Two weeks before the race Rusty told me to shoot for a 6:10 pace. I balked at that, I didn’t think I was in very good shape, after all I’d just done the Orchard to Ocean 10k at a 6:15 pace, I didn’t believe I’d be able to better that. So the next week Rusty said do the first half at 6:15, and then do what you can for the second (that is — go faster). Well, that seemed more reasonable.
I was concerned that I’d go out too fast. I always do. O2O hadn’t had a half mile point marked, and my first mile was 25seconds faster than my average. Not good. So I took out my wheel on Thursday, rode down to the start, and put marks on the curb to show the ¹/₈th, ¼th and ½ mile points. Or that was my intent. José had already marked the ½ mile point (Yay!)
The course runs out 5 miles along the waterfront, into Montecito, around a post and then back on basically the same route. So the 4 mile mark is also the 6 mile mark, etc.
I volunteered for packet-pickup on Friday. I like doing that, it makes me feel part of the race already and I start getting excited.
During a quiet period, a homeless guy (I assume) rode up on his bike and started ruttling around in the dumpster. Then he moved over to us. He asked if he could have one of the keychains the Addidas rep was handing out, and I let him. Then he asked what was going on; I explained there was a 10mile race tomorrow and asked if he wanted to run. Not any more, he replied, but back in the day — why in high school he’d run 10miles 1500yards in an hour and was the third best in the nation, and his best marathon was a 2:30.
Wow. I guess it had never occurred to me that a homeless guy might have been an excellent runner in his youth. And I can’t imagine that someone who wasn’t a runner would know what numbers would impress yet be believable. Rather an eye-opener for me. We chatted a bit longer, and he rode off.
Race day morning I got to the start a bit earlier than normal because I wanted to draw lines across the road where I’d previously marked only the curb (marks on the curb don’t get smeared into oblivion by traffic, but they aren’t readily visible to runners).
Two miles of warm-up. Or there-abouts. As I loop back I run through the beach-front soccer field. In the middle of the field is a sign “No parking — SB Streets Div”. This amused me all the way back to the race start. A car would have to go to extreme lengths to reach that field.
Take off my sweats. Put on my magic shoes. Um. It’s chilly. Do I want a jacket? Do I want gloves? Hmm. Probably not. I’m manage, and then I’ll warm up.
Time to line up.
None of the other runners seems to know where the start line is. First I see some trying to line up at the half marathon start (there’s no mark on the road for it, but there is a curbside mark); I direct them to the real start. I do some more strides, and then head there myself. No one is at the line. Everybody seems to have lined up about 20feet back from it.
I stand at the line.
I figure I’m fast enough.
Eventually other people join me.
I’m trying not to take off too fast. I let Ricky and Andrea go. But even so… at the ¹/₈th mile I’m at 41 seconds. That’s a 5:24 mile pace. I want 46 or 47 for a 6:15 pace. I slow a bit. At the ¼mile mark I’m at 85. Better, but that’s still a 5:40 pace. At the ½ mile mark 2:57, again, better, but still too fast.
Jeff has joined me. He wants to chat. We’re going faster than 6 minute pace, and he wants to chat? I didn’t even realize I could. But I guess I can, at least this early in a race. Jeff’s goal pace is 6:24 (~64min) and he is also aware that we’ve gone out too fast (but less fast than many). We joke about how we’ll pass many of them later (or we hope we will). Jeff speculates that some are only running the concurrent 5K and so can afford to go fast now.
At the one mile mark 6:16. Almost perfect for me. Little fast for Jeff. But he says he’ll run a little fast while the adreneline is up. We keep going together. At the 5K turn around (approximately 1.5 miles) I comment that very few of the people ahead of us have turned back. So let’s hope we do pass them later.
At the two mile mark I see I’ve slowed too much: 6:21. Not horrible, but it turns out to be my slowest mile. So I pick my pace a bit and leave Jeff.
I’m gaining on Andrea. Judging by O2O she’d be another reasonable person to run with. But when I reach her she’s going more slowly than I’d hoped and I pass her too. And then I pass Ricky. Ricky did the “Tough Enough” race last week — in the horrible heat, so I’m not surprised to pass him. Another half mile later I see the number 4 woman is passing the number 3 woman and the guy who is running beside #3. And I end up passing all of them at pretty much that moment. Pushes me out into the street a bit but there’s no traffic, so that’s ok.
And then I hear footsteps behind me. The woman who was #4 and is now #3 is pacing me, just off my shoulder. OK. She can try to keep up.
As we twist around the bird sanctuary my eyes turn toward the mountains (and I happen to look up). A bit of sun has broken through the cloud cover and Montecito peak stands out in the morning glow. Quite lovely. But the road twists again and it’s gone. Anyway I can’t pay it much attention. I need to run now.
At the 3 mile mark I see that, er, I was going too fast: 6:03. The combination of picking up the pace after the previous too slow mile, and the joy of passing people has pushed me too fast. I’d better slow here, especially as the first hill is around the next bend. I expect the woman will pass me as I slow, but she doesn’t. We go up the hill together.
I get a little ahead, but she closes the gap on the flat at the top. Coming down the hill, I get a little ahead again, but she closes the gap again. Neat. This is kind of fun. I can’t really see her, she’s mostly behind me, and there’s no way I’m going to turn my head and look back. She isn’t someone I know.
We both click our watches at the 4mile mark: 6:14. Perfect for me.
We both grab cups at the water stand. I have great difficulty drinking. I’m squeezing it too tight or something. I get very little into me and go off into a coughing fit for a bit. She doesn’t pass me.
The next mile is a gradual up hill that twists through Montecito. And here comes Micah on his way back, and someone I don’t know and Aaron, and a bit later Garrett. I cheer my friends. The woman seems to know some of the others, and one of them calls her by name, but I don’t catch it.
We pass the #2 woman. We reach the turn-around at 5 miles: 6:14 — total time for the first 5 miles 31:10, at home I see that that is almost exactly a 6:15 pace for the first half (5 seconds too fast), just what Rusty ordered.
Time to pick it up a bit? This is a downhill mile. We pass the guy in front. And now no one is in sight in front of us (but it’s very twisty here). Far more interesting than the people ahead are the ones behind, and after the turn-around we’re running against the main body of the race, and I get to cheer them on. And they cheer me on.
The woman says “You seem popular, George” (people have shouted it). I ask for her name, “Jen”. I thank her for running with me. It really is great. She is forcing me to work, I don’t dare slow and take it easy lest she pass me. And that’s about as much chatting as I (we) have breath for at this point.
We twist back through Montecito. Back to the water stand. Given the difficulty I had last time, I figure I’d better not try for more water. Jen, however, gets more. This proves a mistake. She drops back slightly, and she never catches up again.
At the six/four mile mark: 6:06. Nice. I did pick it up. Next mile has the hills, but it’s still 6:13. I pass some walkers. One says “16” too me. Neat, that probably means I’m 16th over-all (I was actually 17th at that point, perhaps she meant 16th male, perhaps she miscounted). Thanks. And then behind me I hear “2”, so Jen isn’t far back and she’s the number two woman. And then — I’m out of the bendy area and I can see down the long straight section that runs for miles.
There is no one visible ahead.
Looking at the race results I see the next clump was about a minute and a half ahead of me. That may not sound like much but it’s a ¼ mile at this pace. Oh, there are faint shapes far in the distance, but they provide no inspiration — I’ll never catch them.
An’, ah look down duh roa~d–
And duh road so lo~nesome.
Lord, I gots to walk down da lo~nesome road
I gots to walk down it b~y m~yself.
Traditional spiritual from the Charleston low-country
Well, I gots to run down it, but it’s still lonesome. I was thinking just the other day that “the loneliness of the long distance runner” only really applies to the winner (ignoring all the other connotations in the store). But today it’s applying to me too. There’s too much of a gap to the group ahead.
I can’t hear Jen behind me. There is no one visible in front. It’s hard to keep going. 6:16. Ug. I can do better than that! But the next mile is similar: 6:15. Ok. It isn’t horrible, but I want to do better.
But now there is only one more mile to go. I can go a little faster now that I’m almost there. And then there’s only half a mile to go — and then I hear footsteps. Hmm! incentive? I figure that if Jen passes me, I won’t try to pass her back, but she’s going to have to work to pass me. I speed up a bit. But the footsteps get louder and louder. Hmm. Jen wasn’t that noisy. Maybe she’s gotten sloppy as she has tired? And then the footsteps pass me and — it’s Ricky.
Well I’m not going to let him pass me, but his kick is better than mine, and I can’t catch him. Then someone else passes me. Damn it. I am not going slowly, in fact I’m going faster than I was. Why is everyone passing me. Sigh. I just have no kick. I can speed up by 10 seconds, and that’s a lot for me, but Ricky is much faster than I over short distances — like 5Ks — while I’m already running almost as fast as I ever can.
Almost done now. No footsteps behind, but I must assume than Jen isn’t far back (I’ve heard people cheer her on all along — as #2 woman she gets more cheers than #16 man). I’m breathing like a steam engine, I’ve got to stop. I keep going. I’ve drolled all down my chin. And here’s the chute, I see 1:02:05 on the clock (great, I’m faster than 6:15 pace) and then the finish line. (1:02:09)
I can stop.
And eleven seconds later here’s Jen.
And now it is possible to introduce ourselves better. She’s from San Diego. Rats. It has been a pleasure to run with her. I explain why I didn’t stop for water.
I find I am 5th place in my age group. No other age-group runs that deep in age-graded percentages. Even absolutely — I would have been first place in the the 40-44 group. They are the guys younger than I who should be running faster? That just doesn’t seem fair. Why are so many of the really fast guys my age?
So my first half was 31:10 (6:14.5 pace), the second half 30:59 (6:11.8). Reverse splits. I usually don’t manage that. Thank you Jen. Thank you Ricky. I really feel I raced today (as opposed to just running fast).
And even more cheering — I ran this at a slightly faster pace than the 15k this summer. The weather was better today, but it’s a slightly longer race — so it’s roughly comparable. I’ve been so afraid, since September, that I’d never again be as good as I was last year. It’s a relief to have proof that I was wrong.
Jeff is a minute and a half behind me. And now that doesn’t seem like anything. I’ve barely started talking to Jen, and he’s here. And Kent finishes a minute later. Time dilates oddly. During the race a minute and a half is so far ahead that the people are invisible, afterwards you blink and they are crossing the line.
Andrea turns out to have been ill. She points out there will be other races.
Stu Sherman tells me some of the faster people had to wait for a train to cross the tracks in Montecito. Whew. I’m glad I’m not that fast:-)
I cool down with Kent for four miles, and we chat about the race. I am so pleased. I can run fast again (and it’s a two minute PR too).