Tuesday, September 8, 2009

New Haven Road Race 20k Report

New Haven 20k Road Race Stats: Temperature: 74 degrees. Splits: 1) 9:05; 2) 8:37; 3) 8:34; 4) 8:54; 5) 8:40; 6) 8:48; 7) 8:47; 8)8:56; 9) 8:54; 10) 8:56; 11) 8:47; 12) 8:35; .4)4:11 (Garmin thinks I ran 12.6, not 12.4). Time: 1:49:40; 8:50 per mile pace; 116 of 186 in my division; 1299 of 2265 finishers.

A PERFECT day for running. Temperature was around 75 degrees, with a slight breeze. My expectations were low and my hopes were high. I had run-walked-run 23 miles two days earlier, and my legs and toes were still feeling the affects from it. I have one extremely ugly purple colored toe on my right foot, that's about to lose its toenail. This is the first time that gooping petroleum jelly (Vaseline) on my toes failed to prevent blisters. As much as I would have liked to wimp out and switch from running the 20k to the 5k, I didn't. This blog, my marathon training, and my right brain were holding me accountable. I woke up yesterday morning 1 1/2 hours before I had to leave. I know my stomach and bladder well enough to know that I need time to eat my normal breakfast of (prepare yourself for this) two english muffins with Smart Balance Light and peanut butter on them. That gets washed down by two cups of strongly brewed coffee flavored with hazelnut creamer. Without going into details, my bathroom needs met, I grabbed my Garmin, my mp3 player, two Vanilla Bean flavored GU gels, and headed out the door. I was more nervous than usual, with left brain constantly reminding me of my aches and pains from running the 23 miles. I pacified left brain by reminding myself that a 9:40 per mile pace or better would beat a 2 hour finish time. I told you I had set my expectations low. I arrived in New Haven with over an hour to spare. That meant in addition to having plenty of time before the race started, I also had time to grab my favorite freebie there: New Haven's own Chabaso Bakery bread. I tucked it under my arm and brought it to my car. Checking my car's clock, I still had 30 minutes to kill. Back at the New Haven Green, I felt lonely and lost. Last year my daughter ran the race, but due to knee issues, she didn't come with me to run. Finally I spotted the familiar face of Grace, a Social Worker from where I work. She was running the 5k, as was her father. I chatted with her and her parents for a while, said my good-byes, and headed for the porta-potty. The lines were long, and time was short, so since bladder was cooperating, I decided to head to the starting line. I suppose you've already guessed where this is leading. At the starting line, I tried to ignore the porta-pottys lurking nearby. I swear they were beckoning my bladder to pay them a visit. I was at the point of no return. Final race instructions were being given, and of course bladder decided it wanted to go visit porta-potty. Too late. The race began, and what stunk was that a) the start was crowded and we were running down a street with cars parked on the side, and then turned right onto a divided narrow street; and b) freakin' bladder was reminding me that at some point it wanted relief. Thank goodness it wasn't THAT urgent. Slowly I ran, with people passing me left and right. I was what I hated others to be. I was an "obstacle." I deliberately had started close to the start to avoid the obstacles/slow runners, and now I was one of them. My pace sucked, and a few times I got bumped into. I heard another runner telling his friend that the road would get wider just ahead. No sooner did I process those words and it happened. Finally, I had room to run, and I headed for the far left so that I could pass and be passed. People were running by on the sidewalk, and usually I take that route myself, but still feeling like an obstacle I stayed on the road. Mile one was over, and Garmin beeped and displayed a 9:05 time. I hadn't started it until I reached the starting line, so I knew it was my actual/net time. I was surprised it was that "fast." I knew I had started way ahead of my 9:40 per mile (or better) goal pace, so psychologically I was off to a great start. At that point there was plenty of running room, so I decided to relax, let my legs move at a comfortable pace, take in the sights and sounds, and see what the second mile split would be. Before I knew it, Garmin beeped. I cautiously looked at it, and saw an 8:37. With what felt like very little effort, I had run a minute faster than my goal split time. My happiness was interrupted by bladder reminding me that it expected relief at some point before the halfway point. There wasn't a porta-potty or woods to be seen anywhere. Just older homes, some run down, with lots of people outside cheering us on. Yes, I was running through one of the poorer areas of New Haven. Poor maybe financially, but rich with spirit. Those folks sure know how to get your adrenaline flowing and your bladder to behave! Mile 3 was an 8:34 split, so now I was way ahead of the game. I wanted to do some quick math calculations in my head to decide on a possible new goal time to finish, but knew I had to take care of bladder first. He was going to add about a minute onto my time, but I didn't have a choice. I started losing focus on my running, instead focusing on possible bathroom alternatives. I passed through an underpass, and saw several guys run back onto the course from the partially hidden side. I had missed an opportunity, and it was too late to turn back. I spied some bushes and trees a short distance away, off the course, and decided that the 50 yard run to get to them was going to have to happen. I increased my pace, veered right, and sprinted towards the bushes. I was going to do my best to lose as little time as possible. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see wave after wave of runners going by where I had veered off. My biggest concern was to avoid poison ivy. I finished, and must have looked like someone being chased by a bear as I sprinted back into the race. I tried to "blend in," and hoped that no one would say anything. No one did. Runner courtesy, I guess. I realized that I recognized some of the runners I was now with, having passed them the previous two miles. I looked to the right, and saw an unoccupied blue porta-potty. It was less than 25 yards from where I had left the course. I dreaded seeing my mile 4 split time. I was convinced that I had lost most of the time I was ahead of my goal time. Garmin beeped about a minute later, and displayed an 8:54 split. That was probably a turning point in my run. I had left the course and returned, yet still had a sub 9 minute split. I downed a Vanilla Bean flavored GU gel, and shortly thereafter I swear I felt a jolt of energy. At that point I was starting to think that it might be my day. Mile 5 was 8:40; mile 6 was 8:48; my 10k/halfway time was 55:08. I quickly did the math in my head. If I ran the same time for the last 10k, I would finish in a net time of 1:50:16. A reality check by left brain reminded me that the second 10k is usually run SLOWER than the first 10k of a race. However, right brain reminded left brain that I had wasted time earlier with a bathroom break. I ran alongside I95, watching the cars speeding by, and past one of about ten bands along the course. I was feeling as strong as ever, but missed the crowds of people. We were at a point where there's highway, industrial parks, and office buildings. The uplifting factor for miles 7 and 8 were the encouraging people at the water stops, and the GU gel handed out at mile 7 1/2 that I quickly consumed. Mile 8 was an 8:56, mile 9 an 8:54, and I then became a little concerned that I might be losing some stamina. I took a quick "gut check," and realized that I was physically still feeling well, mentally was still feeling terrific, my breathing was good, and I was well hydrated. I was approaching a difficult uphill part of the course, which I remembered from last year led to a nice downhill run along a wooded area with lots of shade. Mile 10 was going to be at the top of the hill, so it was time to suck it up and head for the top. At that point a female runner appeared and struck up a conversation with me. I turned down the music to my mp3 player as we talked about the beautiful day, the great scenery, how well we both were doing, and whatever else came into our minds. We ran together, reached the top of the hill, where we heard voices. We both laughed when we realized it was a recorded voice coming from a loudspeaker telling us to look our best and show our numbers, as there were two photographers waiting to take our pictures just ahead. We separated as we saw the photographers, gave them our best running pose, and continued on. After a few more seconds of conversation, I checked my Garmin. It showed an 8:56 split for mile 10, and an overall time of about 1:28:00. I am very good at calculating time in my head, and a quick calculation made me realize that if I ran the remaining 2.4 miles in a 9 minute pace, I would finish at 1:50:30 or better. Since all my splits after mile 1 were less than 9 minutes, I knew that 1:50 was well within my reach. The competitive side of me kicked in. I felt bad, but it was time for me to silently say "Good-bye" to my running companion. I now wanted to break 1:50 in the worst way. Off I went, down the hill, then up a hill. At the next intersection both sides of the street were lined with cheering spectators. I tore up the hill, leaning forward and churning my legs. At some point I reached mile 11, and a quick peek saw an 8:47 split. There was no doubt that 1:50 was doable. Physically I still was well. Mile 11 to 12 is a blur, with a split time of 8:35. I had 1.4 miles to go, and about 13 minutes of time left to finish in under 1:50. Breaking 1:50 was going to happen, I had no doubt. At that point the song "Gonna Fly Now" (Theme song from Rocky movie) started to play on my mp3 player. Perfect timing, as it's the most motivational song I have. It ended as I reached mile 12, with 4 1/2 minutes left to run just 4/10 of a mile and break 1:50. Without breaking stride, I reached to my mp3 player and replayed the song...

"Trying hard now
it's so hard now
trying hard now

Getting strong now
won't be long now
getting strong now

Gonna fly now
flying high now
gonna fly, fly, fly..."

Fly I did....I strained my eyes, looking for the finish line clock, barely seeing it ahead in the distance. I could barely make it out. I was talking out loud to myself, saying "come on", and "move it," alternating glances at my Garmin and towards the finish line. I was passing everyone ahead of me, and no one was keeping up with me. I was light on my feet and had a feeling of barely touching the pavement as I raced toward the finish. I was experiencing the highest of highs, and listened as the cheering grew louder, and the pa system blared out names. The finish line was close, and I still had a half a minute to spare. Tears were forming in my eyes, a lump was in my throat, and I had a fantastic adrenaline rush as I crossed the finish line. I pressed the stop button on my Garmin, and grabbed a bottle of water while staring at my time...1:49:44 (unofficial posted results have me at 1:49:40). I not only had run a sub 1:50 time, but also beat last year's time by 12 seconds. My second 10 k was 36 seconds faster than my beginning 10k time. It was by far the most effortless race I've run yet, and ranks at the top of my most rewarding "non marathon" races.


lindsay said...

congrats!! an excellent race and report. i'm glad it went well, especially after all of left brain's negative talk early on. way to shut him up. i can't say i'd ever be tempted to trade the longer distance race for a 5k... 5k's are way too painful, and you can always make a long distance race into a fun, water-station-supported long run! that's what i tell myself anyway. i just hate 5k's :)

Mel-2nd Chances said...

congrats!! great race

Irish Cream said...

Awesome race, Rick! You DID fly! I love it when the perfect song comes on right when you need it like that. Great race and really entertaining report! It must be awesome to see your training paying off in such great ways!