I decided to make this the first race of my Chicago Marathon build-up. It's two weeks before Crazy 8's (which is a really big/fast race) and gives me the chance to get work out some of my racing rust. This race is usually really low-key, so I'm not expecting to be pressured. However, I'd like to still get in a solid effort and run around 15:30.
The race is in White House and the course heads straight down the greenway and turns around by the high school. This means the first half is a net downhill, before turning around and going back the way you came, which includes a pretty nasty uphill. It's actually a pretty slow course but based off my recent workouts, I still think I could take a stab at sub 15:30.
I got in my usual warm-up of 5:00 slow jogging, 5:00 normal speed and 5:00 medium speed, followed by several fast strides. Low and behold, shortly before the race, I saw a Kenyan warming-up. I didn't know who he was and he told me he could wasn't in shape and was hoping to run around 16:00. I knew he was probably much fitter than that, which made me a little nervous.
When I headed to the starting line, I didn't see the Kenyan anywhere. The gun went off and I thought he must have missed the race. I took the race out pretty slowly and worked into my rhythm by about a minute in. The good thing about the greenway is that there are markers every quarter mile. I split my watch at the start of the greenway and focused on keeping a hard effort.
A little over half a mile in, I looked over my shoulder and saw the Kenyan several seconds back. I knew he was gaining on me, so I decided to change-up my strategy. Most likely, when he missed the start, two things happened that negatively affected his race: 1.) Obviously he was already at a several second disadvantage, from the get-go and 2.) Because he started late, instead of being relaxed and sticking to his original strategy, he was probably freaking out a bit and trying to play catch-up, rather than focusing on proper pacing.
Because of that, I decided to slow down the pace a hair, to let him catch me more quickly. I felt if he could tell he was reeling me in, he would continue to press down on the gas faster than he wanted to and would feel less threatened by me. I went through the mile in 4:50, which was right on target and shortly after that, he caught me. My plan was to wait a minute or two and then push the downhills and drop him on the uphills on the way back, hoping his faster than expected first mile wore him out more than he anticipated.
We stuck together through 1.5 miles and after crossing Tyree Springs, we saw a water table with some high schoolers sitting by it. I was pretty certain this was the turnaround last year, so I asked if this was the turnaround spot, but they said it wasn't and to keep on going straight. I looked at my watch and we were under 7:30, so I thought the turnaround could be a little further down.
We continued to race but after a couple of minutes, I knew we were off-course. I then asked if we should turnaround, but he wanted to come on going. We then started backing off the pace and just made small-talk. I found out he was Festus Chemaoi, who just graduated from MTSU and has PR's of 1:48 in the 800m and 14:17 in the 5k, so he was definitely legit.
After about three miles in, we eventually decided to turn around and head back the way we came. We ended up finishing in 131st and 132nd place in times of 38:54 and 38:55. It turns out several other people went the wrong way and eventually one guy argued with the kids because they insisted they were not at the turnaround table. If that guy didn't stop, I can't imagine how much of a disaster it could have been.
It was definitely a frustrating race because it cost me a chance at $100, an opportunity for a fast time and the fact that the kids at the turnaround table's only job was to have people run around a cone and they couldn't even figure that out. Oh well, back to training.