Hey there. It's been over six months since I've felt like I had anything good to write about. But I'm back. Still running. More than ever actually. Last year I ran 1,647 miles which is a 40-year high. That was made possible by the lack of any significant injuries, as well as the lack of tapering or downtime for racing! I spent the summer thinking (foolishly) I was training for a Fall marathon, but when that went away I just kept putting in miles at a slightly lower rate. So it turned out to be a good year despite the lack of races and race road trips (after Atlanta anyway).
I did manage to add a few rows to my racing tab on the spreadsheet; Four "virtual" races which were really just glorified time trials, but I'm counting them. They were all my local traditional races that I do every year. I ran them all on the traditional start date and time and on the actual course. And I pushed as hard as I could manage without any one to chase or any results to motivate me.
July 4th I did a 5K in 22:23 which was a minute slower than last year but a solid effort. There were a handful of others on the course at about the same time doing the same thing.
In October I did the local 10K, and about a dozen people were there at the start and even more hanging at the finish after maneuvering the course.48:46 was a good 3-4 minutes slower than I figured to be capable of. It was more of a tempo run than a race. But fun to see some other runners.
Thanksgiving I did the Turkey Trot 3 mile in 22:20 and again there were a few others walking and jogging the course.
None of these had official timers, but they all had virtual race options. I refuse to pay $30 just for a t-shirt so I was a virtual bandit, guilt-free because I wasn't using up any race resources like water or or food or police, because there were none of those things.
The fourth race actually had results. It was a new idea. A course was mapped out on the beach bike path and added to Strava. To race, one just had to do that course (marked on the path as well) any time in a 7-day window, and then upload your results to Strava. I did pay for that one, because it supported the high school cross country program, and they had come cool Covid medals. It was a 5K in 22:14 which got me 32nd place.
So that brings me to this week, when I virtually bandited our Super Bowl 10K, the race which I have run more than any other. This would be the 25th time over the past 36 years. It figured to be like the others but I invited my friend and rival to join and he surprised me by accepting on Saturday night. So now it was a real race! No more being happy running sub-8 miles and giving an "honest" effort. No, I would need to try and beat this guy. He usually beats me by very small margins but we are about even, and I think I am in better shape at the moment. He also brought his 19-year old daughter who I have ran with before and is about the same speed.
I jogged down to the start and found some other runners from our club who had started earlier and were just finishing. Got to chat a little. It was all the fast old guys that would have beat me anyway so I'm glad I wasn't aware of their race. I would have been dead last. So anyway, we waited for a green light at one of the few intersections at the start and off we went.
My rival, B, went out fast, as expected. He always goes out fast and tries to hang on. I usually catch up to him in the second half. He mocks my negative splits like they are a bad thing - silly man. So when my pace showed 7:02 in the first 100 yards I had to let him slip ahead and I eased back. Young C stayed with me and we ran side-by-side almost the whole race. She runs track and CC and sensibly understands the whole negative split concept. My A goal (besides beating B) was sub 7:30 pace and sub-47. But I wasn't sure I was capable as I haven't run that fast for that long in 18 months. My "plan" was maybe 7:50 first mile and work it down to sub 7:30 by mile 3.
So B is pulling away from us and we are trucking along at a hard pace just to stay close. We hit mile 1 in 7:24 (with uphill) and B is maybe 40 yards ahead. At this point he looks back, unsure of a turn. Ha! He has only run this race once or twice and doesn't know the course! Advantage me. I shout some directions to him, but it costs him a few seconds anyway on about four turns. Mile two we are maintaining pace and he isn't getting too far ahead. Mile two is 7:30 with more hill and he is 50-60 yards ahead.
Mile three is straight and slightly down and usually where I start to pick it up. Sure enough, he starts to come back to us. I am working pretty damn hard though. Feels pretty much like a normal race; Locked in on someone to catch. On the edge of my body's limits. (My HR averaged 178 for the race and was about 180 or more the last 4 miles) Mile 3 is 7:20 and he is 20 yards ahead.
One last confusing turn that he misses by a few steps and we catch him on the corner. My racer instinct keeps the foot on the gas to keep him from hanging on. Sure enough, he has dropped back and a block later I turn to look and he is a good 20 yards back. Beaten. I know that it is virtually impossible to come back from that but I need to keep the pressure on anyway. I don't want a last mile surprise.
But the adrenaline of the chase is gone and that little voice in my head says "It's OK to slow down now, the race is won". But I tell him to shut up. Mile 4 is 7:11, but now there are more hills ahead. Still I feel pretty good and I have C with me which helps. We keep pushing and mile 5 is 7:23. One more look and B is out of sight. So I just need to get to the finish and post a good time. I am breathing pretty hard by now and Mile 6 has the nasty steep hill which always crushes me. I slow to a crawl (9 min pace?) to get over it and C pulls ahead with her young lungs and legs, damn her. But I don't care if she beats me. I get to the final half mile downhill and regain life and crank it up. I get mile 6 down to 7:27, and cover the last .21 at 6:24 pace, nearly catching the whippersnapper. I'm in at 45:38, and only 3 seconds off my time from two years ago.
Phew! Quite happy with that. We wait and wait and finally C calls her Dad. Apparently his calf was cramping so he walked it in. But he acknowledged that I had him beat well before that. Victory is sweet. All day long I felt good - not just the endorphins, but just that great feeling of racing again, putting it all out there and reaching a goal and exceeding expectations. It's Monday night and I'm still smiling.
Life is good.