Thursday, May 10, 2012

A few months too late...

With two big races that weekend, I went back and forth between running the Country Music Marathon or the Derby miniMarathon in Louisville. The Country Music Marathon is always a gamble with the weather and it's not a very fast course. In the back of mind, I debated running it as a steady long run and hopefully picking up some money.  But after weighing all of the pros-and-cons, I decided to go with the Derby miniMarathon because the course was fast, which could result in some more travel money for the USA Half-Marathon Championships, and the competition would be a bit better.  Not to mention, I can recover more quickly from an all-out half-marathon compared to a moderate marathon.

Because this was my first "key" race of the season, I wanted to be a little more fresh.  I only ran once the day before the race and tried to get a litlte bit more sleep the week of the race.  As usual, I got moving a little slower than expected and with Louisville being an hour ahead of us, I got there a little bit late.  I'm terrible with directions and ended up going to the wrong place before Chris Herren's brother saved the day and told me how to get to the right location.

After finding a parking space nine blocks away, I was finally on my way to the packet pick-up.  I'm not much of a running expo guy, so I got my stuff and got out of there as quickly as I could.  Chris Herren's grandparents live in Louisville, so I was crashing at their place, along with Chris, his wife and brother.

I woke up at 5am and saw that race time temperatures were going to be nearly ideal despite a 10mph wind: low 50s and overcast.  After a quick breakfast, we were on our way.  I wasn't sure how quickly the starting line would fill up and because I didn't get an elite bib, I didn't want to be stuck behind too many people.  I shortened my pre-race warm-up by a few minutes so I could snag a good spot.  While on the line, I ran into the two guys who beat me at the Knoxville Half-Marathon last month, and saw there were about a dozen Africans in attendance. Even though I was hoping to make a little bit of prize money, I was happy so many good guys were there because my main goal was to run fast and it appeared the conditions and competition were going to give me the oppurtunity to do so.

When the gun went off, a lot of guys went to the front and I stuck to the back of the pack.  I knew I wouldn't be able to fight for the win, but I was hoping they would drag me too a fast time. I was hoping to run between 5:00-5:05 a mile and we went through the mile in 5:00.  Shortly after that, the leaders picked up the pace for a few minutes before backing off again.  I stayed at the tail end of the pack and we knocked out the next two miles in 4:57 and 4:52.  I wasn't expecting to run this fast, and I debated asking a guy beside me if he wanted to work together and shoot for sub 66:00 but I decided to just go with the field.

We continued to roll and every once in a while, the pack would surge and leave me and shortly afterward, I'd catch back up.  I was surprised how smooth and relaxed I felt, despite running much faster than my goal pace.  After training almost entirely alone, I welcomed the oppurtunity to have a pack to try and stick with and instead of completely focusing on my individual race, was just going along for the ride.

In the sixth mile, they surged again, this time, leaving me for good.  I went through the 10k alone in 30:25, which was a new PR and I gave a little chuckle because it felt so easy.  At this point, I knew I had sub 66:00 sealed and I was thinking I could make a run at breaking 65:30.  In the 7th mile, the guys ahead of me REALLY started rolling and they put 10 more seconds on me even though I ran a 4:42 mile.

At this point, I was totally alone and the effects showed with a 5:08 next mile. In the distance, a guy was falling off the main pack, so I was able to run him down and then catch another guy shortly after.  Once we got to the race track, I caught up to Joseph Maina, who appeared to have gone the wrong way and probably lost 10 seconds or so.  In that area there were no course guides or anything pointing us the right in the right directcion, which was stressful, but fortunately, I didn't take any wrong turns.  Once we got back into the streets, we hung together.  I had another slower mile, with a 5:07 split, and did want to start to stringing more of those together.  I was feeling pretty strong, so I decided to try and push a little bit harder.

Joseph and I hung together a little bit longer before he started to fade. WAY in the distance, I could see Daniel and the other guy who beat me in Knoxville. It appeared they had well over a minute on me, so I did my best to focus on seeing how much I could close the gap.  I was running under 5:00 pace again and at 10 miles, I did some rough math in my head because I didn't want to look at my overall time and be intimidated by how fast I had to run if I wanted to break 65. The 4:42 banked me 15 seconds and with several miles under 4:55, I figured if I could keep on running sub 5:00 pace, I'd break 65 minutes.  That time would have qualified me for the Olympic Marathon Trials, held this past January. Qualifying for the Olympic Marathon Trials consumed last winter, so "qualifying" today would be some bittersweet redemption.

I was slowly reeling in Daniel and with a mile to go, he was probably less than thirty seconds ahead of me.  I had to fight a headwind the entire last mile and I did not want to run a 65:00 or 65:01, so I kept on pressing down and tried to stay focused minute-by-minute.  After making the final turn, I could see a low 64 on the clock, and almost got a little bit emotional. I worked so hard this past fall to prepare myself for a shot at the Olympic Trials and I didn't get to even toe the line.  I wasn't any more fit at this race than I was this past fall, so I knew I could have run that time.

I crossed the line smiling in 64:39 to finish in 7th place. I was really pumped after the finish because I have not been training like a sub 65 guy.  I'm not expecting to be in my peak fitness for nearly two more months and outside races, have only done a couple of hard workouts.  I feel like this time takes me from a good regional type runner to a more competitive one. Some guys who run that fast are working 20-30 hours a week, training with good runners, have access to good facilities and can get as much sleep as they need.  They aren't sleeping 6.5 hours a night, without a coach, training mainly by themselves and working two jobs while cramming in runs when they can.  Then you have the wife and baby factor! With some more focus and some changes in my life schedule, I feel like I can knock off a good bit more time and take it to the next level in the next 1-2 years.

The journey continues and with over about a month until my next bigger race, I'm going to step it up in training so I can be ready to roll for the National Championships.

Mile Splits: 5:00, 4:57, 4:53, 4:53, 4:53, 4:52, 4:42, 5:08, 5:07, 4:58, 4:58, 4:58, 5:19 (1.1)


  1. Awesome stuff...keep it rolling!

    The Thunder

  2. Thanks Thunder. At least once a year, someone will come up to me and start talking to me as if they are you. I usually just play along and wing it.

    Charlie, I'll be coming out a few days a week to run with you early birds. I'm bringing another runner or two as well, so we will have a great summer of training.