A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 12th Edition
291 miles raced in 2007
Race: 4th of July Age-Handicapped 4 Miler
Place: Carderock, MD
Miles from home: 13
Course Difficulty: 1.5 out of 10
Course Enjoyability: 5 out of 10
Weather: 70 degrees and slightly humid
Finishers' Medal: N/A
The format of this race was simple. Based on age-graded charts, runners of different ages and genders would start according to a time which said that if all racers were of equal talent relative to their age and gender, they would finish at the same time. This is, obviously, quite absurd, but fun nonetheless.
Over 100 hundred people lined up this narrow path alongside the Canal which 184.5 miles from Washington D.C. to Cumberland MD (read about the Canal here: ) on a day which rapidly got warmer. Most runners were parked and ready to go by 7:30 AM for this 8 AM race and at that time, the weather was still just a little crisp. Everyone was in a genial mood enjoying the mid-week break from work and other activities with plans for picnics and fireworks ahead.
Growing up, the 4th of July was one of my favorite days of the year. It meant a full day out at my father’s sister’s house in the country, which was only 7 miles away but might as well have been 70 given how infrequently we visited out there. But the 4th was a day of eating way too much food, visiting with relatives and watching Uncle Frank light off tons of, quite possibly illegal, fireworks. Those days are long gone but to me the 4th signifies the true heart of summer and if you are not having fun by that date, it is time to start. School would start before I knew it.
There was this same laid-back feeling amongst the runners before the race. Even at the scheduled start time, half of the runners were still milling around in the parking lot 200 yards from the starting line. Given that most of us had a 10 minute wait at least there was no hurry. Being in the 30-34 age group I had the second longest wait until I began (18:31) next only to the 15-29 group (18:44). So you can tell I was in no hurry.
After I finally decided to do about 100 meters of warming up in the parking lot, I joined a group who sauntered through the little path from the parking lot, through the woods and onto the towpath next to the Canal. A dirty-brown smooth crushed-gravel surface, the towpath is a favorite of both runners and bikers alike in the greater D.C. area. Both were present today even though it was early in the morning.
When I got to the towpath, I found that the race had not started promptly at 8 AM and the first runner (a Ms. Lee Glassco who at 76 looked pretty damn spry) started with no handicap around 8:10. This meant I still had nearly 19 minutes of milling around to do before my group would set off. I talked to some runners as well as my best friend Anne who had come along for moral support. Every few minutes the very crowded sideline of the towpath would send off another back of runners and the runners standing on the edges would have a little more room to breather. Nestled right next to the woods on one side, and the canal on the other, the towpath can’t be much more than six feet wide. As the race course consisted of runners running one direction for half a mile, turning around and passing through the starting area again before going 1.5 miles to turn around again to finish where we started, you can imagine all of the runners going in different directions. Throw in runners who were just out for exercise, walkers with dogs and cyclists and it was a pretty busy spot.
As the clock wound around for my age group I wondered what I would feel like today. I still haven’t recovered from a rough June, the temperature was increasing very quickly and I haven’t really done speedwork in…well…a very long time. But before I knew it I had not time left to wonder and I was off.
I felt I was moving along at a good clip as I was stride for stride with a pretty fit looking chap in my group. However, before too long I realized the pace felt good which means that is bad. Paces only are supposed to feel “good” in marathons, not 4 mile races. Four mile race paces are supposed to hurt. But before I could even get to the half-mile mark, a guy passed me from the age group behind me. It was time to pick up the pace.
Keeping him in sight I heard footsteps again and a young buck slid by me right before the first mile which I did in 5:40. Definitely too slow for a 4 mile race, I knew that I needed to pick it up.
Picking my way through racers and trying to keep the two guys in front of me in sight I tried to concentrate on expending the right amount of energy at the right time. Without a doubt, and this almost goes without saying, there is a huge difference between what this race was and what I have been training and running for the past two years. I always wondered how some fast local guys could do well in both 10k distances and half marathons or longer at the same time. Then I realized that their 10k times really aren’t all that fast per se, but rather are just a little faster than the pace they set for their longer runs. So, while the times still boggle my mind, it is basically just a natural extension. If you run a 2:35 marathon, by default your 10k time is going to be pretty damn stellar to the average bloke. Unfortunately for me, I don’t run a 2:35 marathon.
I started seeing some familiar faces running back at me now which means they had reached the turn-around. This is always comforting because until you see people who are in front of you turning around, than you know you still have a ways to go.
Miles 2.5 to finish:
I wasn’t gaining any ground on the second young guy who passed me but I wasn’t losing any either. The first guy who had passed me was long gone and I was just hoping to hold on to my present spot. With each person I passed I knew I was moving up some but it was very hard to gauge my own speed. The only real way to tell how fast I was going was to look at the one guy who had passed me.
Two thoughts were in my mind: "Wow, it gotten hot quickly" and “Run faster, dummy! You don’t have 20 more miles to go!” I really cannot adequately explain how hard it is to get out of the habit of long-distance running and pacing. Even during the middle of Fiddy2 when I was getting faster every week, I still had to reel it in at times in order to make sure all 52 marathons were completed. Moving from Fiddy2 to 2007 has been a very similar experience. It is hard to race all-out since I am so hard-wired NOT to do so. But I think I am finally shaking that and am able to concentrate more of each individual race. Too bad I have designed a schedule for the remainder of the year which focuses more on running every distance imaginable rather than focus on one particular distance! But that is what I wanted to do and to be honest, I am having fun in spite of the repeated hard times I have hit upon. After passing some people on the right (and almost taking a dip into the canal) due to the narrow paths and people running in both directions, I could tell we were getting close to the end.
In a spurt, I passed a few more runners and was closing in on my friend, Jessie Sackett. Recovering from a pretty bad bike accident which required surgery on her broken collarbone, Jessie is a heckuva a runner. That is why I wanted to catch her! But she held me off easily beating me by 11 seconds. I grabbed my finishing card to Anne’s “woo-hoo!” and saw I placed 30th overall. Having just received the results today I was pleasantly surprised to know that besides the two guys who passed me (and therefore obviously ran faster times than I did) only one other guy ran a faster non-cumulative time. Here are their stats below and let’s here it for Joe Racine, the guy who passed me first and then proceeded to crush me the rest of the way.
OV Name Cum Hand Non-Cum
8 Joe Racine M 29 Arlington VA 41:28 18:44 22:44
3 Dave Haaga M 45 Rockville MD 39:13 16:05 23:08
24 Kris Lasko M 17 Gaithersburg MD 42:56 18:44 24:12
30 Dane Rauschenberg M 31 Arlington VA 43:29 18:31 24:58
(Full results here:)
All and all in was a pretty good race day. Nice to get out here and test the legs again after the 5k last week and I think my speed bodes well for my All-comers Track meet tomorrow. Can I break 5 minutes in the mile? I think I will be surprised if I do. I am pretty darn tired, don’t have the turn-over I should to give it a shot and Saturday calls for hot weather. But I will still go give a try. I think I have a shot. Will know in about 24 hours!