternoon exercise downtown on the Town Lake Trail.  Where we might have passed a dozen people last week during our 3 mile race on the Brushy Creek Trail, we would have to navigate that many just in the first 400 Meters.

At the start we crossed the mat and fell into a comfortably hard pace.  I was running about 6th or 7th and kept my eye on Brendon up ahead.  He was locking in somewhere under 5:55 pace, I backed off and tried to hang about :10 behind that for the opening mile.

My legs felt like they were starting to get some life back in them, but still not quite where we were at the end of last summer.  Breathing felt good and I kept my position just behind Derek over the first mile.  I glanced down on the beep just as I was pulling next to Derek at the end of mile number 1. 6 minutes, 8 seconds.  Pretty much spot on pace.

Mile 2:  As mile 2 began the course got a little confusing.  We had to make a left turn onto another part of the trail, when the natural inclination was to run straight on.  Derek and I were essentially neck and neck at this point and he was hammering along headed straight.  I saw the runners ahead of us already heading up the left side of the trail.  I leaned into Derek and nudged him left with my forearm.

He saw what I was seeing and we quickly changed course and continued to chase.

This part of the course got fairly technical as we had to navigate a few baseball fields where there were 10-12 year olds playing, spectators walking across the trail, children on bicycles – more or less an obstacle course.  No bueno.

We crossed into and over a parking lot, then another 1/10 of a mile to the turnaround point.  I grabbed a quick splash of water and retraced through the congestion.  Finally clear of all of that craziness I came up on the mile 2 mark.  At the beep my watch recorded 6:24 pace.  It felt like we should have been closer to 6:15 from an effort standpoint, but with all the twisting, turning and dodging I was not too surprised.

Mile 3:  At the start of mile number 3 I noticed that once again, I was all alone.  The third straight race where I didn’t have a competitor ahead of me close enough to chase.  I had dropped Derek at some point and could not hear any footsteps behind me.  I was running behind my friend Sean but he appeared to be a solid :15 ahead of me.

I locked in on effort and just tried to hold my track position.  I was running 8th, relatively sure that the only Masters runner ahead of me was Brendon.  Mile 3 came in at 6:26 pace, just 1/10 to go.

The Finish:  I saw the finish line clock up on the horizon and I went into a little bit more of a kick.  5:42 over the final 1/10.  Total time of 19:37.

8th place overall, 2nd place Male Masters, 1st Place Male 40-44.

Another solid race but I still feel like I’m not quite getting after it over miles 2 and 3 at the 5K distance.  We were able to drop :05 off of our time a week ago.  But those two races are hard to compare.  Different courses, different conditions.  The real test will be next Wednesday when we return to the course on the Brushy Creek Trail and see how we do vs. our week 1 time of 19:42.

This Saturday is the Congress Avenue Mile.  I’ll be taking Thursday and Friday away from running and cycling, just a swim on Thursday afternoon at a relaxed pace before my date-night with Landry.

I am going to try to rest the legs and hopefully they will rebound from all the heavy training we have been doing and have some snap, crackle and pop on Saturday.

Last year we ran the CAM in 5:26.

A year older.  Not sure I’m any wiser.  But we’re going to let it all hang out on Saturday.

The one thing I remember from last year’s race was how strong I closed out the final 200 meters.  That led me to believe that I didn’t push hard enough over the first 1,000.  I was holding back a little too much.  I won’t make that mistake again on Saturday.

I might make a completely different one in going out too fast, but that is what is so exciting about this sport.  There are always new ways to challenge yourself, and always new ways to succeed sometimes and other times fail.  Rarely in life do you get a “do over”, but with running it seems like there is always another 5K, another half-marathon or marathon just around the corner.

As long as I still want it – I’m going to keep chasing, keep learning.  I haven’t run the perfect race just yet.

Maybe Saturday is the day.

It had been 5 weeks and three days since the Cooper River Bridge Run.  In a year where it seemed like I had been racing every 3 or 4 weeks, the last month plus away from racing seemed like forever.  Wednesday night’s 5K was the kick-off race of the Summer Sunstroke Stampede.  The S.S.S. is a 12-race 5K Series that runs every week through July 27th.

I was very interested to see where we were last night as I had taken 5 weeks away from running with some knee inflammation leading up to the Cooper River Bridge Run.  In fact, that “race” was my first run of any kind since late February.

I had been able to run injury and pain free for a solid month, gotten back into doing some up-tempo work and resumed my hill repeat training, but I knew we were a far cry from the fitness level we had reached at the end of last Summer’s race season.

Last summer during my first Summer Sunstroke Stampede race I finished the Brushy Creek Course with a time of 20:23.  I was hoping that I would be able to break through the 20:00 minute barrier last night, running something around 19:45. 

That would be a great place to start as my “course record” for the Brushy Creek trail race was 19:29 last July during the 9th race of the series.  The course is fairly technical with a lot of turns, a crushed granite track and a long 4/10 of a mile hill to crest to the top of the dam over the final mile of the race.

It is not a “fast track” by any means, but it is a great race to help you learn how to race on tired legs and to push pace over the 3.1 mile distance.  I’m convinced that running this series last year propelled me to my 5K PR of 18:12 that I ran on two separate occasions in the fall and winter of last year on relatively flat road courses.

So even though this was not an “A” race by any means, I was very interested to see how I would fare and just how far away we are right now from where we ended 2010.

Pre-Race:

I deviated slightly from my nighttime pre-race routine last night and ate a little heartier.  Usually I will just have a bagel with peanut butter and a banana about 1 ½ hours before the start of the race, but I felt like I was a little bit hungrier than usual.

I made a bagel sandwich with turkey and cheese to go along with my bagel and bottle of Gatorade.  This proved to be a little too much for me in hindsight as my stomach felt too full and heavy during the race.  I’ll need to make an adjustment for next week.

I took care of Kayla, filled her water bowl and patted her on the head as I left for the race.  Somewhat of a ritual that the two of us have gone through for close to a dozen races now.  It’s always great to know that she’ll be just as excited to see me when I get home no matter how well or how poorly I run.

I arrived at the race, paid my $10 entry fee and wrapped my timing chip band around my ankle.  Minimalist running for this series for sure.  Shoes, socks, shorts and a timing chip.  No shirt, no bib, no muss, no fuss.

I ran into my friends Dan and Erin who drove over from Georgetown for the race, Tom from S. Austin and Sean from Cedar Park.  We all chatted for a bit until 10 minutes before the gun when I went for a quick jog and some strides to get loose.

Go time.

Mile 1:  One of my favorite parts of this series is the low-key start.  The starter will walk up, say to the crowd, “you guys ready to take your marks?”  When we nod yes, they instruct us, “O.K., let’s go.” And the first runner to head across the timing mat starts the race.

Last night that runner just happened to be me, which was pretty cool.  I was able to lead the pack out over the first 3/10 of a mile or so before the younger, faster stronger men passed me by.  Typically I will head out over the first mile of a 5K trying to settle in right around 6:00 min./mile pace.  With all of the variables going on with my injury and how long it had been since I ran a 5K (New Year’s Day) – I thought something around 6:05-6:10 would be about right.

I found myself in a comfortable pace around the half mile mark and just stayed with it, not paying any attention to my watch.  I was going to run this race “by feel” as I really wanted it to serve as a litmus test for our fitness level. 

I trailed the lead pack of 5 runners around the trail past the lake and up onto the dam.  At the mile mark my watch beeped with an opening mile split of 6:07

Huh, I mumbled to myself, just about spot on.

Mile 2:  The second mile of the course starts on top of the dam.  It is flat, concrete and pretty fast.  What should be a fast split on the course however changes on you pretty quickly as there is a switch back that the runners must tackle bending around 180 degrees to the left, then another 180 degrees back to the right before you can thunder downhill.

It is tough to tell how much time the turns cost you exactly, but it seems that it is about a :05-:10 second “penalty” vs. being able to just run in a straight line at 5K Pace.  Last year I was trying to run this mile in the 6:10 – 6:15 range most weeks.

This is the point of the 5K where I always seem to find myself doing some soul searching.

Face it, if you are racing a 5K the amount of time that you actually “feel good” is infinitesimally small.  For me it is just a matter of managing the pain as it starts to move from your legs up into your chest and arriving at whatever “uncomfortable pace” you are “comfortable with” running.

We hit the turnaround point and I was able to grab a quick splash of water before we made our way back toward the hill we had just come down from the top of the dam.  I glanced down at my watch when I heard the beep marking the end to mile number 2, 6:18 pace.  Still looking pretty good.

Mile 3:  This mile takes runners back up to the top of the dam and through the switchback.  It is a 60 foot climb over 4/10 of a mile, about the equivilant of a 6-story building, which is not too terrible a grade, but like most things in real estate – it is all about location, location, location.  After pushing hard for 13 minutes, the hill comes at a pretty cruel part of the race.

I focused on even effort, trying to keep the legs churning at 6:15 effort, even though I knew my actual pace was much slower than that.  I heard a runner over my shoulder who was closing on me.  It was going to be hard to hold him off as I could feel my legs getting heavier and heavier.

Last summer I remember being able to power up the incline to the top of the dam and pick up a lot of space on my competitors.  I was just not at the same level at this point in the year and I was a bit more cautious with my pace on the climb.  Not quite as reckless as I was last year, or like I will be in another 4 or 5 weeks of steady hill repeat training.

I settled back in over the dam and reached the 3 mile mark of the race.   Mile 3 came in at 6:32 pace.  About :10 slower than my best over this stretch last summer.  Those :10 were going to be the difference.

Finish:  With just .10 to go to the finish my friend Sean slipped by me on the left and outkicked me to the finish line.  As much as it is deflating to be passed late in a footrace, I was really happy for Sean.  He’s been training and running great and being one of those young 35-39 year old whippersnappers, he didn’t move me down in my age group.

This was an odd race where I never really had anyone near me to “race” to the finish, someone up ahead to serve as that rabbit to keep me pushing hard over that final mile.  It’s always easier to chase than to be chased, and Sean proved that last night.

Next time I need to be a little tougher over the dam and start my kick a little earlier.

Total time 19:42 – 6:19 pace.

My time was good enough for 7th place overall, 1st Place in the Masters Division or what they politely call those of us over 40 years old.

:13 seconds slower than my course record, :41 faster than our first race on the course one year ago.

All in all, I have to come away pretty happy with how things went for our first race of the summer.  The best news is that our knee is back 100% healthy as I did not think about it at all during the race.  I have also shed the shin compression sleeve on my right leg that I wore last year after returning from our shin splint woes of 2009.

We’re back, running healthy, running strong, just not quite running “fast” yet.  But it’s coming.  By the time we show up in Holland, TX for the Cornfest Race on June 18th we should have a great shot at defending our title and post our third consecutive age group win.

Hola!  Saludos desde Cancún, México!

I always love it when I can find a way to use my 4 years of high-school Spanish and 4 more semesters in College.  It is amazing how valuable those classes as well as typing class ended up being.  Trigonometry? 

Not so much.

Dawn and I decided to sneak away for our last “pre-baby” vacation over the 4th of July holiday and we are really enjoying ourselves.  We figure this might be our last vacation alone for about 20 years, so we decided to take advantage of the long holiday weekend.  We’ll be coming back to Austin and reality on Tuesday morning.

That said, it is “Race Week” once again as Race #9 of the Summer Sunstroke Stampede is taking place on Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. and we will be there with bells on.

The race takes on a little bit more importance this week as there is an honest to goodness wager on the line.  Our company based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa employs approximately 350 full-time staff members around the US and Canada.  In addition to our Cedar Rapids facility our Division has offices in Denver, CO and Austin, TX.

Staying healthy is a priority for our company – as it should be for most with the cost of health care ever increasing – and we do a good job of providing incentives for our staff members to get in/stay in shape.

As a reader of this blog you know that I love to talk about running and training.  Unfortunately for the members of our office here in Austin, they are subjected to listening to my ramblings about marathons and training more than they probably should have to. 

Most of the time we have a good time with it, sometimes however it leads to things like the day we had a “push-up contest”, but more on that another time.

As I tried to get our office excited about running a local race it came down to a formalized wager to get them on board.  So this Wednesday night, 7:30 p.m. – It’s on like Donkey Kong as we’re racin’!

The wager is simple. 

To “win” I need to complete the 5K course in less than half the time it takes the final office participant to finish the same course.

So if I post a time of say 20:00 minutes, each member of our office must complete the course no slower than 39:59 to beat me.

If the office wins, they will be rewarded by an outing on our local lake later this summer – paid for by the loser.  Me.

If I should win, the office will take up a collection to pay for my Entry Fee into the Austin Marathon in February and must come to the race, all of the race, to cheer me on.

Sounds like a pretty fair deal – so of course I decided to spend my “taper” period by the pool here in Cancun, enjoying Mexican Food and planning my race strategy.

Post 8-Mile Sunday Training Run Cool Down - Dawn snapped this pic from our room on the 14th floor.

(See how I already have my excuse prepared if I should lose on Wednesday night?)

After the race we’ll be heading back to our house for a little late-night barbeque where I will be able to hear stories from the staff about their race experience and how much fun everyone had.

Regardless of my time on Wednesday, I’m pretty sure I’ve already won. 

If anyone doubts how hard I’ll be trying, in the words of Ricky Bobby:

“if you ain’t first, your last!”

Wednesday night I made my way over to the Brushy Creek Trail in Cedar Park, TX for the 7th race in the Summer Sunstroke Stampede Series.  The races take place every Wednesday night for 12 weeks, alternating between the Town Lake Trail in downtown Austin and the Brushy Creek Trail system behind my neighborhood.

I first raced in the series two weeks ago posting a time of 20:23 – finishing 10th overall, 1st in my division.

I treated race #5 two weeks ago as a “tune-up” for the Holland Cornfest 5K as I had not raced the 5K distance in almost a full year.  The Stampede races are a lot of fun with 100-140 runners making it to the Brushy Creek Trail races every other week.

Being a morning runner – the races in the evening serve as a good test for me – taking me out of my element a bit and requiring me to race in different (meaning very hot) conditions than my body is accustomed to.  Typically when I leave the house in the summer for my morning training runs the temperature will be between 75 and 78 degrees at 6:00 a.m.  Evening temperatures in Austin in June and July are more in the 92-94 range, which makes “Going Fast” a bit more challenging.

Add in an 8 story high hill that stretches for 6/10 of a mile in the final full mile of the course, and you have yourself a pretty tough race on a Wednesday night.  I learned a lot during Race #5 in the series and I was looking forward to tweaking my race plan a bit and seeing if I could come in a little closer to my goal two weeks ago of 20:00 flat.

I knew that my newly minted PR of 19:28 posted on Saturday in Holland, TX would be out of my reach given the heat of the day – but I was hoping I might be able to shave :12 seconds off of my opening mile one week ago and :13 seconds off of my 2nd mile.  If I could hold steady up the hill and through the finish I would have a real good shot at that 20:00 time.

As I was going over my race plan in my head on Wednesday afternoon my good friend Trey in Atlanta placed a quote out on his blog from the legendary Bill Rogers who I met the day after the Boston Marathon this past April, it read:

“My whole feeling in terms of racing is that you have to be very bold.  You sometimes have to be aggressive and gamble.”

Pretty appropriate heading into a race where I was really only racing for myself.  Sometimes you have to push yourself to your limits to find out just where those limits are.  The easy way for me to race on Wednesday night would be to look back at my performance two weeks ago and try to shave just a second off of each mile split.  No real risk there – I certainly wouldn’t “blow up” by pushing the pace too early – and I would have a chance to run a solid time in the 20:15 – 20:20 range.

But if I wanted to take more than :20 seconds off of my previous race on the Brushy Creek Course – we were going to have to be a bit bold over the first two miles of the course and try to hang on at the end.

Risk – Blowing up on mile 3 and finishing with a time much slower than the 20:23 posted back on June 7th.  I would also feel bad doing it.

Reward – Being able to keep it together for the full 3.1 miles and posting a much faster time than two weeks prior.  I would also get a good sense of my threshold pace at the 5K distance in 90+ degree heat.

So that was it then – It was a “Ricky Bobby” kind of night – and to borrow his catch phrase from one of the most underrated movies of all-time in my opinion, “If you ain’t first, your last”.

Race plan:  6:15, 6:25, 6:45, :35 – Total time 20:00

Mile 1:  I started right behind Bill Schroeder who has won the Men’s Masters overall title in just about every race in the series.  Even though I knew that Bill would be going out a bit faster than I would like, I decided I would let him and his running mate pace me around the lake loop. 

I fell into a strong pace about 10 yards behind the two race leaders and although the sun was really beating down on us I felt remarkably strong.  I decided to race without a singlet hoping that not having that wet shirt sticking to me later in the race would help me “feel” a bit cooler.  Fact of the matter was – it was brutally hot – Africa hot.  As my watch beeped at the first mile marker I had turned in a 6:06 opening mile.

How’s that for going out “Bold” Mr. Rogers?

Mile 2:  I remained in third position as we crossed the dam and I was holding steady.  Two weeks ago I had relaxed a bit too much at this point of the race.  I felt like this was really the key mile if I was going to break the 20:00 minute mark.  As my breathing started to quicken, now on every second stride instead of every third when I am cruising, I focused on my stride and tried to “stay tall”

This part of the race course takes runners down the hill they will be climbing on the way to the finish.  It is heavily tree-lined, which keeps the sun from beating down on the runners, but it is absolutely stifling with no breeze whatsoever.

I kept digging through the turn around, grabbed a cup of water from the race volunteer on the way by and got ready to climb.  I glanced down at my watch as I passed the mile two mark and was very pleased with my split – 6:15.

Mile 3:  This is where the race really started for me.  As I started to climb I was still holding on in the third position.  Because this was a chip timed race – that did not mean that I was necessarily in “third place” as a runner behind me could have started back in the pack and been running a faster race – but I was determined not to let anyone catch me on the hill.  My hill.

I kept my knees driving, focused on form and slowly and surely I was reeling in runner number two up ahead.  The climb was taking a lot out of me, but it was encouraging as I was gaining on the runners ahead of me.  As I got to the top of the dam after a solid three minutes of climbing, I had narrowed the gap to less than 15 feet.  I had very little chance of catching Bill who had fallen back to second place, and an even smaller chance of holding him off if I could catch him – but I knew if I stayed close I would have a shot at that sub 20:00 minute time.

Sure enough as we hit the mile 3 mark, I had fallen back a bit but when I glanced down at my watch I had posted a 6:39 third mile, :06 seconds faster than my goal time.

Final .10:  As I came off of the dam and made the turn to the final stretch just about everything hurt.  Quads, Calves, Lungs, Chest, Arms – I was drenched head to toe in sweat.  The climb and the chase had taken a lot out of me.  My body was fighting me stride for stride, but it was a good hurt.  In the simplest terms – I was loving it.

I was hoping for a :35 final 1/10th of a mile – but knew that I didn’t have that much left – I would close in :43 seconds which equates to about a 5:53 pace – I’ll take it.

Race Splits:  6:06, 6:15, 6:39, :43 – Total time 19:44

First place in my age group division, Third Place overall.

Up until four days ago, that time of 19:44 would have been just 1 second off of my PR for the 5K distance.  To run that well on such a tough course in 90+ degree heat might make this my best 5K race ever. 

That is the funny thing about PR’s – due to different courses and conditions – your fastest time my not always reflect your best effort.

I know that on Wednesday night I didn’t leave a whole heck of a lot on the course.  

Thank you Trey for providing the inspiration I needed to “push it” a bit and test myself.  It’s nice when you give an “A” effort and get an “A” result.