Saturday, July 16, 2011

Crazy 8's

With my 5k debacle a couple of weeks ago, it's time for my first real race. I've gotten in some pretty decent training and after this weekend, will have over 500 miles in over the last five weeks. My "A" goal is to run 24:30 with my "B" goal being 24:59. However, while I've gotten in a lot of workouts between 5:10-5:20 pace, I've done very little running at under 5:00 pace, so I didn't know how well my body would to respond to sub 5:00 pace.

Crazy 8's is advertised as "the world's fastest 8k." While the course itself isn't really fast, the world record (22:02) was set at this race and they always have a very competitive field, full of top-level Kenyans. While it's nice to win some money in a small-town road race every once in a while, the races where I have guys constantly pushing me from behind and guys to constantly chase down are the races I enjoy the most. Winning is nice but I'll take constant battles any day of the week.

The race takes place in Kingsport, TN, which is about a 4.5 hour drive from Nashville. I headed down to Chris Herren's place and then we left for the race. Luckily the race took place at 9:58pm, so it gave us plenty of time to get there and relax. At about 6:00, we made it to our hotel and did a short one mile jog to loosen up our legs from the car ride. I was feeling really tired, so I took a short nap and then headed to the lobby for a couple of cups for coffee.

About 8:30, we headed down to the race and at 9:15, started warming-up. It was pitch black at this point and Chris and I got in about 20 minutes of running. I then did some drills and got in several strides. I felt really sluggish on my warm-up but was still expecting to run very well.

My race plan was to go out in about 4:50 and key off Chris a good bit. He's been running some hard workouts and has gotten in several races, so I figured he would be a lot more racing sharp than me.

Eventually, it was time to race and when the gun went off, everyone took off. With the lead pack most likely running the first mile in around 4:20, I was nervous that I would start too fast, so I tried to have some restraint. I was probably in about 50th place or so a couple of minutes in, but started to reel in a lot of people and make my way up the pack.

Start of the race

Chris and I were leading the main chase pack and we hit the mile together in 5:00. I was a little mad because I thought we were running well under 5:00 pace for sure. After the split, I put in a surge and shortly afterward, Chris put a few second gap on me and I hit the two mile a little bit behind him in 10:06, with a 5:06 2nd mile. I was a little upset I was over 25:00 pace, so I tried to surge again and ended up catching Chris and by the 3rd mile (15:10 split), had about a five second lead.

Right at the start of the third mile, there was a 1/3 mile gradual uphill. While it wasn't too steep, I definitely felt it and started struggling towards the end. I expected Chris to pass me back but I still had a few second lead. At this point I was getting frustrated because while Chris was pushing me from behind, the person ahead of me had a good 20 second or so lead on me, so it was hard to try and chase him. Shortly before the fourth mile, I was confused at a turn and had to ask which way to go, which cost me a couple of seconds. That didn't help my cause because I ran a 5:17 that mile and split 20:27 for four miles. At this point, I thought my shot at sub 25 was gone and because I wasn't making up any ground on the guy ahead of me, my goal was to try and pull away from Chris because he was hot on my heels.

Right at the start of the last mile, my stomach started to ache, probably as a result of the coffee. I tried to forget about it and really work on turning my legs over. It felt like my legs were moving really quickly but I couldn't get that deep-down burning in my legs and muscle weakness that I was hoping to have at this point. After a couple of minutes, I could tell I was slowly gaining on the guy ahead of me, so I did my best to reel him in. I could tell I was getting close to the end and when someone yelled I was at 23:53, I started to really move because I wanted to break 25:00.

I started to quickly gain on the guy ahead of me but once I got on the football field for the last 75 yards or so, I could see the clock approach 25:00, and knew my shot was gone. I ended up crossing the line in 25:07 with a 4:40 for the last .97 miles to finish in 17th place, with the guy ahead of me in 24:59 and Chris in 25:23.

Crossing the line in 25:07 on the race clock

Overall, I was really frustrated with this race. I've been running my tempo runs feeling pretty comfortable at under 5:15 pace, so I definitely thought I could run under 5:00 pace. While I closed up really well, I didn't hurt as badly as I should have after crossing the line. Races are about making your body suffer and going out on your shield and I didn't do that too well. I had way too much left and felt like I could have run at least one more mile at 5:00 pace.

I guess it's easy to make excuses. I had a long car ride that day, I had pretty heavy legs from the past few weeks of training, I never really had anyone to chase down and I have trouble running fast at night. Being a bad night racer sounds stupid but when I'm in pain in races, I will focus on the farthest thing ahead of me and not let up on the effort until I get there. After I make it to that spot, I reset my mind and find a new focal point. But during the race, I couldn't really see that far ahead of me. But I always tell my kids I coach that anybody who looks for an excuse will find one. But if you're truly looking to improve yourself, you have to identify what you as an individual did wrong and work to improve that rather than find excuses to justify a bad performance.

I'm halfway through my speed phase and in another four weeks, I need to be at the point where I can run another eight miles at this pace. I definitely have some work to do, will make a tweak or two in my training and will make sure I run my next important race, the Goodlettsville Classic on July 30th, on some fresher legs. At least it's not run at night...

But besides the bad race, overall, I really enjoyed Crazy 8's. Racing through the candle-lit streets at night time was really cool, there was tons of crowd support, things were run very well, and it was just a cool and fun environment overall. And how many races do you run where results are being updated during the race? I definitely plan on going back next year (and hopefully will race better).

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