This year, I decided NOT to set a time goal, but simply to run hard from the gun and see what the day would bring. I ran the almost-3 miles from my house to the start, decided it was warm enough for a singlet and arm warmers (low-40's, breezy and cloudy). I chatted with some friends and then took off, probably faster than I should have, as I kept the leaders in sight for longer than was likely prudent. I settled into a hard, yet seemingly manageable, effort level, and my Garmin kept showing what I thought was a very slow pace given that effort level. Still, I was no more miserable at the end of the first mile, and held on to ride out the downhills in the second mile. Somewhere after the mile mark, one young guy passed me, and then I found myself running pretty much alone.
At the turnaround at two miles, I saw a colleague who lives in the neighborhood cheering. We turned into a fancy neighborhood and started climbing again, getting back the elevation that we'd just lost. I was hurting badly at this point, feeling battered, wondering why this sort of misery makes any sense at all and at about the 2.5+-mile mark, another work colleague came up behind me. This guy is 57 years old, and a lifelong, intense endurance athlete with a marathon PR of 2:44 at Boston. He usually wins his age group, even in large races, though he's much more of a cyclist than a runner these days. He just returned from a long European vacation where he rode 250 miles a week on average. He gave me a playful push and told me to step it up. We ran together for a bit and then he inched ahead of me. When I saw that we'd reached the 3-mile mark, I stepped it up, knowing that the downhill would carry me all the way to the finish (in fact, that mile was my first sub-6:00 mile when I ran the race 2 years ago). I passed a lovely young woman (2nd overall female) and started putting some distance between my colleague and me. I was running alone and could not believe how fast and furiously my arms and legs were pumping, though I felt relatively relaxed. I could feel the lactic acid coursing through my shoulders and neck and wanted nothing more than for this self-imposed torture to end. With a sharp left-hand turn just before the finish, I saw the clock reading 25:2x, and I gave it one last push.
- 5:33 (new mile PR!)
Official time (different from my watch, which I did not stop right away) was 26:25, good for 29th overall and 3rd in my always-competitive age group. Second place was a full 2:30 faster than my time, and that guy had run an earlier 5K that morning! Of course, he is a professional triathlete.
I did a cool-down mile with a friend and then hung around to get my very nice travel mug, not a bad prize at all. I ran the 3 miles home for 11 miles on the day.
We went on to have a great Thanksgiving Day, with an epic neighborhood Wiffle Ball game, a huge meal, and some more playing when the Dads took the kids away for a little while.
As the month comes to an end, I feared that my monthly mileage would be anemic, but despite taking a little extra time away from running, I logged 211 miles for the month. Now I will race once more before year-end, a 5K on Saturday (my 41st birthday) and will then hold easy mileage until Boston training kicks off on January 4, 2010.
There are also some major winds of change blowing around me, but I'll post about that when certain fuzzy plans come into clearer focus.
Happy Holidays, everyone. -ESG