Saturday, June 14, 2014

Youth vs. Experience

I don't normally compose 'race reports', but the races the last two weeks have been very well ran, and I felt compelled to tell someone, even if that someone is simply my computer.  Posting on Facebook would do no good, most people don't have the attention span.  I'm going to assume that if you are here, you are probably a runner, so you will stick around a bit, and even relate to what I'm saying.

Hospital Hill Half Marathon -- 6/7/2014

I really enjoy Hospital Hill and don't necessarily find the hills that hard.  I enjoy the jaunt thru Brookside, the Plaza area, and Crown Center.  If there's a list of 'must-do' races for runners in Kansas City, Hospital Hill is definitely on that list, if not the top of it.

This year, however, was about helping my running partner through her first half marathon, and doing it with a fairly aggressive goal of sub-2hrs.  We've ran enough times together to know that we had the pace and endurance for the race, we just needed to show up on race day.

Show up we did.....and so did Mother Nature.  The skies opened up and started dumping water on KC at about 6AM.  It NEVER relented until well after the finish of the race.  I've never been so utterly soaked in my lifetime.  Every step of the race was a 'squish-squish'.

We started off faster than our anticipated pace, but I intentionally did that with the knowledge of the hills later to come.  We worked our way through beautiful Brookside, made the halfway turn and found ourselves back at the Plaza.  Mile #10 is an uphill grind from the Plaza, up Broadway, for nearly 1.5miles.  It's not a terribly steep hill, but after putting in ten solid miles prior to that, in the pouring rain, it can be a shocker.  This is where my calves seized up on me a year ago.  This year, I didn't let that happen.  And my running partner didn't waiver at the sight or length of the hill.  We cruised through it.

We checked our watches with two miles to go, and we had 21minutes to our goal.  At that point, it was never in doubt.  But, really, all day long, it was never in doubt.  We ran our race.  We ran with what I considered quite the technical/tactical approach to Hospital Hill and a sub-2hr goal.

The finish was a bit bitter-sweet, as I stopped to help a wheelchair athlete who had lost control and wiped out.  But, we still finished strong, broke our goal --1:57:40--, received our gargantuan medals, and had ourselves a nice plate of pancakes.

Watkins Mill Get Outdoors 5K -- 6/14/2014

Many of you know I was a sprinter in high school and college.  Running 'fast' for more than a quarter-mile, really takes it out of me.  I can pace myself and run all day long.....but asking me to pick it up and run/sprint, usually doesn't happen anymore....that's for the youth.

Watkins Mill State Park is one of my 'stomping grounds', if you will.  Of the 2000+ miles I've ran in the past 18 months, 30-40% probably came from making laps around Watkins Mill.  It's a 3.75mile paved trail with rolling hills.  There really isn't much elevation change to speak of.  Still, many runners have spoken about how we'd like to have a 5K out there.  Well, this year, the Watkins Mill Association made it happen for us trail enthusiasts.  I wanted to win this race, or at the very least, run hard for my running club and for myself.

I know what you're hard can it be?  It's only 3.125miles, and it's relatively flat!  This is all true.  But, we had some really good runners show up today.  A 5K might be a 'short' race, but there's still time for a little strategy and a plan of attack.

While we all consider Watkins Mill trail to be 'flat', it really isn't when you start running it.  The hills are short, maybe 10-30seconds each, but the downhills are even shorter, and you immediately bounce back up another incline.  It's quite a lot of work on your quads and calves.

There's something about starting lines.  It's the sprinter in me.  I can toe the line at any race, and when I hear the gun.....the 'start'.......the 'GO!' triggers something in my brain that just shoots thru my body.  I tear away from every start line with reckless, Prefontaine-style, abandon.  Today was no different.  The lady at the start said 'GO!' and I tore out of there.  For almost a half-mile, I led the race (this is nothing new, just seems to happen to me a lot).

I could hear someone behind me, and I'm not one who likes to let people saddle in behind me and draft me, if you will.  I slowed my pace a bit, and two high-school aged kids ran past me.  I settle into a three-way tie for 3rd with another high-schooler and a man near my age.

For nearly two miles, we talked.  Yeah!  Right in the middle of a race, we had a discussion of our weekly, yearly, etc running goals and accomplishments.  Mind you, this was probably about 6:20/mile pace we were having a conversation at.  But, around mile 2.25, we lost our high-schooler and our threesome became a twosome in 3rd place.

Nicholas was his name.  Nicholas and I ran fairly quietly, but very confidently from that point on.  We spent the next half mile chewing up the distance between us and the high-schooler in 2nd place, eventually overtaking him.

Nicholas and I both knew this trail/course VERY well.  We said to each other, "You go catch that kid, there's one more hill left to get him....we can't let a kid beat us!"  Neither of us took each other up on the offer, but instead, we ran together.  We reached the final hill, and sure enough, the high-schooler in 1st was hurting, and we used the hill to blow by him.

With no more hills left, we approached the dam.  Our pace picked up a bit, but neither runner really committing to the finish.  With about 1/3mile to go, I saw a group of people and decided that was the finish line and went into 'kick mode'.  When I reached those people, it was NOT the finish line.  I continued along the path for another 200meters or so, made a hard left to see the 'FINISH' balloon and the timer......still under 20:00.  I sprinted up that final incline to a surprising First-Place finish and another sub-20minute 5K on the year!  The strategy was to run hard today, but not out of control.  Let someone else lead the way, just keep them in sight.  Let the rolling hills of Watkins Mill take their toll on the leader and be ready to strike while the iron was hot.

Strike we did.

Today, the winner was Experience.

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