1. My broken elbow got me out on the road much more than last year, starting about six weeks ago. In the last nine weeks, I've logged 205 miles, including snowshoeing. That compares to 137 miles last year. That's all good, except for the possibility I have an injured achilles tendon. 2. On Tuesday this week, I had an exhausting two day, one night trip to Orlando. I was up at 4 AM Tuesday, and back home at 11:30 Wednesday night. I did get one warm run in outside, which felt great. 3. On Thursday, the mass of airport germs beat my immune system, and I went downhill. I briefly wondered if I should race, especially considering it was 10 miles, but come on, it's just a cold. 4. Our dog Jasmine woke me up at 3 yesterday morning, and I couldn't go back to sleep, so I got up at 4 to get all kinds of work done. So in summary, this has been a tough pre-race week- I'm tired, didn't train much, sick, but the last two months of training have been good. Needless to say, I wasn't quite sure how this would all work out.
Last year I hadn't run more than 6 miles at once before this race. I used the first 2-3 miles as warm up, and proceeded to descend each mile, finishing in 1:14:53. At the time, I was happy with the time considering my base. My competitive spirit, however, noticed a slew of friends were all tight together, and about 3 minutes ahead of me. It seems like everyone has been working really hard, 3 minutes is a lot to make up, so again, I wasn't sure how it would work out.
Given it's early February, the weather was about as good as it could be- somewhere around 15 degrees and a bit of a cold NW wind. Once the race started, the entire bunch I wanted to stay with shot out and had 50+ yards on me within the first 1/2 mile. A peek at my Garmin told me I was going 6:50 pace. Way too fast for the start, but I didn't want to give up too much distance. So I backed off a bit and tried to relax. A bit later, I noticed Jeff behind me, and I happily dropped back to join him for what turned out to be seven miles. We hit the first mile in 7:05 and agreed that was plenty fast enough. The second mile got into some hills, but we stayed around 7:20. These hills were by no means huge, let's call them four big rollers, and my HR was well over 160. Given my HRmax is about 174, I knew I shouldn't go any harder so early.
I should also note I have never raced with my Garmin (I bought it last March), and haven't raced with a HR monitor in several years. I just don't need it for Oly (or shorter) triathlons. The data really helped, and I feel I was still able to run my own race using feel- the watch was a guide, not a dictator.
Jeff and I continued on, likely each thinking the same thing, "Man, I'm working hard, I hope I'm not holding him back, I really should slow down." We saw Mary about 50 yds. in front of us, and she stayed right there. Bob and Mark were together, about 200 yards further up. My plan was to stay at this pace, and not worry about running them down until mile 7 or so. Starting with mile 3, we split 7:16, 6:54, 6:52, 7:04 and 6:51. I'm willing to bet that if the course was flat, each mile would have been within 5 seconds of each other. We are similar runners- swimmers, really- big for runners, not a lot of experience, overstriding and heel striking.
Just before the crest of the last meaningful hill, just before mile 7, I saw I was catching Mary. I kept up the pace and figured it was time to start to move up in the field. After the top of the hill we had a long gradual downhill- perfect for me- not too steep, not too shallow. Then the road was flat until another long down hill just before mile nine where I caught Mark and Bob who were still shoulder to shoulder (mile 8 was 6:36). It took considerable effort to catch up given the pace and headwind, so I decided to tuck in and stay behind these two for as long as possible. Ideally, I didn't want them to know I was there, but that idea didn't last long. I stayed tucked in behind them as we headed back up a gradual hill, and planned to stay right there until we reached the Fowler Rd. intersection, about a 1/2 mile from the finish (mile 9 was 6:55). Just before that point, Mark started moving out, so I got up to his shoulder. I couldn't afford to give him an extra step at this point. At a 6:33 pace, I knew I was at my max. We turned into the High School, and Mark was able to accelerate away through the three turns enough so I knew that race was over. Now I just had to worry about Bob. I couldn't hear him, that was probably due to the headwind. I actually wondered if he was willing to turn himself inside out for this. With 50 yards to go, I heard the announcer say Mark's name, then mine, then someone else- the guy I just passed. That told me Bob wasn't close, and I thankfully backed off just a tad. The last mile took 6:38, but the last half mile was 3:00. I had nothing left. And as it turns out, Bob was willing to turn himself inside out- he vomited just as we turned into the school.
With a finishing time of 1:09:25, I improved by 5 1/2 minutes over last year. My average HR was 163, much higher than I thought I could handle. I was very consistent, with the difference between my fastest and slowest miles just 44 seconds. I owe a great deal to Jeff who kept me consistent for the first 7, Mary who had a lovely target on her back, and Mark and Bob who dragged me to the finish. It probably would have been a different story without those motivations. It felt great to have those pre-race butterflies again, see and chat with all of my friends, and dig deep at the end. I can't wait to do it again.