Signs were ominous even a few weeks out. I nearly sprined my ankle in a training run, which would have put me out the race if it had been much worse. Fortunately, I was able to run through mild pain and really felt like I was in great shape especially after an unofficial 10 mile PR of 69:54. Then there was the weather forecast. For a time, I doubted that the event would even take place because of potential for severe storms and even tornados near the start time of the race. I spent much of Thursday and Friday stalking the hourly forecast. In the end, it took a turn for the better. There would be a round of storms at night then a break in the weather near the start time followed by a nasty afternoon. Perfect. Well, not really. The roads were wet and the sun was out with temps near 70. Yes, the humidity was rough.
As many of my readers know, the greatest determinant to my performance is whether or not I take all the right pills and the magic formula does not stay constant. I have been very lucky in the regard in my past races. One time, I woke up feeling awful then simply popped 2 pills and turned in a 19:37 5K. I knew that the luck would run out eventually. For the record, my bad days happen less often than 2 years ago and the symptoms are not as severe nowadays. Today, my luck was all bad. I wasn't feeling the best on Thursday and Friday but part of me thought it was just taper paranoia. Probably not so. I knew inside that I was a little out of balance and would try to make an adjustment. Two key amino acids that are crucial for my energy level are taurine and threonine. I know that I packed the threonine but could not find it. I eventually realized that it fell out of my bag when I was digging for something the previous day. I would take it race morning instead of the normal night before. Bad call. Also, I probably took a bit too much taurine. Still, I felt decent warming up, maybe a little lightheaded with some stiffness in my calf, but nothing too serious. I decided that my PR attempt was on and I lined up in corral #1 as assigned.
Course: I'd rate this one as a 6 in terms of difficulty and it was definitely harder than expected. Miles 3-5 were the hardest and 8 looked to be tough as well. The remaining 5 would be mostly flat or downhill. The plan was to go out a little conservative but I knew that I needed to pass Mile 8 near PR pace to have a shot at it. If it was a good day, I could run sub-7 pace over the final 5. My pipe dream was a sub-1:30 (6:52 pace) but I would have been thrilled with a sub-7 pace and very happy with 7:05 (PR).
The gun went off and I was out well. I stayed near 7:00 pace through most of the first mile then we hit a quarter mile hill and I passed through in 7:12 though Garmin measured it long. Mile 2 had a nice downhill at the end and I expected to make up some time there and was right on back on pace by the end of it. By Mile 3, I was already working hard and I knew that this would not be my day. No sub-7 but maybe I can still squeeze out a PR. I kept the pace respectable over the next 2 miles considering the terrain but my Mile 5, I was slipping. Okay, just get through this mile and you'll have a nice break from the hills. Mile 6 was mostly downhill and I only managed a 7:20. At this point, I knew that I was in trouble. Also, I saw the elite runners heading up the same hill. Oh no! That means that I'm going to have to run up that hill too. I passed 10K slightly behind my ING pace but expected to make up the time on the downhill. I know that I would be over 1:35 but a 1:36-1:37 would have been acceptable under the conditions. I actually ran the uphill fairly well (7:38) even though I wanted to walk the whole time but after that point, I was toast. It was hard to imagine another 5 miles like this. My 8 Mile split was right around 59 minutes and I was fading fast. By this time, I just wanted to keep the pace under 8 and avoid a ghastly fade and salvage at least a sub-1:40. There was a slight uphill in Mile 9 but most of the next 2 miles would be downhill. At the 10 mile mark, I was still under 75 minutes and on pace to beat my ING time. The race provided an unfamiliar sports drink called Cytomax an the plan was to avoid it as long as possible. Finally, in the 11th mile, I was slowing with every step and thought it might help to take a drink. Bad call. As I feared, I had a negative reaction. It felt like my legs were shutting down. I never quit on races unless I really feel like I could be in danger. This time, I didn't have much of a choice. I would have to punt in the last 2 miles and just slow jog to the finish. In the end, I could not even manage that. I had to take 2 walk breaks and turned in 2 straight miles over 9. Fortunately, we crossed the bridge and headed downhill towards the finish at LP field, home of the Titans. I made a half-hearted attempt to pick up the pace and got it back below 8 for the final .1. Unofficial time: 1:42:28, my worst time since Sept. '08. PRs expire after 2 years and so do PWs (personal worsts). I can take some solace in the fact that I managed to avoid a PW on a day that everything went wrong. I know I'm better than this and will race again soon.
7:12 (7:12) feeling okay
6:53 (14:05) good
7:18 (21:23) starting to hurt
7:18 (28:41) respectable pace uphill
7:44 (36:25) ooh, not good
7:21 (43:46) downhill, if I can't get close to 7 here, I'm in trouble
7:37 (51:23) backed off intentionally because hill was coming
7:39 (59:02) want to quit but still fighting hard
7:41 (66:43) end of the hills, can I make up some time?
7:51 (74:34) 5K to go but I know I'm toast, that was downhill too.
8:14 (82:48) water cytomax
9:21 (92:09) major meltdown, had to walk.
9:24 (1:41:33) who cares about time? just finish safely.
:55 (1:42:28)- 7:48 pace for last .12
Official result: 1:42:28 -worst time since Sept. '08.
Pace per mile: 7:48
Division place: 141/1608- 91st percentile. I was pleased with that.
Actually, I don't feel all that bad about this. Part of me would rather finish so far off my goal than miss it by 5-6 minutes. This way, I can simply write it off as an unusually bad day. If I had run a 1:36 or so, I may have questioned my training and fitness level. Absolutely nothing went right and I still finished in a time that would have been a PR just 2 years ago. If I had passed on the Cytomax, I could have avoided the meltdown and finished in a painful 1:40. If I was completely symptom free, I still don't think I would have PR'd on a day like this but I may have come close. Suppose that I had tried to run a half when the medical issues flared up even last year, I know that I would never have finished. The body simply was not prepared to take on this battle. There will be better races ahead. Maybe the UAB 10K on Friday. One positive is that I took a shuttle back to the hotel, which dropped us off across the street. I made it inside just before the storm hit. The day certainly could have been worse and I am thankful that I stayed safe through it all.