A race without a train

… can this blogpost hold
The viney fields of France? …

Ever hopeful I looked up what 80% would mean on a 10 mile race. That turned out to be a 6:21 pace. It didn’t seem impossible. Of course 6:21 seems a lot easier at mile four than it does at mile eight…

But then Mike told me to run the first 6 miles “controlled”, and then race. I’m not entirely sure what “controlled” means, but I’m pretty sure it does not mean 6:21 pace any longer. I thought 6:30s might be about right. After all, the real race is in two weeks, this is my last long hard run. I really should not be racing today.

I even meant it when I said it.

My legs have felt like lead weights all week. I started to wonder if I’d be able to hold 6:30s even… They didn’t seem to get any less tired as the week wore on.

We lined up at the start. Wally told people to let the fast guys be in front, but I couldn’t get anyone to move in front of me (I like to start on the second row, behind someone I know is faster than I. I’m not sure I belong in front any more).

Wally said GO, and we went.

Jessica seemed to be trying to hold the lead. She’ll just burn herself out doing that. I was so busy wondering about her that I failed to pay attention to myself. After a quarter mile or so I glanced down at my watch, which said I was running at a 5:30 pace. Gleep. I’ll just burn myself out doing that.

At the half mile mark it said 2:50. Sigh. It is surprisingly difficult to slow down. I ran the first mile in 6:10.

by Kevin Steele

A bunch of people passed me after I slowed, including two women. One of them had gone out too fast and I soon passed her back.

When I next looked at my watch it said I was going at a 6:40 pace since the 1 mile mark. Now that’s too slow. I think. Though it would be “controlled”. Anyway I speed up a bit and people stop passing me.

Two mile mark is just before Milpas, 6:24.

I do not seem to be in control today.

I don’t even notice the little hill near the bathhouse.

I pass a number of people now. I slowly catch up to Jessica. When I do, I suggest that she run with me. Instead she picks up her pace and tries to stay ahead. Silly. That just means I pass her in another half mile and she can’t even try to keep up then.

Even though it’s a warm day, I’ve just zipped through water stations without stopping.

At the three mile mark, 6:31. I finally got it right.

And then up the hill. Someone is catching up to me. I’m surprised by this. Usually this is where I pull ahead of people, but no, today someone is definitely running faster up the hill than I am. As he pulls abreast, I glance over. A guy in a white shirt. Not very informative, probably half the people are wearing white shirts, but that’s all I notice. We run together up the hill.

At the top we pass someone who sounds like he’s just finished racing a mile. Gasping breaths. I breath loudly when I run, maybe he does too, but he sounds as though he’s on his last legs. On the downhill I manage to get ahead of white shirt. On the flat by butterfly beach the gasper passes me, but on the next little bump of a hill I pass him back. And white shirt passes me. Grump.

Four miles is at the top of the hill: 6:26. Mmm. I guess I’m not doing what I was told.

And down to the Biltmore. There’s a water stop in front. I grab a cup, but so much spills when I pick it up that I only get a sip of water. Perhaps that’s for the best though, it means I don’t choke as I sometimes have.

And up to the train tracks. Freight trains have no schedule, and they can come through at any time, so this is a somewhat worrisome point. They will not stop for us. But today there is no train, and I zip across and then wind into the side streets of Montecito.

About 1/3 mile from the turn around I start to see returning runners. Kyle perhaps? Then Tim. Eric. pause… Mike. pause… Fred, strangers… Kent. Eric (different Eric). lead woman.

There’s a clump of four runners about 10 feet in front of me.

The turn-around is a cone. I don’t like these abrupt U turns, I run a bit to the side so I won’t cut it so sharply. And in all the excitement I forget to click my watch. Jessica’s father cheers me on.

Oh. I’m now running uphill. I have less breath to cheer the people behind me. Jessica. Then Laura. Jerry, Megan. There are cars wandering around here. One seems to be trying to block Stuart, Kim and Maggie.

I turn a corner and a car is suddenly in front of me too. I squeeze over.

Back to the train tracks. No train. Yay!

I approach the water stop, but now the on-coming race is in full flow and the stop is far too crowded for me to attempt to get water. One volunteer carrying a couple of cups rushes across the on-coming stream so as to be ableĀ  to hand water from the other side. Unfortunately he doesn’t think to look for returning racers and stops right in my way.

And now up the little hill, and here’s the 4/6 mile mark: 12:49 (two miles since I forgot to click at 5). I’m supposed to run faster now. I don’t know if I can. Down, and up again. On this uphill the four runner clump separates into two two runner clumps and I pass the slower of the two. I’m slowly catching up to white shirt (who was in the other clump).

At the 3/7 mark: 6:23. Well, I guess it’s a little faster, but then it was mostly a downhill mile. I’m not sure if that counts, but it makes me feel better.

White shirt is now a few feet in front of me, and we seem to be maintaining that as we go along. Beyond him is a guy with no shirt.

Up the little hill to the bath house. I’m starting to wish the race were over. I’m tired and it’s hard to hold onto the pace. My legs are feeling sorry for themselves.

I get another sip of water.

Where is the 8 mile mark? We leave the road and turn onto bike path. Oh. There it is. 6:27. Sigh. Sorry Mike, I guess I’m not picking up the pace.

It’s hot out here today. Or it’s hot if you are racing in the sun. It’s almost 9am, but the sun is strong.

My legs continue to feel sorry for themselves.

White shirt is pulling ahead of the guy with no shirt, and I realize it is Eric. Eric should be faster than I. After a bit, I come up to him. I intend to say “Come on Eric, you know you’re faster than me.” But what comes out is more like “Cmmmnnric, yanow yr fsr nme”. Still it seems to be enough. Eric picks up his pace and leaves me behind again.

Not far behind, but behind.

Here’s the wharf, and not far beyond, mile 9. 6:23. That’s nice. I guess trying to catch Eric helped me.

Only a mile left. A little early for me to try and move faster. I hear two sets of footfalls behind me. So I do move a little faster. We are weaving in and out among walkers and cyclists. With about half a mile to go the two footfalls suddenly speed up. First one, and then the other passes me, and then passes Eric.

Eric passes a guy in a blue shirt. I think it might be Bill, but decide probably not. I pass blue shirt. I’m too tired now to check his face to see who it might be. And after my “success” with Eric, I don’t want to encourage anyone else to pick up his pace by showing him who is passing.

Past the Coast Guard.

Through the parking lot.

Around the bathroom. Around the cafe.

Now I can see the finish line. 1:03:31 reads the clock. It looks a long way off still, but I push a little more, hoping that I’ll break 64 minutes. I come closer, and the time inexorably counts up, but I think I cross the line with 4 seconds to spare.

Kent hands me a cup of water.

It was Bill.

1:03:56. 79.5%


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