Sunday, September 6, 2009

Training Week Review - North Coast Challenge Race Report

With three weeks remaining until the Akron Marathon, I managed my best training week since pre-Boston this Spring. I started the week with a double on Monday, 6 miles at lunch and 6 miles in the evening, both at recovery pace. Track Tuesday was very encouraging. Instead of my usual 3 x 1 mile repeats, I alternated miles and half miles. They went like this:
- 1600 @ 5:27
- 800 @ 2:28
- 1600 @ 5:29
- 800 @ 2:39
Wednesday I ran a 9 miler at lunch in Independence. I found a new path, leading from the cemetery at Brecksville and Rockside down into the valley. I ran a 14 mile out and back on Thursday evening, on the tow path between Frazee House and the Boston store. I wasn't feeling quite right but I wasn't sure exactly why. I woke up Friday with a sore throat and no voice. I didn't feel as bad otherwise, so I did a 6 mile run at lunch. Saturday morning still with throat issues, I met-up with Barb and Glenn in Beachwood and we rode together to the North Coast Challenge in Westlake. (Thanks for driving, Barb!) With a couple of miles of warm-up and cool-down, plus the 5.75 after I got home from the race, the total for the day was 12.75. I ran with the SERC group on Sunday, 17.5 miles for a total of a little over 80 for the week.

Race Report

The North Coast Challenge was not a typical local 5 mile race, this one draws a great field of runners, mostly because of the healthy purse for the winners. I checked the website and decided to register when I saw that they even had a nice little sum for the winning Grand Master, the over 50 year old runners category.
I shared a ride to Westlake with Barb and Glenn. We had some difficulty due to a series of detours for road construction, but we got there in time to get our race packs and run our warm-ups. It was a beautiful morning, sunny and mild, with very little wind. Perfect for a race.
The announcer called for us to gather at the start, so I made my way to the area marked for 6 minute pace runners. I was planning to go for sub-6 minute miles, barely. Based on what I had seen of the past Grand Masters times at this race, I thought that would be the minimum requirement to have a shot a winning. I spotted Lloyd from Vertical Runner as we mulled around anxiously in the starting area. He said he was going for a 5:55 pace, and I said I just wanted to be under 6. I noticed another familiar looking over-fifty runner, long brown and gray hair, salt and pepper stubbly beard. He had the obvious look of a very fast runner. I sensed that this was a guy I needed to keep an eye on. The starter counted us down, and we were off.
The race started with a straight, flat mile and a quarter, and the times reflected that. I hit the first marker at 5:50, and the field had not thinned much. I was surrounded by very fast runners. I was not feeling comfortable, but then again, running at that pace shouldn't be comfortable. Turns out I had judged the long-haired man correctly. He was about 10 yards ahead of me, and running strong. In the second mile, we made a 90 degree left turn, but otherwise, it was flat and fast as well. I kept my pace, passing the clock for the second mile at 11:46, a 5:56 mile, still about 10 yards from the long-haired man...and thinking about what to do.
The third mile wound through a park, still on a road, but slightly shady. I took the opportunity to run the tangents, and wondered why some runners seemed oblivious to this. Not long-haired man...he ran it smart. Despite this, I decided to close the gap. I pulled within a yard of him, but did not pass him. Part of this was strategy, and part was that he was keeping a pace close to my limit. I had decided back at the 2 mile mark that as long as he held on to a sub-6 minute mile pace, I would just try to hang with him, until the last half-mile. Then it would be decided by who had the better kick.
When we crossed the three mile marker, the clock said 17:44, a 5:58 pace for that mile. Still under six, so I stayed with the plan. The fourth mile was a complete change of terrain. We left the road, crossed a field, and hit a stretch of meandering trail through the woods. The soft surface and twisty turns were making it harder to keep the pace, but I kept right on you-know-who's shoulder. We came out of the woods and crossed the four mile marker at 23:43, just one second under the 6 minute pace, which was surprising considering the terrain. We turned right and within about a tenth of a mile, turned right again on to the broad five lane road we had run out on in the first mile.

Long-haired man was showing no signs of fading, so I knew it was up to me to find more speed. Before I realized what I was doing, I had increased the pace and passed him, right at the 3/4 mile to go marker. I knew immediately I had made a mistake. The plan was to wait until a half mile to go , but I had already made my move. Now, I had given him the advantage of tailing me in, and possibly making his move near the finish, where I would not have time to react. Within just a few seconds, I decided the only thing to do was to pick it up even further, to try to drop him back far enough that he had not chance to hang on. My legs were telling me they were down with this plan, but my lungs were raising objections. Still, I did take it up another notch.
The only other runner close to us was a fortyish looking guy who was about 30 yards ahead. Another thought. Catch and pass that guy, and put a body between me and long-hair man. There was a psychological edge to this, and the added benefit was the young guy would give me a target to help me keep pressing the pace.
I passed the younger guy near the half-mile to go marker. Unlike long-hair, this guy reacted immediately, and he had a kick. I heard his footfalls right on my heels. I was really struggling to hold on to this pace, and he was giving no room to falter. The familiar nausea was there, reminding me of what I was doing, reminding me of what was going to happen if I continued for much longer. I was trying hard to block it out, and I finally got some help. The 100 yards to go sign. I went into full sprint mode (or whatever I could find of that elusive top gear by this point), and focused on the finish. I saw the clock say 29:30 as I ran beneath it. Younger guy was three seconds behind me. Long-haired guy was 30 seconds back. I didn't see him cross. I was obeying the commands to double over and dry heave. After a minute, I got my breath back, straightened up, and walked it off. It is amazing how bad you can feel at the end of one of these short races, and how quickly you can recover. Within just a few minutes, I was talking and congratulating long-haired man, who I found out was Terry McCluskey. Oh yeah, the guy who was in the Running Times Masters of the Year article. That long-haired guy. I lost track of the younger guy, but eventually came across him and congratulated him on a great race, and a great finish. By the way, he was younger, but only by a couple of years. I completely missed my estimate. He was 50, a Grand Master. Rich Oldrieve. A well know local runner with a long and impressive resume that includes, per my friend Glen, a 2:26 marathon. Lucky for me I decided he was a guy I needed to kick-down in the last half-mile.
I ran a cool-down mile or so with Kam, then we hung around the park waiting for the awards presentation. Kam ran a great race, just missing the Masters prize money, finishing 20 seconds behind one of the Ethopian runners. (Ethopians took first through third in the Mens open division as well. And the first place woman was also Ethopian.) My friend Barb was second Grand Masters first in her age group*. I won the men's Grand Master award, $200, and got a nice little trophy as well. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning. Nope.

*Sorry Barb...I had it wrong. You definitely got 1st AG. I think it was a PR as well, right?


Babs said...

That was a great 'recap' of YOUR race! You ran sooo well! It was a great morning, being with my SERC buddies and running in such an exciting race!

EbethS said...

Great race report and congrats.

DaisyDuc said...

Frank, great report! Sounds like you really gutted it out to come in strong! You never cease to inspire me! Congratulations!

Julie said...

That was a great story I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what might happen. ( ; Nice Job!

Graham said...

I am, as always, in complete and utter awe of your race reports and always feel inspired to go out and run my best (even if my best is more than double your times, lol). Continue to keep up the great work and continue to share your stories!

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Thank you very much