Sunday, February 28, 2010

Surprise Ice

I've now been racing competitively for 20 years. I'm sure a lot of people might say - "maybe it's time to take up another pursuit. Most of your PR's are behind you. All you have is the long slide to being slow."

There are times where I can understand this point - but, the great thing about racing is that you can always surprise yourself. Admittedly there are many days that I run surprisingly slow. But every once in awhile I pop a good one, where even with all my years of running, I can't even quite explain or understand how it happened.

Today was such a day.

The Maryland Club Challenge 10 miler is run in Columbia, MD. The course is challenging and the field is very competitive for a race run in late February. This is my third time running this race. The first time I was fat, the second time I was sick - I decided it was my time to finally do something. The importance of this race cannot be over stated. The host, Howard Country Striders, has a lot of strong runners - and they seem to always be in shape. It's one of those things where you just start hating another group of people only because they seem to always get the better of you.

On the warm up one of my teammates said how he had heard a territorial dispute outside his window between two owls and a hawk. I asked him "so, who won?"
"Well" he said " the next day the hawk was on his perch."
He said that he takes those kinds of happenings has a sign - I agreed saying "I think it means we need to go out conservative and hawk our opponents."

I tell this story not to brag that I had any kind of fore site - but, rather because this story helped to remind me of the tactical nature of this race. It's early in the season - for most runners this is the first race they've run since the fall and it's not a PR course. So, they just go out and compete. But I knew that the runner who was most likely to win the race was in amazing shape - and he was most likely going to push the pace early - which would cause folks to run faster than they were capable of handling for 10 miles.

The first few miles I tried to pay no attention to how many people were in front of me. I simply relaxed and tried to feel what pace I should run. After about 3-4 miles I could feel the field coming back to me - and that's when I got aggressive. I focused on slowly moving up. By the 8 mile mark I was in 4th place. There was one more Howard County Strider in reach. I pushed as hard as I could, but I couldn't make up any distance. Still - focusing on him probably helped me to not get caught from behind. As I came into the finish line I was surprised to see a time approximately 50 seconds faster than I had dared hope I would run.

It shows that even for those of us on the downward slide - we can still surprise ourselves - and that's what keeps me coming back for more.

On the team front we sweeped the male, female and overall challenges. For at least one day, we were the strongest running club in Maryland.

Last Week
Monday: 9 miles
Tuesday morning: 4 miles
Tuesday Evening: 12 miles 3X 1mile (5:10;5:08;5:03) + 2X1k (3:08;3:06)
Wednesday: 10 miles
Thursday morning: 4 miles
Thursday evening: 10 miles 4X200m (36, 37.7, 37.2, 36.2) 2X400m (72.3, 74.8) 1X800m (2:27) 2X400m (73.7, 77.4) WINDY all at R pace all with jog same as last interval
Friday: 10 miles
Saturday: 6 miles
Sunday: 16 miles Club Challenge 10 miler 54:09
Total: 81 miles

This Week
Monday: 9 miles
Tuesday morning: 4 miles
Tuesday Evening: 12.5 miles 6X1mi I pace 800 rest
Wednesday: 8.5 miles
Thursday morning: 4 miles
Thursday evening: 14 miles 10 X 1 mi @ T pace 1-min rest
Friday: 8 miles
Saturday: 10 miles 5 X 1 mi @ I pace 800m rest
Sunday: 20 miles
Total: 90 miles


Ste said...

Good race, Ben!

Ben said...

Thanks Pekka - it was the first time I've actually had fun at that darn race.

RM said...

Very well written, Benjamin. It was an incredibly impressive performance, and for the record it was just a scant 5 seconds slower than your Army time.

My impressions are that you, as well as many of the training crew, did such incredible work last year and especially into the fall that you've created a ton of residual fitness.

While you didn't let the snow days slow you down, there were a lot of runs one might classify as "not great" - but with the strength from the 50 miler, the speed you had accrued, and then some rest and a few months without racing, you came out and not only surprised yourself, but definitely me!

Great job!