Monday, July 26, 2010
100 Degrees in Dilworth
I have only raced the four mile distance four times. I think that’s enough times to decisively say that it’s not my favorite. In the hierarchy of shorter distances, it sits somewhere in between the 15K (Love) and the mile (Hate). Yes, I am aware that in length, it also fits in between those distances, but I am only referring to preference in this case. Saturday’s Run For Your Life Run for a Cause Four Miler was the second slowest of my four four milers, but by far the hottest. In last year’s race, I finished second in a time of 21:30. Given the conditions, I hoped to at least repeat that performance.
I am a sweaty guy. So, I wasn’t all that surprised when I showed up the line and a couple of runners asked me if I had already raced. I was dripping sweat from the easy warm up miles. This continues to be the hottest, most humid summer I have ever lived through. By the time the race started at 7:30 Saturday morning, it was near 100% humidity (but not near raining) and I was starting to think this competition would come down to who the best aqua jogger was. (Sadly for me, that was not the case. If it were, I might have won. I am one heck of an aqua jogger. I was the unofficial NCAA Division III National Champion when I couldn’t run my sophomore year of cross country.)
Knowing that the entire first mile is up hill, I put some effort in as soon as the gun went off. I wouldn’t say I went out fast – I didn’t even sniff Jordan and Bert -- but I did give myself a jump on Paul, Aaron and Mike who I know to be strong hill runners. That’s why it wasn’t long before Paul, Mike and I were in a pack, making our way up McDonald. Mike was baby-jogger-free, so I figured he’d be a contender. I’d been working out frequently with Paul and knew he was in solid shape. I clocked 5:28 for the first mile.
By the time we got to East Boulevard it was Paul and I testing the waters. It’s a long stretch down East, but at this point I was feeling pretty decent. We had talked earlier in the week about running near each other, so it felt like everything was going according to plan. We hit the next mile still side-by-side in a much quicker time of 5:19. At roughly two-and-a-half miles I could see a water stop up ahead. I waited to see what Paul would do, sort of like a race car driver waits to see who is going to go into the pits. When he took a cup of water, I followed suit. The plan was to dump most of it on my head and drink the rest. Unfortunately, I dumped all of it on my head and then attempted to drink from an empty cup. What can I say? It was my first time taking water in a race shorter than a half-marathon.
Approaching mile three, Paul opened a gap on me. If I have one weakness…well, I have many, but one of them is the inability to close gaps. I would later learn that this entire mile was a disaster. I was starting to feel the heat. My legs felt fine, but the rest of my body was moving toward exhaustion. I clocked a 5:42 for this mile. There are some climbs, but I should have run faster than that. However, looking at other’s recaps it appears everyone struggled with this mile. Almost everyone. Greg Isaacs did not. Just before the three-and-a-half mile marker he passed me. I tried to hang, but as we came closer to the line, I worried a little more about preserving my position and not getting passed again. I had no idea what was going on behind me and knew looking back would only slow me down.
I crossed the line in 21:44, thoroughly tuckered out. Due to Bert running off the course, I finished in fourth place, behind some pretty speedy runners and ahead of some pretty speedy runners too. I’ve gone back and forth between disappointed and simply satisfied. Elated is definitely not on in the list of feelings. The disappointment comes when I start thinking about my last couple of races. I ran a subpar 5K in New York, and this four-miler did not show any signs of progression. It’s discouraging after what I thought was a pretty promising start to the summer racing season. I know Paul can relate. I am happy to see he’s broken out of his funk. I move toward satisfaction when I think about the conditions. It seemed everyone’s times were a little slower than their potential thanks to the heat and humidity. Plus, these shorter races are hard to use as a good gauge. You either have it that day or you don’t. There’s no switching gears in the middle. You can run 16:00 one day in a 5K, and come back the next weekend in the same shape and run a 16:45. Some positive workout performances have kept me feeling like I am moving in the right direction. We’ll see what happens at Blue Points on August 7th.
In other weekend news, Lauren competed in the Lake Wylie Sprint Triathlon with Sloan and did a great job! It gave me the opportunity to get down to Lake Wylie, go for a swim and have a great lunch with the two triathletes and Jamie Doyle.
Sunday’s long run was miserable, but misery loves company. There were eight of us on this 15 mile (for me) death march on the hot asphalt at Mallard Creek. We all tried our best to stay positive, but by the end, the little conversation we were able to have revolved around how much longer was left and where water might be available. It go so bad that with two miles to go, Mike and I actually jumped in the creek. I may grow another eyeball, but I was cooled off just for that moment.