A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 16th Edition
311.32 miles raced in 2007
Race: Rockville Twilighter 8k
Place: Rockville, MD
Miles from home: 21
Course Difficulty: 4
Course Enjoyability: 7
Weather: 75 degrees and slightly humid
Finishers' Medal: N/A
I whiled away the hours between my track meet and the 8k by doing a whole lot of nothing. I could not figure out when I should eat or how much of it I should when I did. With the race at 8:45 PM, I did not want to be on an empty stomach and most assuredly did not want to run on a full stomach. Always erring on the side of not eating too much, I had a good sized lunch and then sat on my duff watching shows I had DVRd.
Both Anne and Christine were going to make the trip to cheer me on (I have the bestest buddies) and I was excited to be running near home in a really well-known race. Usually under blistering conditions (the race has actually been cancelled due to heat in previous years and there is a heat advisory on the website) we were all so very happy to have relatively cool weather falling on race weekend.
Knowing parking might be a bit of a bear, and having not yet picked up my race number, I wanted to make sure I did both with plenty of time. So eschewing my normal, show-up-do-100-meters-of-warm-up-15-minutes-before-the-race-routine I left at 6:30 to drive to Rockville. However, as luck would have it, the drive went smooth, I found a parking spot really close to the race and had my bib number on at about 7:15. What the hell to do for 90 minutes!?
Anne and I stood around and I laughed at how I will go to a marathon in Alaska and know more people than I do in some local races. The races I pick always seem to be the one where all my running buddies are out of town or merely spectating. That was mostly the case today with a few exceptions here and there.
As race time drew nigh, I noticed the sheer numbers of those running. With over 1700 runners finishing in last year’s 90 plus heat day, I was assured the cool weather would bring out even more this year and the times would be even faster. I told Anne that I would be shocked if I was in the top 100 overall finishers.
Christine showed up a little bit later and we talked racing a little bit wile Anne went over to the CVS for a bottle of water. While cooler, it was by no means a cold day and Anne had to make sure her videographer finger was not parched.
Walking to the startline, the runners were amassing already in large numbers. Standing next to a tautly muscular little woman I took a chance. “Are you Alisa Harvey?” I asked. “Yes, I am” “Well, it is a pleasure to meet you”. Alisa is a master’s runner in the area who, at 41, is built like a brick sh*thouse and continues to crush competition (male and female) at any age. Also, milling around me were many members of the Georgetown Running Company’s racing team, which as a member (of sorts) I am one of the absolute slowest. GO Dane!
Two wheelchair racers started the race and the field started getting restless. On “Go!” we were off. I decided to keep Alisa Harvey in sight and see how I could fare. My ultimate goal for the day was to go sub-30 minutes. But anything breaking my PR of 31:41 would make me happy. (Interestingly enough, although I have only run one 5 miler to my two 8ks, my 5 mile PR was five seconds faster than my 8k PR [which is the shorter distance]).
Mile 1: 5:41
It is always difficult to gauge speed in a distance you rarely run. I wanted to average 6:01 miles and when we crossed the first mile, you can see I was definitely under that. No problem. I felt like I was pushing a little bit but I wanted to make sure I got out of the biggest pack and avid any jostling.
As we crossed over one of the speed humps, a woman next to me took a tumble. Most of us were trying to decide whether to help her but realized stopping would probably cause about 20 other people to fall. I looked over and saw that it was Feng Sun, a local female runner who is pretty darn good. A search revealed that she ran her first marathon at the age of 35 and did so in a time of 2:59:59. Pretty darn good.
Mile 2: 6:09
I slowed down a little bit more than I wanted to but we had a slight uphill here that I felt accounted for a few of the seconds. Before we reached the mile marker though I was surprised to see Feng Sun had recovered from what sounded like a pretty nasty fall and had passed me again. Damn. But before too long, I swear to god if it wasn’t true it would be funny, I saw her take yet another tumble on another speed hump and down she went again. A few other runners almost laughed in amazement at the absurdity of the situation.
I then remembered back to the National Half Marathon where I had passed Feng somewhere around mile 9. I recognized her because she had run in a few of my marathons from Fiddy2. I distinctly recall that she had once or twice lost her footing on the streets of DC. I was curious if this was just bad luck or if she had a stride that didn’t give her much foot clearance. Now, I will be looking in the future.
Mile 3: 6:09
A series of uphills and downhills throughout this mile gave back more on the downhills than they took away in this mile. A few spectators had set up sprinkler systems to wet runners if they needed. Unfortunately this made the road just a little slick and with the waning daylight, I feared a few runners would slip.
Speaking of which, Feng passed me again and steadily gained ground on me through this mile. I was now cheering for her inwardly. For myself, I hit the mile marker at exactly 18 minutes. I figured there was no way I was running the final 2 miles (or 1.97 to be exact) in 12 minutes, so just settled in and made sure I would set a new PR.
Mile 4: 6:24
The first real long uphill of the race solidified a 30 minute plus time of mine as I focused on making sure I did not cramp, slip or fall. After a year of disappointments in 2007 races, I absolutely had to PR.
With the vast majority of the last mile being on a slight downhill, I began to gauge how much I had left in the tank in order to surge at the appropriate time. A mass of about 15 runners began to pass and get passed by each other. As we huffed along, this final mile seemrd to last forever. I looked at my watch and saw I had about 4 more minutes of running to go. Around a slight bend off of the main highway and onto more downhill we went (at a very gentle grade) and there was still 3 more minutes to go.
With two minutes left I slipped into a zone I have seldom experienced this year. It is zone where pain doesn’t exist and I know sheer exhaustion will hit about 3 feet past the finishline. In this zone, I will pick a runner ahead of me and just know that I am going to beat them. It is almost a foregone conclusion regardless of the distance.
Around the bottom part of an S curve, I could see the blue arch signifying the finish. I turned it on and started sprinting like everyone around me. Shocked to see that the clock had just turned from one minute to the next, I leaned forward with all I could. With a final mile of 5:44, I crossed the line at 30:09 and smiled largely. Inside. I had set a 92 second personal best and had almost done everything I wanted to do.
Anne and Christine cheered loudly for me (listen to the shrieks here) and I smiled outwardly this time. I can only hope this is a sign of things to come.
Final stats: 129th male (20th in my age; Are you kidding me?! Good God!), 145th overall out of 1904. Feng ran a 29:38. I am happy for her. Now I want to never let her beat me again. *smile*
Next up, Christine and 10 other friends join me in the Northwest Passage Relay in Washington. We will traverse 189 miles of terrain in a team effort to have fun and run our butts off. Stay tuned for details on that race!