On May 8th, I got invited to participate in the "What Race?" sponsored by Swiftwick. I got the invite in my email and as you can see, it was a hush-hush thing. The email said:
You have been invited to the first ever Swiftwick "What Race?"
You will find the invitation attached. Please fill out the registration ASAP so that we can get you the socks before the race. Registration closes Sunday night, May 12th.
DO NOT FORWARD, COPY, OR LET ANYONE ELSE SEE THIS INVITATION OR YOU WILL BE SUBJECT TO DISQUALIFICATION!"
I was intrigued and decided to sign up. I figured a guy I coach, Olaf Wasternack, was also invited but I had scheduled him a 20 mile run that morning. I sent him a text letting him know that if he had a change of plans or felt like doing something else, to let me know and we would modify the schedule. He told me he still planned on running an easy 20. He was either not participating or being way too secretive.
The bad part is that I didn't know what the race distance would be. I really thought it was going to either be a road mile, 3k/2 mile race on the track or a cross country race on Vaughn's Gap. I figured it wouldn't be your cliche 5k and a half-marathon seemed like too long of a distance.
On the Monday before the race, I got another email, stating that the race was a loop around the 11.2 mile loop in Percy Warner Park. That could be considered cruel and unusual punishment. The 11.2 mile loop is paved but it is very hilly with three monster hills on the course. While I felt the race distance benefited me, I wasn't looking forward to the course. I then had to decide how to run the race. Someone last year said his training buddy said I couldn't break an hour on the course. I honestly feel like if I ran it tapered and raced it with good weather, I could run two loops in two hours. But with my now present iron issues, I didn't want to try to push for an hour, especially with the expected warm temps and high humidity. I decided to run it as a progression run and after Nine Mile Hill, open up a little bit if I felt good (I actually think it's called Langsford Hill or something, but I never pay attention to the sign).
There was no race shirt, you were just required to wear your socks that were sent to you a few days before the race. They were some neon yellow/green Swiftwick 5's with "What Race?" printed on the front. I also got a Swiftwick shoe bag and I would put a picture on here but the socks are presently in the rinse cycle down stairs.
I arrived at the race about 45 minutes before 8am (the start time) and saw Scott Bennett and Hunter Hethcoat. I warmed up with them for about two miles and then people started showing up. Ted Towse, then Daniel LePage and his friend Bill (I can't remember his last name), Vance Berry and his wife, Liz, Olaf (that sneaky German), Tom Divinnie, Ashley Evans, Lee Wilson (owner of Nashville running company) and even Ryan Snellen made an appearance.
Ted made fun of what he called my "D3" running shorts and someone else asked if I was really going to run in them. I run during my lunch break every school and my kids mock my 5.5" inseam shorts. I can't imagine what they would say if I went shorter. To most people, they look like daisy dukes but to runners, it makes me look like I should be playing in the NBA. So Saucony, if you can spare some shorter shorts, send them my way!
My plan was to run with LePage and then slowly pull away. Him, Bill and I ran the first mile together (which is a long, gradual uphill) and I didn't see the sign, but it was probably in the range of 6:00. In the second mile, I started to break away, and ran the next several miles in the mid 5:30s. Hunter Hall was the lead cyclist and I started bragging to him about how I get locked into a rhythm and can hang out there all day. My cockiness resulted in a 5:47 next mile.
I was feeling pretty lazy and my shorts were feeling pretty heavy. I was soaked in sweat and just kept a moderate effort. I died up the hill in the seventh mile (but not as bad as I did in the third) and at this point, I just wanted to keep it easy. Nine Mile Hill was completely ugly and as you'll see, was pretty stinking slow. I abandoned my plan of hammering the last 2+ miles and ran the last mile a little steady (long, gradual downhill for about a mile). I figured LePage made up some major ground on me over the last few miles, but I felt I had some tools in my arsenal in case he pulled up beside me to test my old man strength.
I didn't expect to run this slowly, but then again, I expected to run harder and I got too lazy during the run. If you follow my training log, I kept it around a "medium" effort the first 6-7 miles, then I shut it down and threw in another medium mile at the end.
Afterwards, we jogged a couple miles, I shared some of my Blenheim Spicy Ginger Ale and I was on my way home to make it back for Kate's birthday party.