Thursday, November 28, 2013

Real Running

Running has exploded recently. There are 5ks, 10ks, color runs, run for various charitable causes, etc. Individuals/corporations have convinced enough people to run while they are bombarded with food coloring, being chased by people dressed up as zombies, etc to be profitable. Mostly these events are not "competitive" in the sense that they do not draw the fastest crowds, but are for fun.

Given that it is Thanksgiving, people obviously need to run to burn off all of the empty calories that they are going to be eating afterwards, so most communities have some form of a "Turkey Trot". Piedmont is no different, and for a town of roughly ~10,000 people, the race has around 2,000 runners each year. Typically, in the crowd, there are some fast runners, mainly college kids who are coming back, and some parents in the community who are very fast.

Earlier this year, I had won a smaller edition of a similar race in town, that had only attracted ~700 runners, and none of the typical faster runners. I had been flirting for the past few months with trying to make myself into a "real" runner, someone who actually maybe kinda sorta doesn't always hate running and might actually enjoy it from time to time when the moon is in the third phase of Saturn but under the watchful eye of Scorpio.

I put effort into my longer runs, and my runs were more consistent, and after this short experiment with running, I decided to put myself in with the self seeded runners at the front of the Turkey Trot.
Typically at these smaller community races, kids like to line up at the front and take off at the gun for about 20 yards. That is fun and awesome, until the rest of the field comes behind them and then this happens: 
The rest of the field comes bearing down on them like a pack of hungry zombies. Kids get knocked over, limbs fly everywhere, and then it's the end of the world.

The race had a small section just behind the start line where you could self seed if you thought that you were capable of running the course under 18 minutes, and with about 4 minutes to go to the start of the race, there were only two or three people in there with me. Then a few more showed up, and then came a few more, and there ended up being about 10-12 of us in the front corral. 

Some of the runners in the front corral.

At the start, we took off. There was dead silence except for the pounding of feet against the pavement, and the breathing of the runners. This was no joke. 

Through the first half mile, the race is pretty flat/downhill, and the group only stretched out a little. I put myself in a group of three that was behind the front group by about 3 seconds heading into the first uphill. Living nearby, I run these hills all the time, and I figured that I would be able to make up ground on the uphills, and my weakness, in comparison to the other runners, would be the flats. 
I was wrong. These were actual runners. I only pulled one guy on the first uphill, and one person behind me shot up the hill and took the lead and gapped the field by a few seconds. This was going to be a race. 

The first mile had a net elevation change of zero (see course map), and I was through in 5:35, and sitting in about 7th place. I had already lost sight of the leaders, but I was just behind two runners, so I wasn't alone. 

The second mile started out flat, and then proceeded up a long, steady incline. Again, I hoped that my legs would allow me to make up time on the people in front and to gap the runners I was with, and again, I was wrong. I only pulled back one person in front, and I was passed by another, so my overall position didn't change. With the uphill, the pace slowed to about 6:10. 

What goes up must come down, and seeing how I was bigger than most of the runners in front of me, I hoped that my heavier mass would allow me to get down the hill faster than them, since I was incorrect about my perceived strength of running uphill. 

And I was wrong again. These were actual runners. The pace quickened down the hill, their cadence was super high, and they flew down the hill. The gap between the runners in front of me widened again, and they were away. The last mile split was ~5:20. I held on to my spot to finish 7th overall, 3rd in the 20-29 age group with a time of 17:04. 

Trucking up to the finish.

My sister also ran in the race-her first road race. With no prep, some walking and talking with friends, and running part of the way with a friend's dog, she finished her first 3mile race. I am proud of her, and hopefully she will get bit by the running bug as I somewhat have.
A post race picture where Katy, one of her friends and I were clearly not ready for it.
Slightly more prepared.

Things to take away: real runners run fast. There are more of them out there. I have a lot of work to do if I want to make up that ground. Keeping healthy will be key. I am currently dealing with a bit of heel discomfort/pain that comes and goes, and hopefully I will be able to sort that out as I push on with the offseason of training.

Now that coaching water polo is over, I will try to keep this more up to date. Thanks for reading.

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