Tuesday, February 16, 2010

BU Valentine Invite 5000 race report

Well, I don’t normally write up race reports. It’s mainly because I’m lazy. But I put 8 weeks of training into the BU Valentine 5000m and a race report was actually requested, so here goes…

The idea of trying to run a 5K under 15 minutes was not on my radar until 2 weeks before this race. I began training for this 5000 with the goal of running 15:15-20, which would have been a big improvement over my 15:42 PR from Cigna in August. It wasn’t until I ran 8:35 for 3000m at the BU Terrier meet that I got to thinking that the conversion worked out to about 15 minutes and hell, I’m more of a strength guy anyhow, so I guess I ought to give it a shot.

Things didn’t go perfectly the week of the race. Camden got a nasty cough and cold which caused a couple of tough nights of sleep, including Friday night before the race. I actually ended up sleeping in his bed for a few hours during the night. Then Friday I started to wonder if I was getting a little sick as well. (4 days later I can confirm that I was getting something, because I’m pretty stuffy and full of phlegm with a sore throat) Anyhow, I cut back the miles for a few days leading up to the race and aside from feeling a little stuffy and a sore throat approaching, my legs were feeling fantastic and fresh.

I got down to BU around 2 on Saturday to check in, even though my race wasn’t until about 8 pm. I had to get there before they closed the check in and I also wanted to see a few other guys race, including Colin Ingram who cracked 2 minutes for the 800 for the first time in a while! After taking a few pictures of those races I tried to find a spot to get off my feet, eat some late lunch and chill out for a while. No Camie and Camden at this race because of the late start time but also because Camden was sick. BUT…around 6:30 I got a call from Camie asking me go pick her up at the T stop by BU! She surprised me by having her mom watch Camden and took the train down to watch the race. Also, Todd Hanson and his family decided to take a trip to Boston and watch the race so I had a nice little cheering section for the race.

After warming up along Commonwealth Ave for a few miles I got back inside just in time for heat assignments/check in. I ended up being seeded 8th in the 3rd section of the 5000. Right where I wanted to be, in the middle of a heat with guys who would hopefully pull me along. As soon as the 2nd section finished we were quickly lined up, all 21 of us! Before I had time to think too much we were off with the gun!

I intentionally paused just a moment on the line and let the crowd roar off. I figured two things: with 21 guys in a 6 lane track there is a good chance of tripping up and ruining the race, and also I’d be better off with a 1st lap a second or two slow than too fast. So I immediately settled into dead last but didn’t stay there for long. After the first lap I started inching my way up and after 600m I was actually in about 5-6th place and found a spot to tuck in. The first K seems all about guys finding their rhythm so a couple of other guys passed me and I ended up settling into 8th I think, as we hit the 1st K split in 2:58. Perfect. 5 laps down, 20 go to. Somewhere early in the second K the field started to split into two packs. I sensed I was right on the dividing line and quickly realized that I needed to be in the first pack, even if I was only hanging onto the back. That was my train and I needed to get on board. I got gapped by about 4-5 meters for a little while but gradually scratched my way back onto the caboose of the lead train. We hit the mile in 4:47 and then the second K in 5:57, still perfect. It was, however, about this time that I realized this wasn’t feeling as comfy as I was hoping it would feel at 2K.

Based on the 3K at Terrier in 8:35, I was telling myself that I’d get to 3K tonight in 8:55-9:00 and feel fine. That isn’t exactly how I’d describe it. When I hit 3K in 8:58 the exact though I had was, “Shit, I can’t do this for 10 more laps!” But I plugged along at the back of my train for a few more laps, just waiting for things to really blow up. Somewhere in there I started having a pretty tough conversation with myself. “You CAN do this, you just don’t WANT TO anymore because Dr. Feelgood is knocking on the door harder than he’s ever knocked before and you can either invite him in for a beer or you can go hide under your bed.” I don’t normally hear my wife yelling for me at races. I’m not sure if she just has a voice that blends in or if she usually doesn’t yell, but just as I was getting to decision time I went by her and Todd on the back straight and heard her yell something. That was what I needed to hear. I immediately thought about all the early mornings when I crawl out of bed and wake her up while I’m sneaking out to run alone in the dark winter mornings, and the evening track sessions that have been interrupting her evenings. It was somewhere with about 5-6 laps to go that I decided I was going to accept whatever pain was necessary to get under 15 minutes. Hell, you pass out before you die, right?

When I hit 4K in 12:01 I knew I had fallen off pace just a couple seconds in that last K, but I also knew the end was in sight. I’ll be honest, I did spend a whole lap wondering if anyone had ever called a timeout during a race. Pain is an acquired taste and I was getting quite drunk on it. I actually didn’t panic when I saw that I was a second off pace at 4K. I had recently decided that the pain wasn’t going to dictate the outcome and that if I could just string together a couple more 36 second laps that whether my body was willing or not, my mind and heart would require me to kick the last couple of laps. The leaders started to pick it up a hair as well and had dropped me a little bit early in the last K. I didn’t want to shoot my wad too early so I just focused on the clock for a couple of laps and we began to come up on the first couple of runners being lapped. I was already pretty delirious but seeing these runners confused me a little bit because I hadn’t really considered the possibility of lapping guys. It turned out good though because I managed to use one of them to pull back up towards the lead pack a little bit.

I got to the line with 2 laps remaining at 13:48, so I knew it was time to pour the last of my life out onto the track. On the short track it is a little tough to hit the gas with 2 laps to go but I tried to pick it up a little bit and then got to the bell lap at 14:23. There was a string of lapped runners right around the corner and I passed 4, maybe 5 guys on the last lap. I was too tired to be confused at this point. I knew I had been riding in 6th place for a while so when I passed all those guys I knew something was odd but I couldn’t think to figure it out. I just ran at the line like a fat kid runs to the ice cream truck…with complete tunnel vision. I glanced up about 10 meters before the line and saw 14:54 so I knew I was going to get under by a few ticks, not that I really cared at the moment. I just wanted to stop running. I think I was too tired for satisfaction. My official time ended up being 14:56.28, a 46 second improvement over my 5K at Cigna.

I found the top rail of the track to rest against for a few seconds and suck in air like that dying dish in the Faith No More video for “Epic”, which seemed appropriate. After sort of catching my breath I stood up to walk over to Camie, but had to wonder whether my legs would actually take me there.

I hadn’t been this uncomfortable since my stepdad gave me the “birds and the bees” chat in 7th grade using a Hustler and a Linda Lovelace video as reference materials. Funny, both ended up lasting about 15 minutes. To quote Emil Zatopek, it was the most pleasant exhaustion I have ever known.


Chris Mahoney said...

Thanks for the write up Bob. One of the best race write ups I have read in a long time. Very insightful and inspiring. I am looking forward to many more big performances and break throughs for you. Keep up the hard work and they will come!

Wilesthing said...

Thanks Chris. You know that effort level that can't really be described to someone who hasn't done it. Years from now I might forget exactly what time I ran here, but I won't forget how close I came to my limit, effort wise.

Funny, as I'm writing this comment the Police song on the radio just said, "I have only come here seeking knowledge, things they would not teach me of in college..." That is why most of us run, to gain the knowledge of ourselves and find out just what our limits are. You can't find that out with a 90, 95, or 99 percent effort.

Are you coming up to Portsmouth for the Paddy's 5 Miler on March 14th??? Fast course and free beer...

KG said...

enjoyed reading the report...you're right, there's nothing quite like emptying the tank