Hi Loopies! Well I had a fun-filled weekend, and I finally have enough time to get it down on paper, with pictures, splits, and everything.
In case you're new here, let me say that this was the final race of a busy autumn. After an injury had me out of running for 6 weeks in the summer, I had about 6 weeks to get back in shape, because I had 3 pikermis in 4 weeks! Four weeks ago was a triumphant 1:42:41 at the LA RNR. Two weeks ago I topped that with a 1:41:55 at Loopfest. And now I had one more race at the Tampa X-Country Half Marathon.
This was part of my annual get together with some high school teammates and friends. We play lots of golf, eat, drink, play poker, and always finish with a race. I flew out from LA Thursday and got introduced to the new X-ray process at security. Let's just say that somebody back there got to see the full bangle. Friday and Saturday I put in 36 holes of golf, and cemented my position as the worst golfer of the bunch. Add in plenty of rich food and alcohol and you could say my pre-race planning was not optimal. But I was having a great time.
Sunday awoke with mostly clear skies, a predicted high of 82, and I had some trepidation with my cereal. Well, we were going to have fun. Time was irrelevant, I kept telling myself. But of course, I wanted to beat my last time. Realistically, with the trail running and the heat, I planned to stay near 8 minute pace and just try to stay relaxed and see what happened. Of course there was also the competition, as I had 4 friends running with me, and as the favorite, I kind of had to beat them all. Two of them are at about the same speed as me, so we planned to run together for a while.
So we get to the course, in a big beautiful state park. Lots of trees and meadows. The course is almost all trails - some single track, mostly double. Dirt, grass, lots of roots, but no rocks. Lots and lots of turns and small ups and downs, although no major hills, unless you live somewhere flat - like Florida. I was excited to get to meet another loopster, and I managed to find catchowder before the race started. Not much time to talk but we got a pic. I must add that she seems friendlier and nicer in person than her somewhat more cynical loop persona. (And I love funny cynics) But then that's what people said about me too. Wish we had more time to talk after the race, but I had to get going and catch a plane.
So, race time! I am going to steal Dave Schultz's RR style and go mile by mile:
Mile 1 - 7:54: About 170 people start the half on an asphalt road, and after about 1/4 mile we thin out enough to get on the trails. I am running with K and M, both of who started too fast last year, only to have me pass them in mile 11. This year they vowed to hang back with my pacing help. Garmin says 7:15 early and we ease off and try to relax. Crowded, but not too, as we hit the trails.
Mile 2 - 8:18: Hmm. Feels harder than that. I guess the trail running makes it slower. Still with K and M. Trying to not go too fast. I let them lead for a while.
Mile 3 - 8:04: Really enjoying the trails and scenery. So fun! Feeling good.
Me, M and K
Mile 4 - 7:48: A woman passed us here and we ran with her for a while. Then I hit a downhill stretch and took the lead, and started going after the next runner. I felt good, and said what the hell, let's push it for a while. K and M let me go, and I must admit I was thinking, "good, I can make a break and then they will never catch me. Bwahahaha!" Competition is evil.
Mile 5 - 7:53: Still feel good - reeling in runners, pushing the pace a bit/
Mile 6 - 8:04: Ditto
Mile 7 - 7:55: Still feel good. I am under 8 minute pace and thinking I can break 1:45. I love trails! Is that a smile?
Mile 8 - 8:20: Oh crud - what have I done? Breaking out of the trees, the rest of the race would have a lot more of the open meadows and sunlight. It's getting hot. Suddenly, I am content to stay behind runners and not pass them. The legs are getting heavy. My mojo is fading.
Mile 9 - 8:03: Still hanging on with a couple of other runners. Revising my goals to finishing without walking.
Mile 10 - 8:52: Stopping at the water breaks now, and there was two in this mile. Still moving OK, but wary of the last 3 miles. Take my one Gu.
Mile 11 - 8:40: Taking it one chunk at a time now. Over this rise, to that tree. Everyone else seems to be having the same issues. It is hot. Only a few people passed me in the last few miles. I think of the people doing the marathon, some of whom I am passing. Sounds miserable.
Mile 12 - 8:27: Feeling OK. The wheels haven't fallen off yet. Very thirsty. Still running though. Feels a lot slower.
Mile 13 - 8:35: OK, I'm going to make it. Garmin is over 13, and I see no sign of a finish. What I do see is long stretches of fine white sand that I have to run through! Anger is good motivation and I know I'm almost there, so I keep plugging, even passing some people.
A photographer and crowd noise appears! I throw up a victory pump!
I get to the finish in 1:50:19 (13.41 miles). Considering the heat and the trails I am very content with that. My buddies finished at 1:57 and 1:59, and two more behind that. Later I found I got 5th in my age group, and 32nd male. Top 30 won a thermos. Oh well.
After refueling, drinking a few gallons, and taking use of the open air shower, I felt much better. And I thought of catchowder out there for an extra hour! Ugh. Heard stories from my buddies of woods pooping, and people falling in the mud. All in all, I really loved the race. Soon we had to head back and get ready to go. Six hours later I was on a plane and heading back cross-country. Mission accomplished.