Monday, December 19, 2011

Continuing to Kick Butt on Foot

Saturday I ran a series of races about an hour from my house. It was an interesting set up. The distance was basically a half marathon, but the distance was broken up into 12k, 6k, and 3.1k events held at different places in the county. The 12k started at noon, the 6k was about 5 miles away at 3 p.m., and the 3.1k was in a neighboring town at 5 p.m.

I kind of like the noon start time, although outside of this time of year, that would be a death sentence down here. I mean, in October we see highs in the 90s some days. As it was, the high was pushing 70. I got to the rural church where the 12k was being held and signed in. In the registration packet were a pair of bells, which I declined to tie to my shoes. I'm fine with the organizers wanting something festive, but that would have driven me crazy after about a mile. The group running this race wasn't large. The total number of runners was probably less than 200, and after my last small town race, I knew I should probably line up just behind the guys in the very front. While I have a long way to go to even pretend to be in the elite group, I have worked my way well past the average weekend jogger.

The first half mile of the course was slightly downhill and when I checked my time at the half mile point, I was shocked to see an average pace of almost 7 minutes even. I wasn't even breathing hard yet, but I pull back a little when the course evened out. After all, I still had 7 miles to go at that point. The entire course was pretty flat and wound through rural and semi-rural areas. The roads were open to traffic, but policed by local sheriff deputies and race volunteers, and largely empty of traffic anyway, so it was a good run.


Around mile two, something started buzzing in my ear. I waved it away. It came back and landed in my hair, still buzzing. I swatted absently at it a couple of times and it seemed to have flown away, until about 30 seconds later it showed back up in my ear and hair. I swatted a few more times and it landed on my lower lip. This time when I swiped at it, it stung me, right in my fucking lip. Apparently it was a bee or something. A quarter of a mile later, I decide to check my lip for anything left behind and I think I pulled the stinger out. If it was the stinger, I squeezed the poison sac into my lip before removing it because the burning intensified.

Of course then, I completely forgot about it. Running near your limit has a way of numbing you to pain. Oddly, the lip didn't even swell during the day. It wasn't until this morning that I woke up and discovered that my left side of my lower lip was about twice the size of the right size.

Part of the reason I forgot about the bee sting was that just before the bee attacked me for some reason (I obviously didn't go out of my way to bother it), I was passed by three guys. I don't like being passed. I'm really good at placing myself far enough back in the pack that I usually do almost nothing but pass people for the entire race. Also, I'm a really steady runner, so I end up catching a lot of people who go out too fast and wear down at the end. Anyway, these three guys passed me around a mile an a half into the race. One guy was on his own, and wearing a state cross country meet T-shirt. The other two guys seemed to be running together. When they passed, I pegged my pace to theirs to not let them get too far away. Only a couple of miles later, I passed the guy in the cross country T-shirt. Maybe he wasn't trying. Maybe he was really bad at his sport. Maybe he was a couple of years removed from high school and just out of shape. Maybe he bought the shirt at his sister's meet. Regardless of the reason, he faded hard and I left him behind. Not long after, the shorter of the other two faded, and I passed him pretty quickly, although his buddy picked up his pace at that point and I had to work harder than I really wanted to keep him in reach. For probably 4 of the 7.5 miles we yo-yoed back and forth. I never caught him and was rarely closer than 15 yards from him, but never farther than 30 yards back. For me, this had become a mission. I was going to catch this guy. I was going to pass him just at the finish line.

At mile 6, I increased my pace and kept increasing it, gradually reeling the guy in. As we passed the sign for mile 7, he was in striking distance and not long after that, as we turned the corner onto the stretch of road leading to the church and finish line, I caught him. I slowed my pace to match his and quietly ran beside him so I could save a little strength for the finish. I couldn't believe it. I was actually racing.

Finally, we crested a tiny hill and the finish line came in sight. I'm not exactly sure how far it was, but it may have been a football field away at most when I picked up my pace and started to drop the guy. That lasted only a second before I heard his footfalls speed up and crescendo. I lengthened my stride. He lengthened his. He started to catch me and I amped it up again. Then...

He came flying past me and I broke, maybe 15 yards from the finish line. As soon as I knew for sure I didn't have anything left, I yelled out to you, "You got it" and coasted into the finish. (I honestly don't know where the energy to say anything came from. I was about to vomit from the exertion.) No other runners were in sight behind us. I was 6th place overall and 2nd in my age group. The person who placed 1st in my age group? The guy who beat me in the finishing sprint.

I don't care. It was just awesome to be able to be in that situation. I spent the majority of an hour thinking about what I needed to do to beat a guy and almost did it. I just started my kick too soon and may not have had what it takes after the effort to catch up to him. I was thrilled.

Also, that 12k race was run at a pace that would have been a personal record for my 10k running, 7:41 per mile.

The other two races aren't that interesting. I actually won my age group in both races (although, unfortunately, the guy I sprinted to the finish with didn't run those), and passed the guy with cross country shirt halfway through both races, but they were both run at slower paces and no good stories were involved, although I guess I did manage to hold off a guy my dad's age from passing me in a finish-line sprint in the second race. It just wasn't much of a sprint compared to the first. It was a hilly course, and we were both pretty spent.

By the way, I'm now finishing 10k runs in under 50 minutes. That seemed impossible not very long ago.


CjW said...

Sounds like you should add a sprint workout to your long runs. Plyometrics would help with the sprints as well. Just my two cents not that I would consider myself a runner to say this from experience.

Sid said...

Just read this. *sigh* I wish I had someone to compete with. I feel that this would motivate me actually push myself.

Sid said...

Also under 50 minutes? Fuck!

Courtney said...

Nice! Competition definitely brings out things you didn't know you had in you.

And maybe the bee was pissed that you didn't tie the jingle bells to your shoes. Bees are well-known for being insistent on the Christmas spirit. Assholes.

Rassles said...

Well done, sir. Healthy competition is the best.

Julie said...

Congratulations to you! You should track down the guy and train with him so you'll be more inclined to beat him next go round. Friendly (or burning) competition is good for atheletes and I think it's safe to call you that now.