I always look forward to the White House races because White House is where I do almost all of my hard workouts, so in a way, I look at it as my home course. Before getting sick, my plan was to run as many miles under 5:00 as I could, and if I died at the end, then so be it. Too often, it's easy to be concerned about having enough for for a strong finish or worrying about what's to come down the road instead of focusing on what's taking place at the current moment. Anyone can rally home with a strong finish but few can make themselves suffer in the middle (which I struggled with most of my college career).
After the Music City marathon, my legs were completely beat up for a few days, most likely due to my body still not being 100% from the sickness, so my new plan was to run a hard effort but not push it over the edge.
Normally the White House races are pretty low-key without a lot of competition. I didn't get to run this race last year because of a cross country meet, but two years ago, I ran 36 something and won by a few minutes, and the year before that, I finished as the first male (not first overall because I ended up getting "chicked"), running over 39:00 in the process. Festus Chemaoi showed up to the White House race this summer and while he didn't show up this year, one of my rivals, Jef Scott, did. He's almost 40 years old but is a low 15s 5k runner and I only beat him by a few seconds in a race this summer, despite being pretty fit, with him just coming back from a lay-off.
As soon as I saw him, I thought I would most likely lose. I was on track to get in about 100 miles this week, ran a pretty hard workout on Wednesday and still was not 100% from being sick. I still planned to go out on my shield, but I wasn't completely confident in my chances.
During my warm-up, I tried to get focused and prepare myself for the pain to come. Some people aren't big on visualization but it's huge with me. During my workouts and runs, I constantly think about upcoming races and visualize how I want them to go, as well as visualizing the things that can go wrong and how to work through them.
I decided the best strategy was to hang with him and then try to outkick him. He is usually a smart, consistent racer who closes up pretty hard over the last mile or so. When the gun went off, we stayed together as we made our way out of the park and into the neighborhood. The pace felt pretty quick but wasn't too bad. We hit the first mile marker in 4:16, which was definitely short because we were probably running 4:55-5:00 pace.
The second mile included a couple climbs, which I gapped him a tiny bit on. I'm normally a really bad hill runner but since I had a tiny lead, I decided to bluff and act like it was one of my strong points. He caught back up shortly and the course was pretty up-and-down for the next couple of miles as it made it's way to the greenway. I've out in a ton of miles on the greenway, so I knew all the ins-and-outs of it, which I was going to try to use to my advantage.
Once you hit the greenway, you hit a downhill that last 600m or so. Since I'm a decent downhill runner, I decided to make a little gap and then continue to hammer down the greenway. I got about a three second or so lead and continued to press so I could hopefully increase the gap due to the uphill finish.
Once you hit about 4.5 miles, there is a long, grinding hill that I dubbed "Puke Hill" after getting sick on it several years ago. I knew if I used too much gas before the hill, I'd have a heck of a time running up it. I then backed off the pace so I could have a little bit of mojo left and not get broken by Jef while running up it. I was feeling pretty good at this point but was leaving my fate in his hands. If he hammered the hill, it might be enough to mentally crack me and then I started losing a little bit of confidence before snapping out of it and getting focused again.
We stayed together up the hill and shortly after it, I felt him accelerate the pace a couple times but at this point in the race, I knew I would be able to stick with him and have enough for a hard, final push. Once we got off the greenway and entered the park again, I hung with him until I saw the finish line and then finished pretty strongly to take a two second win in 29:36.
After seeing the time, I knew the course was close to a half mile short. The course was pretty tough with all of the hills and it felt like I ran a little under 32 on a certified course. Despite that, I enjoyed the race a lot and always enjoy the small-town feel of the White House races.
Afterward, I got in several miles with Jef and got to know him better. His daughter runs for a killer high school cross country program and since Jef and his wife both coach, I was able to pick his brain on some coaching ideas.
Overall it was a great way to start the weekend. I ran much better than I thought I would be able to, had a lot left in the tank afterward and closed out a 100 mile week. It was also nice beating Jef because he's such a tough runner who will tear up the Master's scene in a few months.