Sunday, August 3, 2008

Five Minutes, 500 Places and One Bonehead Moment

Yesterday I ran the Beach to Beacon 10K for the second consecutive year. I went into this year's race with the benefit of more running experience, knowledge of the pre-race logistics, and a better sense of the course. I also went in as a shell of myself, at least in terms of peak fitness. With my recent injury woes, I thought I would run by feel, with low expectations. I pretty much got what I expected, finishing over 5 minutes slower than last year, and more than 500 places further behind, not even cracking the top 1000 in this 5500-person race.

Disappointing results aside, there was some good - and one boneheaded moment - to take from the race. I met Bill Rogers briefly at the pre-race Expo. What a wonderful representative of the the sport: sociable, humble, knowledgeable, respectful of runners of all abilities. I also saw him briefly at the start, but I quickly realized I wouldn't be hanging with Boston Billy on this particular day. He ran about the same time I ran last year.

I arrived earlier than I did in 2007, and had plenty of time to relax, stretch, use the port-o-lets and warm-up. The temperature was a comfortable 65, but it was very humid, with dense fog. I lined up in between the 7:00 and 8:00/mile pace signs, thinking that if all went well, I could run a sub-7:30 pace. I had decided to pay close attention to my heart rate, and push or hold back accordingly. That turned out to be a smart move.

I covered the first mile in a little over 7:30, but it was clear that I was working pretty hard already. I took water at miles 1, 3 and 5, as opposed to every stop last year, and I'm not sure whether it was enough. Pulling back in the second mile, I ran it in a hair under 8:00. I swallowed my pride and decided to make this essentially a 10K tempo run, which would be a good thing to do at this point in my training. It would also might help me stave off getting hurt again.

I hit the the 5K mark in just over 24:00 minutes, but I remembered the second half of the course as being pretty hilly. I tried to run strong, but relaxed, with good posture, loose arms and shoulders, feeling the rhythmic pounding of my feet on the road. I gave many of the spectators the thumbs-up sign in exchange for their well-wishes as I tried to take things one mile at a time.

The second half of the race was much better - less hilly and more scenic - than I remembered it, maybe because I was running so much harder last year. I enjoyed myself this time, despite - or because - of the pedestrian pace. The second half also had a moment which I sort of regret, but will always remember.

Somewhere past the 4-mile mark, I saw a small, gray-haired woman running along on the left side of the street. She looked very, very familiar, but I thought there's no way it could actually be Joan Benoit Samuelson, since my catching (and passing her) in a race where she wasn't running at someone else's slower pace was about as likely as me getting to chat up Ryan Hall during a major marathon. Sure enough, though, as I went by her, I looked at the name on her race bib, and it said "Joan". I slowed, said hello, and - here's the stupid part - asked her if she was okay. She seemed a bit annoyed, and tersely replied that she was "fine". I moved ahead and felt really stupid for asking a distance running legend, a road racing icon, an Olympic gold medalist for crying out loud, if she was "okay" during a non-competitive 10K. Of course, the reason was that I figured some terrible fate was befalling Joan Benoit Samuelson if she was running a race at my pace, but - really now - the woman can handle herself, and doesn't need a moronic goofball like me to look after her at the race SHE FOUNDED OVER 10 YEARS AGO!

As a friend asked me later, "Did sticking your foot in your mouth slow you down much?" It was an apropos inquiry.

The other positives I take from the race are that - despite some tightness - nothing really hurt; I ran a near-perfect even split; I passed about 50 people in the final 1/3 of a mile or so, with the Garmin registering my fastest pace to be about 4:40 per mile; and, I didn't cramp up like I did after the race last year, probably since it was cooler.

This was the second consecutive year in which I failed to see the actual "beacon" of the race's name, since the fog kept it well hidden from view at Fort Williams. After the race, I did an easy mile cool-down and then ate some grub. I hopped the bus back to the parking area at the high school, and ended up chatting with a fast young guy who'd run in one of my favorite 5K races in Friendship, Maine. Last year, he got some publicity because he ran the 8 am race (finishing 3rd; I finished 5th overall), jumped in his car to drive to another 5K and ran that 9am race about a minute slower than the first one. He had a very respectable time of 40-minutes and change at Beach to Beacon. Breaking 40 minutes is my ultimate 10K goal.

My modified training plan called for 15 miles on Sunday, but I ran a little less than 14, figuring that there was no point in pushing it, and - frankly - having had enough after the second rainstorm, which briefly flooded the roads and waterlogged my already-heavy training shoes. The cooling effect of the rain was nice, but I was ready to be done after about 12 miles. My overall pace for the run was about 9:15, which isn't bad considering a couple of epic hills in the middle.

I now have to decide what to do this week and next week, as I gear up for the big 5K on August 14th, where there is professional as well as personal pressure to run well. My boss (who'll likely run around 18:30; he's 56) wants a sub-20:00 performance. After Saturday's race, I'm not sure if it's feasible, but I'm going to give it my best shot.


1 comment:

Progman2000 said...

Love the part about Joan Benoit - that's great!