Two days before the race, we had ice and four inches of snow. That may not sound like much but before that point, we hadn't broken an inch of snow in over four years. Oh, it would snow EVERYWHERE outside the Nashville area but we would always get jipped.
|That seriously constantly happens to us|
Most of Tom King is on a greenway with a lot of tree cover. And since the course is out-and-back, the greenway can get somewhat crowded. Unsurprisingly, the race was cancelled and all the runners and prize money was moved to the 5k. While a lot of people were upset about this, I was pumped. No way was I going to try run a half-marathon when I was way out of shape and had a bum hamstring. But try and limp through a 5k for some money? Now, that's something I can get behind. So on Friday, I coughed up some cash for a deep massage in hopes the investment would pay off.
Before my injury, the plan was to pace Connor Kamm and Josh Whitehead under 65 minutes. Obviously, that now wasn't going to happen since there was no half-marathon. While Connor was out of town, Josh was still coming up to race.
The morning of the race, I have no problem admitting I was a chump by checking the road conditions of I-65N from Huntsville. I was secretly hoping the interstate would be icy so Josh wouldn't be able to come up. But the roads were clear and we were headed towards a showdown.
I warmed up with Josh for a couple of miles before the race and even did a few strides without pain. I didn't know if that meant my hamstring was better or if it was a result of the three Aleve and ton of sports cream I put on it (99.99% of the time, I'm anti-inflammatory when it comes to running issues).
Once we got to the line, I got a chance to see who else was out there and then solidify my strategy. Josh was still easily the favorite in my eyes and I wasn't going to worry about running with him. Since they traditionally start really fast, I expected Ben Li and Abdusalam Koko to take off and my plan was to let them soften each other up and then go for them the second half of the race. But since Ben is training for the mile, the earlier I could take him out, the better.
|Watch out for this guy's kick|
When the race started, Ben took off with me and Josh right on his heels. I jokingly asked him to scoot over a little bit to the right so he could block the wind for me and he did. Glad he's such a nice guy. After a couple of minutes, I found myself in the lead with Josh right beside me. I was a little scared to lead so early but it "felt" like 5k effort, so I went along with it. The first mile is a loop around LP Field and Josh and I went through it just under 4:40. I was surprised because I was expecting it to be closer to the 4:50 range. And it may have been my first sub 4:50 mile in almost a year.
I continued to press the pace, with Josh now beside me. I was feeling good but was a little nervous because I was so far removed from anything resembling a 5k workout. Whether or not you're in shape for a specific distance, the initial pace feels the same. But when you're in actual shape for that distance, your "death" is much slower and you can hold your hand to the fire much longer. I definitely was at risk for getting burned here. But I was already over halfway through the race and was hoping if I didn't beat Josh, my marathon gas tank would let me burn out the other guys first.
Shortly before two miles, you make a 180 degree turn. I hate those things because I always lose more time than other people because I'm terrible at changing rhythm. It also gave me a chance to see the race going on behind me. Koko was probably about 10 seconds back and Chris Duncan was just behind him, with Ben a little back in 4th. We went through the second mile in 4:19. No, not a real 4:19. Even though the first two miles of the "new" course were on the older certified course, the second mile mark has always been off, with the last mile a little long.
I had a tiny lead at this point and since we were running down a long straight with a headwind, I started to push the pace pretty hard. Josh is 115 lbs., soaking wet, so I didn't want him taking advantage of my post-injury width and be able to draft off me a little bit.
Over the next half mile, I slowly chipped away and with a couple minutes left to go, I backed off a hair in case I needed to turn on the rocket boosters for a final assault. I ended up with the win in 14:56 with Josh finishing in 15:04. Chris Duncan had a really good race to finish in 15:34 and Ben was not too far behind in 15:48. One of my favorite moments was when I turned around to watch the runners coming in and saw Hunter Hall and his 100% slow-twitch self turn on the jets to out kick several guys and take 5th in 15:54. Gas tank and guts over speed!
It was a great day of racing for me. I honestly expected myself to run 15:15-15:30, so I'll gladly take a windy 14:56, albeit a flat course. I feel that I can be in sub 14 shape in 4-6 weeks and hopefully continue to make my assault on sub 63 minutes for the half this spring.