Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Summer Break

Finn and Haiden lounging and living easy at Grandma's yesterday

I made it. Two tough art show weeks at work without a day off, sandwiched between two hard races and ending with a weekend of memorial services and mass for a departed loved one are behind me. Ahead of me is what I live for: A few months of four-day workweeks and a 20-week marathon plan penned by Mystery Coach. This is the good life.

This spring offered many lessons, and while I made plenty of mistakes and miscalculations along the way I was happy to end it on a good note with the 5K on Sunday. While it was a meager PR, I raced the way I wanted to and I got to finish the season on a good note.

This photo was taken shortly after the sound of the gun and shortly before the race sorted itself out. The fellow in the middle (to the left of me) is Carlos, a standout runner for Pima Community College who won the race one day after running at Nationals, and the fellow to my right is Jason, who took second place one day after putting the hurt on himself while giving my friend Dan some company on a marathon pace long run.

I felt ready to race in the two days leading up to the event. It's hard to describe, but I was looking forward to the suffering and the difficulties I have when racing this distance. I could taste the moment where the decision is made to either race out of your skin or to settle in, and for some reason I was confident I would press on and make the more difficult choice.

When the gun sounded I made sure I was up front in the first group, and soon Carlos and Jason started to get a gap. Both of these guys can run under 15:30 without any difficulty, and by a half mile in they seemed destined to place first and second. In my pack the monkey-business started with a strong surge by Shane at .75 miles in, which was immediately countered by the other runner I was mindful of (both of these guys beat me two weeks ago and Shane and I go back and forth). I had told Lucas earlier in the week that I would do whatever it took to stay on these guys and in the race, and if he saw me more than five steps off of Shane that something would have gone terribly wrong. I held myself accountable to this and slowly made my way onto the tail. There was one other Pima runner in the mix at this point, but he seemed content to follow the moves of the other runners in this small pack rather than try to break free and chase the two leaders. One mile found us at 5:06, and I was a little disappointed to see the split as I felt like I was running at 5-flat pace. The second mile is the killer on this course, as most of it is on a slight uphill. I was right on the tail of the two runners I was chasing here, and quite frankly the legs were begging me to pull up. A selection would be made here, as I knew that if I was feeling this bad that the other guys had to be hurting. Finally Shane's body language cried "Uncle" and we started to gap him. I know Shane pretty well now, and this never lasts. Sure enough, as we rounded the turn and headed onto Broadway he came back and surged ahead. Lucas was close on our tail now, so our group was five strong. As we neared the two mile mark I could feel Shane start to drop off again, and when I hit the 5:13 split I dug in a little more. Anyone can suffer for a mile, and the .1 would take care of itself.

My tiny surge strung things out, and soon enough I could tell that Lucas and Shane were trailing off. I had a bit of a gap on my competition, but as we made the last big turn onto Country Club we all drew even. I had rehearsed this stretch in my mind for the cruel 1000 meter coned straightaway that it was. I remembered all the gut-check surges and counter-surges that I had endured against the runner beside me before getting out-kicked two weeks ago. I knew I had one simple suicide card to play: push the pedal down until the legs wobble and don't let up until you cross the line. I knew any easing off once I surged would just draw him back in, and the legs didn't have more than one move in them.

When I broke with 1000 to go I moved out of my skin. The calf muscles nearly buckled each time I pushed off my forefeet, and it felt like my whole body was vibrating. The Pima runner was mumbling encouragement now while matching me, but the other runner's footsteps were fading. Every step hurt like hell and the three mile mark was still a ways up the road. Finally the Pima guy trailed off, though I'm still not sure why. My head started to bob as I finally passed the three mile mark while drawing nearer to Jason, who was drifting back while running in second place.

(Check out the head bob action behind Jason. I'm not exaggerating)

A final turn into a parking lot revealed the finish line, and the release I felt upon crossing it was palpaple. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't talk, I was done. The one second PR was nice, though I did see 16:02 when I passed the clock (they have me at 16:06 and several other runners have complained of times 4-5 seconds slower than their watches), but I was happier about the effort.

Besides the slow time, I ran this race the way I wanted to in my mind. In general I'm fairly hard on myself when it comes down to self-examination, but on this day I can honestly say I was the runner I wanted to be.

Training: Sunday, 8 miles w/5K race in 16:06
Monday, 4 miles very easy with my sister while in Phoenix
Today, 10 miles, 1:08:19, 6:49 pace
Miles for last week: 58 miles in 7 sessions


Omniscient said...

I had myself at 15:52 so I definitely believe the timing was off a bit. Anyways, good job on the PR and thanks for not mentioning my head bobbing as well (I think the pics posted did not do me justice).

See you at the group run?


edinburghrunner said...

nice report mike. sounds like a well earned pb.

Abadabajev said...

I couldn't breathe, I couldn't talk, I was done

Good report and a great effort.

Is that the famous omniscient? He's got a very nice and relaxed running technique.

Go get 'em bobbin' Mike

Eric said...

Nice race and excellent reporting as always. You can never complain about a PR, or a well run race.

Thomas said...

Nice race, and one of the best race reports I've ever read, especially for a 5k. Great stuff.

John W said...

Nice racing Mike. It's 8:00 in the morning and I am sitting at my desk with a cup of coffee but that report makes me want to get out the door and run.

ian said...

I'm late getting to this. Great race. The runner you wanted to be? You were sorta the runner I want to be too.

Dusty said...

Forget the clock - you had 16:02 and others agree - that should be enogh to make it count.

Love the pictures. The head bob - haha! I was picturing front to back, not side to side. Great race report and awesome race. You really put it all out there - I'll remember that on Saturday when I notice myself go into "safe mode" as I prep for my kick - I hate that I find myself doing that - so I'll think of you putting all your guts out there. Fantastic run & strategy! Your races are always impressive!

angie's pink fuzzy said...

good job. love the head bob.