GBTC Invite/Masters Mile-
I haven't been this nervous before a race in a long time, maybe even since my first race at the Johnny Kelly 5 miler in 2002.
I've run over 200 races since then, won a lot of them and more than anything have really gotten pretty familiar with just about any variable a race can throw at me.
I love big races where I go in knowing I have to do more than I think I'm capable of. I love the paradox of throwing away everything I think I know but only having the confidence to even do so because I'm sure to some degree in my ability to handle it.
I've run distances from the mile (on the road, a long time ago and not very well) to the marathon (more recently and still not very well) and with the exception of that first 5 miler, have still always had some idea of what I was getting into.
Now, on this cold mid-winter morning, I found myself driving to Boston, alone, in the cold sweats that years ago preceded an anxiety attack. My mouth was dry and my heart was racing.
I was on my way to run an indoor mile.
I have never run a race on a track and all week I was asking stupid questions to all sorts of kind people who were nice enough to not look at me sideways as they said things like "don't pass on the turns," and "don't try to lead right out of the gate."
None of it did any good. I was still a mess. I was worried about shoes, I was worried about how many miles I'd run this week already (63) but most of all I was worried about that fact that I needed to run at least 4:40 to have a chance at qualifying for the New Balance Indoor Games in 2 weeks.
I have a kick and I have strength later in races when I need to hammer for long periods, but one thing that I either do not have or just have never tested is mile speed.
I can run a 4:58-5:02 pace for a 5k, but one thing that's occurred to me when running that pace is that I really don't know if could go faster, like, I really don't think I could.
I got to the meet and got some relief by running into Brandon Newbould and Paul Hammond, both of who are extraordinarily cool in their own way and are each always supportive as hell. ran into John Noland and he's always a similarly welcome sight.
I warmed up with Doug Martyn for the most part (another super-cool teammate who runs ridiculously fast at the tender age of 50) and luckily we got back just as they were going to start the race (early.) The start caught a bunch of people off-guard and 4 really fast, great guys were not in it as a result (major bummer.)
Regardless, the gun went off and it was quickly a race for second, as Sean Livingston jumped out fast as hell. I tucked in behind Jason Cakouros, figuring this is his kind of stuff and I know he was looking to run right around what I was, though he was already in the New Balance Mile and I had to be careful to stay on pace whether he was with me or not.
We went through the first 200 in 34 and it felt OK, not easy, but within myself. The next 200 was a 35 and it felt alright again, but a little tougher. Still, by the end of that lap, I was feeling like I had enough to make a move. I wanted to get a little insurance. I probably should have waited another lap, but I just had to go with what felt right and so 1/2 way through the 3rd lap, I passed Jason hard going down the straight and tucked back in. Now I had one of the fastest 40+ runners in the region on my tail and I was trying not to think of the fact that he runs this kind of pace every week in workouts and has run times I will never touch. Not to mention that there is not an ounce of quit in the dude, all of these things making him not just a friend, but one of my, well, idols (and I always manage to say something uber-corny post-race due to this fact, which is something I need to work on, as I'm going to get a reputation as a total hippie if this continues.)
Anyway, now I'm heading into the dreaded 5th and 6th lap (like I know enough to dread anything) and lo and behold, this is where everything just gets hard. Breathing is tough, as the hot dry air has scorched my throat and lungs. The legs are fine, but they don't have the pop they had only a minute ago. If I can just get through this and get to 7, I'll be OK. I get to 2 laps to go in 3:31 and I'm thinking, "OK, just hold it together on this next one. Don't take yourself out of range for the last one."
I'd done the math and I knew I needed to get through 7 in no later than 4:07 if I had any realistic shot at sub 4:40. I hit the line and it read "4:05." Hot damn! I started to work and I went around the 2nd turn using the arms and tried to just hold form. I knew I'd start to really go at the beginning of the 3rd turn and I knew Jason was right there. I hit that turn and just started making all sorts of wheezing noises and really flailed. I was hauling ass as much as I could, which to the assembled college speedsters probably looked pretty damned slow, but I ran that last 200 in 33 seconds and I know the better part of that was on that last 100.
I crossed the line in 4:37.
I finished 4 seconds behind Sean, which was no surprise, but a scant 1.3 seconds ahead of Jason, which is frightening, because I could taste blood and could barely breathe for a good 10 minutes afterward.
Now I just have to play a little bit of a waiting game to find out if I am in for the NB Masters Mile, which I really, really hope happens.
I didn't think I'd ever be here to do this and have so much fun doing it. Now I want more. I want to figure out how to shave off seconds, how to run harder, faster. I know I can, I just need another prize to chase.
Sa- 8 (4/4)
Su- 13 (3/1/9)
week- 76 miles