8 miles over crispy crunchy snow covered sidewalks and roads in another (yawn) sub-zero WC. Recovery miles for the weekend race. 8 miles to recover for a mile. But needed, as my hamstrings and arms are sore from the anaerobic-heavy, lactic acid laden mile on Saturday…
…Saturday. I must be losing my edge because I feel fine after running a lousy mile. Really fine. Here’s how it went down. Slept fine the night before, after a fine meal. Felt loose the morning of the race, rested, some nerves but not enough to require medication. I was mentally prepared, with a good ‘nothing to lose’ attitude; physically ready, with a nice 4 mile warm up, a balmy 25 degrees, along with some good sprints and stretches.
Saw a couple of familiar faces as we lined up at the start line, knew several guys were national champs in the middle distances, taking everything in like an art aficionado would in the Louvre, was relaxed, maybe a little too relaxed. We were individually introduced. I’m introduced first, being the last seed, receive applause, feel important. Then ‘so and so from ___, California, ran a 1:59 800m at last years national masters’ championships and DID NOT win,’…’so and so from ____, Michigan ran a 1:58 800m at the same race and also DID NOT win…’ Then the announcer says, ‘this is probably the finest field we’ve ever assembled!’ Mike (a competitor from Rochester I know from past races) and I turn to each other and say ‘great.’ Realizing now that my relaxed state is actually a disguised form of denial.
‘On your marks’, we toe the line, the gun goes off, runners sprint out, I surprising myself sprint out with them. In that split second, I’ve decided to go for broke rather than to safely conservatively come in with an okay time. I’m going to try to run a fantastic time and risk a meltdown. For the first quarter (2 laps), my spikes gripping the track, I’m flying along, right there, come through in 69 secs. Towards the end of the 3rd lap, the pack starts pulling ahead, or I’m falling behind, my stride no longer keeping up. Oh oh. Next lap, a gap starts appearing between me and the pack, I’m starting to feel legs and arms stiffening, lactic acid already?
At the end of the 4th lap, the half-way mark at 2:19, Mike, the one guy behind me, passes me, and now I’m in trouble. My gamble, I already know, will result in a big loss. With a half (4 laps) still to go and lactic acid seeping through every crevice in my muscles and ligaments, I’m just trying to survive, pumping my arms as fast as I can and stride though the quicksand as fluidly as possible. Thank God there’s an exciting race among the leaders (the winner edging out second, 4:25 to 4:26), as the crowd erupts and the announcer exhorts, so that the attention is away from my painful conclusion. The last three laps basically end up being a painful solo interval workout, as I mercifully teeter in at 4:58.
I’m in pain physically along with a bruised ego. I’ve come in far behind the leaders in other races, but the track can be particularly cruel as there’s no place to hide if you are tanking. In this moment immediately after finishing, in what feels like absolute silence, I want to go straight back to the hotel room and take a nap.
But that’s only for a second. A runner and a spectator come over and pat me on the back, one says ‘nice job, that’s a tough race, no place to hide on the track, good for you man.’ One of the contenders comes over and asks me how I did, I say ‘terrible,’ we shake hands. I’m now actually feeling giddy that the race is over. Whew. Best of all my son, Adam, comes down from the stands and gives me a high five, ‘great job Dad.’ I’m still his dad, nothing more nothing less. He brings me my gear, we go to the concession stand, I grab a Gatorade and he some nachos. Along the way, I see some of the senior runners from Buffalo, some amazingly still going in their 80’s, they congratulate me on being in the race.
Not sure I’d go as far as to say I’m proud of my performance – it really was a slow run. But I’m not upset, not by a long shot. I would be upset if the mile were my specialty. It’s not. Somehow these Hartshorne organizers were generous enough to include me in this terrific event, and it was a thrill. In the moment, I went for it. Didn’t work out this time, will pay off in the future.
A thrill ride but nothing to gauge my current fitness realistically. I think I had prepared for it as best I could, but without adequate facilities, I was cooked from the start. I’d love to try again, but without a nearby indoor track and the event’s timing, not sure how much I can devote to future indoor races. For now, the Hartshorne race becomes one more chapter in my collection of fun run stories, and catapults me, finally, to the upcoming 2014 season, back home, in my venue, on the roads.