Normally, when I race, my heart is into it 100 percent. This was a different story. It was purely a fun run and I told myself the day before that I really didn't care how I did. Heck, I didn't even know the name of the race until I signed up for it. My buddy Nick from Atlanta told me about it a few weeks ago. It was his first race and he talked me into coming to town for the weekend so we could do a race together. I had not left the state of Alabama since Christmas of 2008 so I figured Why not? I would miss my normal weekend long run but oh well. My relationships with friends are more important than running.
The race was a 5K called "Pounding the Pavement for Peter" and its $25 entry fee would go towards research for treatment of a rare disease with crippling effects. Given my history of medical problems, I am happy to contribute to research that may improve the quality of life for others.
Training: I loaded up with weekday miles including 2 runs of 10 and 11 miles respectively. The latter was done just 36 hours before race morning. My Sun-Thurs. mileage of 35.5 was my highest total ever for a race weekend. I did not run on Friday but it was not an easy day by any means. I worked until 5, stopped for a sit down meal in Auburn and ran into nasty road construction on my way. I did not arrive in Atlanta until 9:45 (I lost an hour going into Eastern time zone). I did not sleep very well that night either. Still, I woke up the next morning feeling pretty well. Fortunately, the race did not start until 9 AM so we could eat some cereal and hydrate ourselves without rushing. Despite the high mileage during the week, I was feeling strong warming up and predicted a good time. Unlike Mobile, the weather cooperated well (clear skies with temps in the 50s) and I was primed for a fast time.
Race: There were a lot of walkers and baby strollers and seemingly very few serious runners. My plan was to go out with the lead pack and if the field was very weak, I might have a chance to be the overall winner. The gun went off and I was out well. A couple of young kids took off at a sprint and I just let them go and they faded within 200 yards. We turned out of the parking lot and I was in third place. Unfortunately, I was losing ground on the two runners ahead of me. The course was steadily downhill for the next half mile and I looked down at my GPS to see a half mile split of 2:50. I thought that was fine considering the slope and I had actually fallen back to 8th place. I knew that uphills would be ahead and boy was I right about that. The course was a loop around a golf course through a upscale residential section of Atlanta. The downhill ended and the course did not level off. We went back uphill and made up the lost elevation plus more. I maintained an even effort but of course, my pace was slowing. I passed 1 mile at 6:15, which put me in good shape for a sub-20. The uphill continued but it became less steep. I do not remember any steep climbs in Mile 2 but the rollers took their toll as well. Flat sections were few and far between. I managed to pass two fading runners to move into 6th place, which was where I would finish. I passed the halfway point right around 10-flat so I would need an even split to finish under 20 so I made an effort to pick up the pace but the hills were just too taxing. I passed 2 miles in 13-flat so my pace had slowed to 6:45 for the 2nd mile. A sub-20 was now out of the question. I was probably looking at around 20:30, which would still be respectable on a course like this. Another thing that was hurting me was the fact that I was in no mans land, which had never happened to me during a road race. Nobody else was in my sight up ahead and nobody was coming up on me from behind. At the finish line, I learned that I was almost a minute out of 5th place and almost a minute ahead of the 7th place finisher. I guess you could say that it was a glorified time trial. Around 2.5 miles, we finally hit our last and steepest hill and at that stage of the race, with the finish line more than a half mile away, it really demoralizes you. Again, with a fast time out of the question and nobody pushing me, I never quit and ran the hill as hard as I could. Fortunately, a nice downhill followed and I used it to recover. Soon, I saw the turn for the parking lot and turned on the speed. It turned out to be a very good finishing kick, which brought me home in 20:22. I figured that I would have been good for a sub-20 on a track and I'll take it. The goal is closer to 19-flat and I'll need more training and more balanced chemistry to do that.
Splits: 6:15-6:46-6:45-35 (.11 at 5:17 pace)
Aftermath: In his first race, Nick ran a 26:17, a very good showing for a beginning runner. Way to go Nick! I did about a mile cool down in the parking lot to bring my weekly total to 40 miles. The physical exertion of the day was not over yet. We drove to the north Georgia mountains and hiked up Brasstown Bald (4784 ft above sea level) on a steep 6/10 mile trail.