After an incredible series to this point, I came into this race in third place in the RFYL Grand Prix Series. I was in second until Richard Harris blew me away with a 16:20 to win the Greekfest 5k. Incredibly, at that point although we had accumulated around 6000 points he lead me for second by a single point with 2 races remaining. After just edging me out in gutsy effort at the Brixx 10k his lead ballooned to 3 points. By my math, I needed to beat him in the 15k GPx finale by about 15 seconds, a tall order since he had beaten me in the last 3 races.
I redoubled my efforts and had a couple weeks of very good training including an amazing 3 x 3 mile workout leading up to Lungstrong. Based on my condition and workouts I figured a 15k reach goal of 53:00, 5:41 pace, was about right. It would be the equivalent of the best race of the season (and my life). I knew the course was rolling with lots of turns and my 10k(pr) McMillan converted to a 54:00 15k so I thought a 53:00 reach goal was plenty aggressive enough. I can only control what I can run and I know how fast and talented Richard is, so if I ran my best and it wasn’t enough, that would be ok, but I thought this would give me a chance.
|About 20 seconds into the race.|
John is already gone.
I came into this race feeling good I had managed to taper quite a bit, dropped a little weight, and felt quick and strong. The plan was to go out hard and hope to settle in around 5:40-5:42. With Paul just completing the race due to injury and John Compton racing, it would be interesting to see who would be around me. At the gun John was gone and I led the secondary pack with Vincent and a guy I did not recognize but who looked to be a seasoned runner (I would later learn this was Jay Barringer). I knew Billy and Richard were close behind but I wanted to try and set a difficult pace and make it hard for anyone to sit on my shoulder. When we turned into Jetton Park, John Compton was already out of sight. Thankfully there was a secondary bike lead. Unfortunately, he tried to take us the wrong way into the park, runners behind called to us and we got back on the right track only losing a few seconds. More frustrating than losing the seconds was the biker calling out “it is not my responsibility”, um yeah dude if you are going to ride a lead bike in a race it really is your responsibility, otherwise just get off the course, which he then did. Without him confusing things the remaining turns were well marked although not being able to see John or the upcoming turns made running good tangents difficult.
My garmin got farther and farther off as the race went on, but those are the only splits I have, the early splits are, mile 1: 5:40, mile 2: 5:37, mile 3: 5:43. I figure Jay and I came through 5k in about 17:40 or so, about this time Vincent disappeared and I refused to look back to see where anyone else was. I just kept trying to focus on running my pace, settling in, staying strong, focused and worry about the rest later. Somewhere in the first 5k, it became clear that Jay and I would be together for a while. He was running strong, controlled and looked pretty confident at our pace. While we never said it, at some point we just seemed to settle into working together. There were many points where the pace started to get to me but rather then having to hold the pace alone, I ran with him and it was a HUGE help. I tried to do my part of holding the pace, but certainly Jay did his part. Middle 5k splits, mile 4: 5:40, mile 5: 5:32, mile 6: 5:35; I would estimate the 10k split at 35:10 or so.
At some point around the 5-mile mark I heard the pack behind us coming up and for a moment was slightly demoralized as I was hoping I was running away from Richard and Billy. I tried not to look behind but on a turn I saw David Willis out of the corner of my eye. All at once I was impressed by the run he was having, happy that at least it wasn’t Richard, and scared because I could hear others right on my tail and was afraid they were all feeling good too. At some point Billy passed me but Jay was not going to let him get away and I would not let Jay away. Eventually Jay and I worked back past Billy who seemed really strong. I was trying to stay strong and hold pace through the middle 5k and then lay it all on the line for the last 5k of the GPx season and let the chips fall where they may.
Somewhere around 6, Richard caught and passed me. It was the moment I feared since setting a hard pace. Again, there was a tinge of being demoralized, but deep down I knew Richard would be coming on hard, and thought to myself, he may beat me, but he will have to beat my best. I soon noticed that Richard was not building a gap. Then Jay and I were bringing him back. I could hear him breath a bit heavy and that is like blood in the water.
Mile 7: 5:33, mile 8: 5:32. At this point I was running with all I had and running scared at the same time. I know the way Richard finishes races so I certainly wasn’t going to wait until the last mile. I tried to surge/push for 100m at a time, Jay was always with me and I wasn’t surging on him, rather I was trying to break Billy and Richard off Jay and I. After a push I would recover and stay with Jay, trying not to give anything back. We ended up running near stride for stride for about 90% of the race. I could feel the pace dropping and thought back to a line from Paul’s epic BRR recap: “Still we were alongside each other, no quarter given or asked.” That pretty much sums it up.
As the pace quickened tiny milestones brought us closer to the finish, 5k to go, we turned left with Jetton Road to begin the long rolling straight home, 7 mile marker, then 2 miles to go; all the time running stride for stride with Jay. I could hear no one behind but continuously increased the effort and pace to just what I hoped could be sustainable to the finish. We hit the 8-mile mark and seemed to just keep dialing up the pace. A major flaw with this race is that the last mile of the 15k comes together with people completing the 5k. It is hard not to be frustrated when you have spent 8 miles trying to run tangents at 5:40 pace only to have to dodge 5k walkers with strollers, children and dogs walking six wide, 2 miles and 40 minutes into a 5k. To their credit, the bewildered walkers did their best to leave room for Jay and me and I tried my best to let them know we were coming. At this point I had no idea whatsoever where anyone other than Jay was, but I knew that Richard always finishes strong and every second matters, so I just kept turning up the pace and surprisingly every time I asked for more my legs responded.
|And I'm spent.|
As we made the turn onto Cove Road and garmin beeped for mile 9, 5:25. I thought to myself that there was left than a half mile left, less than 3 more minutes of pain and cranked up a bit of a kick. All along I had figured that Jay would eventually pull away from me, it seemed I was holding on to him more than vice versa. But as I began a long final push I found myself pulling away from him. I realized for the first time that I had a chance to be second and kicked until I thought I was going to puke. I opened a small gap on Jay, made the final turn, and really tried to enjoy the last few seconds of race. My chip picked up late as usual and Jay kicked it in so we had the same chip time but I had him by 2 second on the gun time. I closed the last .42 on my gamin in 2:10, 5:13 pace. I would love to know what Jay and I covered the final 5k in, it was moving, I am guessing we covered 3.2 miles in about 17:30. Finishing time, 52:25, I was blown away.
|With Michelle and Dee post race.|