Sunday, July 03, 2005

Race Report

I don't know what to think about yesterday's race. It is the 3rd year in a row I have run the Charles Davis Memorial 7 mile Perry to Eastport road race. It is held as part of the 4th of July celebrations here in Eastport known as "Old Home Week". The race is usually scheduled for the Saturday of the celebration if the dates work out that way. So, this year, the race was held on the 2nd.

Well, I did fine. Placed 2nd which is my best yet. The last two years were both 3rd. On the other hand, again, my time was slower than the preceding year. I finished in 44:05. So while I was happy to place 2nd, I was sort of disappointed in the time. There are lots of reasons for the reduced pace: 1) haven't run fast (even in training) since the Holyoke Marathon 8 weeks ago, 2) my mileage has been sky high with a focus on endurance and not on speed lately and 3) they had us run in the right-hand breakdown lane (instead of "tacking" the corners) which made some corners very long. But, the real question: Did I have fun? - Yes!

This year's lineup didn't include the prior two years' winners (Bridgeton and Walters respectively) who both ran the course in 40 minutes during their victories. Therefore, from the gun I ran with the eventual winner, Newell Lewey, and we split off from the 2nd pack. However, the 2nd pack was loaded with more talent than we have seen (all at once) in a few years. About 5 runners made up the pack and they stuck with each other throughout the race. This is an important note as you'll see in a moment.

I paced Newell from behind and to the right about 1/2 step. He would surge occasionally trying to drop me but I'd hang on even if the legs complained. We crossed mile 1 in 6:00 or so, mile 2 at 11:45, mile 3 18:00 and mile 4 at 24:00. A steady 6:00 pace pretty much as we ran into the fog sitting on Eastport. The mist got heavy by the halfway mark and I couldn't see much through my glasses. I can't run without my glasses because I get disoriented. The hills in this course don't show themselves until mile 4. On the other side of the mile 4 hill there is a long downgrade (about 1 mile) where Newell dropped me like a bad habit with a powerful surge. He broke the string and I was left out to dry by myself. A wave of discouragement enveloped me as he pulled away and then maintained (and slowly increased) the distance between us. The wave of discouragement was the open door to fatigue and I felt it! After crossing mile 5, I started to worry about my place. I'd had lost the desire to win and now was concentrating on keeping my 2nd position. What a struggle this was. While ascending the mile 6 hill I felt like I was going slower than a turtle. I kept thinking "pump the arms!" as I struggled to maintain a forward motion. Occasionally I'd get a burst of energy and pick up the pace considerably only to have it fall off in 30 seconds. Battling this fatigue I made it to mile 6 - only 1 mile to go!

In desperation I powered on and off in quick succession to squeeze every last bit of speed out of the tired body. This was absolutely necessary as when I chanced a look back going around the corner at the local Irving I could see the 2nd pack clearly together and clearly gaining ground! What this meant was: I was about to be devoured if I didn't get my act together and fast! It was no longer a matter of holding onto 2nd place, it was a matter of not dropping all the way to 6th! Back on the familar surface of Washington Street (where Eric and I do our intervals in the winter) I picked up the pace for the final 3/4 mile sprint to the finish! This did the trick as I maintained my lead on the 2nd pack and finished looking stronger than I felt. The 2nd pack came rushing in like a tornado one right after the other about 30 seconds behind.

This was a case of running the 1st part of the race beyond my threshold as the lactic acid had obviously built up in my bloodstream. On the other hand, I am glad I had enough distance built in the middle of the race to allow the race to end before I was caught! I have yet to trust my finish against someone else's. If it comes down to a kick, I just don't have the 100 yard dash burst of speed to win out (at least that's my suspicion).

An interesting note about the finish line: It ends at the "Breakwater" or the downtown pier. Eastport is a deep water port and hosts a naval vessel each year as part of the 4th of the July. Well, docked at this pier is the this looming grey navy ship (the USS Ramage) and the security is very tight. Well, as you turn onto the breakwater at a blistering speed, you are running directly at the security detail with their M16's and bulletproof vests just waiting for you to make their day. So needless to say, once you cross the line, you have to apply some wicked breaking action to avoid an "incident" that will not be favorable to lengthy running career.