Sunday, July 22, 2007

Rockville Twilighter 8k

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!


Yellow Scuba said...

It's time to change your 8K PR on your race history list! :) Awesome job, D.

~Nathalie~ said...

Couldn't be happier for you. :D