Wow, that was a busy weekend. On Friday, I drove three hours to Knoxville for the Elementary State Cross Country Championships. It was our first year there and the girls finished fourth, with the boys seventh (they were missing two of their top 3). And the impressive but frustrating thing was that our school has no fifth graders. But it was a great experience and after the race, I had to drive back to Nashville so I could hop on a plane and head to St. Louis for the Rock N Roll Half-Marathon.
My flight was only an hour and I arrived at my hotel shortly after six. My roommate for the night was NAZ Elite runner Ben Bruce. When I heard he was racing, I told the elite coordinator to move his room to Ferguson but since he was actually running the full, I didn't mind him staying close to the race. I've always been a NAZ Elite fan and appreciate the info they put out there. I also like the simplicity and effectiveness of their training and sometimes I steal some of their ideas when I put together my own training.
Race morning, I woke up around 4am and stole some of Ben's coffee and oatmeal and ate a Powerbar. The weather was an ideal 40 degrees, which would make the sub 67 chase a lot easier. After jogging around for a couple of miles, I did my usual drills and was ready to race, other than being too lazy to knock out any pre-race strides.
To be honest, I was expecting to just chase the clock and wasn't too worried about anyone else. Not because I'm a cocky jerk or anything but because I heard there weren't any other guys going for the time bonus in the half. I knew the first few miles contained some climbing, so I was reminding myself not to get frustrated if I have a few 5:10s early on because the downhills would come.
|Jimmy Bernhard, KSDK-TV|
The first mile looked worse on the elevation map than it felt and I came through a hair under 5:00 with a guy right on my butt. He was a persistent little bugger as he was still there at two miles even though I sped up to a 4:56 split. I was worried I was running too fast, especially on a rolling course. But the pace felt smooth and I decided to somewhat stick with it because it would hopefully drop the other guy and my main goal was to win since the overall win was worth more than the sub 67. The whole killing yourself but hoping it kills the other guy first idea.
But this dude would not die and through the next few miles, he was never more than five seconds behind me. Normally when you gap someone a few seconds, they hang in that position a mile or two and then get mentally broken and give in. This guy was going nowhere, which made me keep things honest and pushed me but it also worried me a little bit. I wanted time to mentally relax some and focus on the pace and splits instead of worrying about the guy not too far off my shoulder.
The hills were starting to get a little bit tough. I wasn't going into oxygen debt or anything and still felt strong but instead of just focusing on my running, I would always think , "dangit, here comes another hill'. My negative thinking must have stole my mojo because I ran my three slowest miles of the race consecutively and I went from about a ten second lead to having the guy pull up beside me. Right when he did that, I had a flashback to the night before when I told Ben that I would go home depressed if I ran 67:01 and got second. I did not want that to be reality, especially since all of my cross country kids knew I was racing today and they'd probably ask me how it went. Who wants to let down an army of third and fourth graders?
When he pulled up beside me, I decided to stick with him no matter what. It also gave me the mental kick in the butt I needed and made the increased pace feel a little bit easier. It felt like he did a small surge or two but I wouldn't give him any room. When you're behind someone then work so hard to catch them, it's really mentally draining. Normally in those cases, you catch the dude and pass him. But I was hoping he didn't expect me to hang with him. I wanted him to get some confidence and underestimate me a little bit and then hopefully shatter his dreams right when the time was right.
|Hopefully someone gets this picture|
My plan was to wait until the last mile and try to throw down something really fast. But about 11.5 miles in, I decided to surge down a long downhill and dropped a 4:52. I ended up putting about five seconds on him over that half mile and continued to stay somewhat on the gas.
With about a half mile to go, I had about a ten second lead but I started getting a really bad side stitch. Not one of those cramping things but the ones that feels like gas pressure or something, which was probably a result of my Philly cheese steak and fries from the night before. I was hoping it wouldn't get worse and cause me to slow down enough to give Zachary some hope and adrenaline for a final push.
But I was able to manage it OK and it was time to make the final turn, which turned out to be a right instead of the left I took. I only lost a couple of seconds and was back on track until fail #2. There was a divider fence to separate the two races. Everyone was on the left side and someone told me to go to the right, so I did. Whoops, wrong side. I slammed on the brakes, backtracked a little bit and was in the right lane.
|Running in the wrong lane; |
Jimmy Bernhard, KSDK-TV
I didn't know how fast I was running. I knew I probably had sub 67 sealed and figured I was around 66:30 or something. When I saw the clock not too far ahead, I saw 65:40. I turned on the boosters because I didn't want to run 66:00 and miss out on some money, and crossed the line in 65:52 feeling pumped.
I struggled to run 67:XX on a flat course eight days prior and I ran over a minute and a half faster on a much tougher course, with an easier effort. Maybe this 65:52 would have been like a 64:30-65:00 on a flat course with an all-out effort. I was also happy I didn't die on the hills and it seems like over time, I'm becoming much better at them in races when they used to be my kryptonite. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come because while I ran much faster than expected, I don't feel like I'm in "shape" at all.
I was also really impressed with Zachary Meineke, the second place finisher. He ran about a two minute PR and only runs like 50 miles a week. If that guy gets in some good winter training, he will break 65 next year.