After my intervals on Wednesday, the next few days were dicey. I took Thursday morning off and had a relaxing bath. Thursday afternoon, I experienced some intestinal problems during my 4 miles with Alice. Of course, she was feeling fast that day and finished the last 400 m at sub 7:00 min/mile pace. I made the 4 miles, was very chagrined to see there wasn’t a bathroom near where we parked, then drove home very quickly. I went to bed early that night, slept in a little on Friday morning, then just hit the stationary bike for 6 miles on Friday morning. The intestinal problems seemed behind me, but I’d also developed a stinging pain in my right buttock (just like Forrest Gump). I did a quick 2 miles with Alice, throwing in a few strides to get myself up to planned race pace. The pain flared up, so I just massaged it all night.
When I arrived at the park for the Seminole Stampede this morning, I could tell the tightness was still there. I checked in, pinned on the number and attached the chip, then hit the road for some warmup. During my warmup strides, I could feel the pain there. So, I headed back to the car and applied some biofreeze. I’m not sure what biofreeze does exactly. Probably nothing. I think it just makes you tingle enough that you don’t notice pain so much. I’d never use it for a training run, but for a race – it’s just the ticket.
I headed for the starting line and did a few more strides before the start. A look at past results told me that I’d be able to finish fairly high in the standings if I managed my goal of 20 minutes, so I headed straight for the front.
I’m surrounded by a few people right at the starting line. Some are sprinting out. I notice two solid looking high school guys and an older guy who looks like he’s been a solid runner for about 20 years. He’s doing push ups with his shirt off about 20 yards off the start. The national anthem is sung and a three minute warning is given. I take a last stride out about 40 yards, take a look at the first turn, then jog back to the starting line. For the first time in my short running career, I’m literally toeing the line. With a 15 second warning given, I get into my best “ready” pose. The air horn goes off and so do we.
I’m flying out behind the two high school guys. It’s a little strange to see only two people in front of me. As we approach the first turn, I glance down at the Garmin. My pace reads 5:07 min/mile. Yow! I back off and let the high schoolers go. I can feel some runners bearing down on me. I look back at the Garmin. It reads 5:37 min/mile now. Still way too fast. I back off again. The push up guy passes me. We round a corner and another older guy passes me. I try to grab onto his coattails. The push up guy has basically caught the high schoolers and they’ve opened a sizable gap on the older guy in front of me. I trail him by about 5 feet. I’m not sure who’s behind me, but I can hear breathing.
We roll off the paved trail and onto some grass, heading for a road. I pass the 1 mile mark in 6:09. I’ve got 18 seconds in the bank. It’s definitely a faster start than I wanted, but I just relax and try to fall into my planned pace. The older guy is pulling away, but I let him go. We pull off the road and back onto a paved trail through the woods. The breathing behind me is gone.
I’m about 15 feet behind now and the trail winds through the trees. One moment, I’m all alone, then next I catch a glimpse of the back side of the guy in front of me. He continues to gain ground on me. Every so often, I pass out of the trees and a small group of volunteers cheers me on.
Just before the 2 mile mark, I emerge from the trees and I’ve got a good look at the race in front of me. The guy immediately in front of me has almost caught one of the high schoolers. He’s about 20 feet in front of me and 5 feet behind the high schooler. I can’t see the other high schooler or the push up guy. It’s a few seconds before I hear cheering behind me, so I know I’ve got a decent lead on whoever trails me.
I pass a water station, and the two mile mark in 12:36. I’ve still got 18 seconds in the bank, so I know I’ve done a good job running the second mile right on pace. It’s been difficult, though and I’m definitely feeling it. I run up the trail and out ofthe park where the trail runs along the north side of the park. I’ve gained a little ground on the two in front of me. The older guy has now passed the high school and I’m only about 10 feet back of the high schooler now.
The trail turns left back into the park. The race director waits there ,telling me I’m in 5th with two runners right in front of me. He then jumps on his bike and zooms by.
“I wish I could run with you guys,” he says.
“I wish I was riding your bike”, I reply as he zooms to the finish.
Both the high schooler and the older guy are in reach if I really push the last half mile. I know I’ve got 20 minutes if I just keep moving at my current pace. I quickly become content with that. I pass the 3 mile mark in 19:11 – 10 seconds in the bank. I’ve slowed over the last mile, but I’ve clearly got my goal. I let the high schooler slip further away, but I spot the finish and coast across the line in 19:55.
Finally, the 20 minute barrier is broken. I’ve been chasing it for a year (though I did take quite a bit of time away to run longer races). I’m not sure how many runners there were total, but I finished 5th overall and 1st in my age group. The age group victory was also a first for me. My time places me at a 50 VDOT now. I’ve got another race next week. I’ll just be trying to beat today’s time.
Update: There were 185 total runners and 9 in my age division. Push up guy won the race in 17:29. High schooler #1 was second in 18:46. The guy I chased most of the way was 3rd in 19:39. High scholler #2 was 4th in 19:45.