Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Great Pumpkin 5K Redux

Weary, exhausted, I walked into my friend's house some eight hours following the morning's 5K.  A few other men sat around the dining room table.  We had come together to take my friend out for his bachelor party.  But I'd say for the first 20 minutes of that evening, you'd have never guessed.  "This is Brad," my friend said to the group, introducing me.

"Oh's" and "Hey sit downs" echoed off the walls.  "Mr. 17:11 today, have a seat."  You can bet that that weary and exhausted feeling vanished.  "So tell us, what was your race plan?  How did you train?  Are you training for something bigger?  Do you do intervals? How far is your tempo run?  How long do you go on the weekends?"

The questions kept coming.  It turned into a deposition.  I loved every minute of it.  This was a group of guys who'd been running together since the mid-80s.  Combined, they shared well over 100 marathons, and probably close to 200.  

There were a lot of miles in that room.

With great eagerness, I poured forth about the day and the many weeks leading up to it and of course the much bigger plans that lay ahead.

A slight chill filled the air when we loaded up the car...not with gear, with people.  All told, seven of us ran the 5K, six Ragnar vets, and my running partner.  It finally felt like fall, though you'd never know it five hours later when the thermometer reached 87.  But for those blissful 17:11, it was perfect.

Rohan and I broke away from our carmates and set off on an easy two-mile warmup job.  The warmth built in my legs and moved up to my chest and arms.  Soon, sweat beaded under my (Boston) jacket.  I didn't feel great, but that usually means I'll run pretty well.  Knowing a steady climb awaited us just beyond mile 2, we trotted over to the marker to get a feel for it and run the last 1.1mi of the course.  Last year, this hill became my undoing.  I'd been rehabbing my IT band and had just completed the Army Ten Miler.  I turned in a gut wrenching 19:08 that left me bent over and gasping for air at the finish.

What a difference a year can make.  I went with tempered expectations.  I hadn't had the chance to take out my new summer speed trained legs for a 5K, but instead moved straight into 10 miler training.  The point being that I'd been putting in all this training yet not really knowing if it had worked.  Sure, I saw times in interval workouts improving and tempo runs getting faster, but wasn't sure how it would all blend together.  Workouts were one thing.  Primetime was another entirely.  I needed the validation.  I wanted a PR (less than 18:24), but what I really wanted was for the numbers to start with a 17.

Rohan and I talked about just running our own races instead of relying on staying with one another.  I lost him in the shuffle as we lined up.  He hopped the fence to get to the front; I wasn't so lucky.  When the gun went off, there was some bobbing and weaving.  But I broke comfortably to the outside and tried to find my step.  I hoped to run a 5:50 and get progressively faster as the race went on.  As we made the first turn, my feet turning over (forget to mention I had my magic shoes on), I saw the first mile marker appear and glanced down at my watch: 5:31.  "Man," I thought.  "5:30 seemed like suicide."  But I felt great, so I kept rolling.  

I fell into a nice flow as once eager runners started coming back to me.  Just outside the two mile mark, I spotted Rohan.  I came through in 11:03.  Now, we were in familiar territory thanks to the warmup run.  The hills came on a lot faster but, then again, so was I.  Lungs beginning to sear, I made the final turn and went into one last kick for the final 200m.  I came across the line and let out a "Yeeeoowww."  The watch read 17:11...1:23 faster than my PR and nearly a full two minutes faster than the year before.  Validation achieved.

Rohan and I sipped water to wait for our friends to finish with us.  

"Hell," he said.  "If I'd a known we were that close, I'd have pushed for the sub-16."  
"We'll get there," I said.
"Next time, we line up together," he said.  "That's how we'll get there sooner."

He and I finished 7/8, he winning his age group, and I placing third in mine.  We came in a mere three seconds apart, furthering our belief that we were made to train together.

I carried that time around with me for the rest of the day and let it soak in.  Everyone came back to our house for a celebratory pancake breakfast, which we took out on the deck as the day turned warmish.

The positive affirmation is good, but as I mentioned, this wasn't the big one.  The Army Ten Miler is just 12 days away and I'm dreaming about a sub-60.

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