If you're looking for an awesome race report from an amazing athlete, check out Beth's entry from her 3rd place pro finish at the Poconos 70.3.
If you want to hear about a ho-hum mediocre Great Race, continue reading...
Well, let me back up a bit. Beth left for the Poconos on Friday. We said our good-byes before I left for work on Friday morning. We chatted on my way home from practice and it seemed like she was having a good trip without her primary navigation officer. She got her packet at the expo and did a few other things, however when entering the host family's address to the GPS, it directed her to a location about 30 minutes in the opposite direction. I don't blame her because, when she called me in a panic, it gave me that same location when I typed it in to google maps. But, we figured out the issue and I talked her to getting to the house in the dark and the fog.
The rest of my Friday night was spent catching up on some on-demand evening shows from the week (Big Bang Theory, Hawaii 5-0) and then I saw that the ESPN 30-for-30 series were all available on demand. They're all great, but the one I've seen parts of but never the whole thing is called "Once Brothers." It is the story of Vlade Divac, Drazen Petrovic, and others from the Yugoslavian national basketball team of the late 80's and early 90's. They were an amazing group, but then civil war between the Serbs and Croats fractured not only the team but also the friendships. I had to imagine it would be like some sort of US National team from the 1860's that was then divided by our civil war. That would be so hard.
One of the key moments was when, after winning the World Championships, Divac took one of the Croatian flags from a person storming the court. He did it, not because he was a Serb, but because he wanted to celebrate as a unified Yugoslavian team and not from fractured divisions. Well, like many things do with the media and zealous people, it got twisted and blown out of proportion and Divac became an enemy to the Croatians and a hero to the Serbs. More importantly, Petrovic (a Croatian) couldn't view Divac (a Serb) the same even though they had grown to become such close friends to that point. The line I won't forget from Divac's narration was that "how one single moment can destroy years of friendship."
Perhaps the even more unfortunate part is that Petrovic died in a car accident before ever having a chance to reconcile with Divac. The script of the entire episode is Divac reliving the experience of the basketball and then meeting with Petrovic's mother and brother to get some closure. Very moving film. One other thing that I didn't realize was how good that Yugoslav team was. Not just what they accomplished, but seeing video of how they dominated many teams. Petrovic was a great ball handler and so good from beyond the arc. It pales in comparison to the story, but it was a shame that Petrovic passed away just as he was becoming a key part of the New Jersey Nets team.
Okay, that took a little longer than I had intended. Sorry for the tangent.
On to Saturday, I went to XC practice and picked up my packet for the Great Race. Oh yeah, did I mention I still had some questions about my ankle? Well I ran 4 miles on the South Side after picking up my packet and was able to do it in a little under 7:30 pace, so I figured (as long as it didn't swell up on me overnight) that I would give it a go for race morning.
Saturday afternoon consisted of watching the rest of the PSU game (way to go dominating the team that tried to send coaches onto Penn State's campus to "poach" players away), giving the dog a bath, and about a 2-week overdue cutting of my hair. Even though Beth wasn't around, I still went down to Noodles in Oakland (yeah I was that guy sitting there eating by myself) and then off to Cornerstone for Church.
There was a special treat at church as Phil Stacey (he of season 6 American Idol fame) was there to help lead the music. I did a quick check up on his background via wikipedia during the announcements and found out he's a pretty cool dude with a neat background in the church. I'm going to have to check out some of his music via Itunes.
So that brings us to Saturday night and, oh yeah, finally getting around to the actual race report. Maybe this is my subconscious way of avoiding the race report by rambling on about many insignificant things during the weekend.
Sunday morning comes around and the ankle feels decent albeit a little stiff. I take Roxy out for a walk, eat my bagel & peanut butter, and get on my way down to near Frick Park and the start of the race. Last year, I was the first car there, so I aimed to get there about an hour before race time. Next year I'll have to split the difference because I ended having to park a little further away than I wanted but still only 2 blocks or so from the start.
I go to warm up and the ankle is a little stiff in the 40-degree temps. But, after about a 20 minute warmup it was feeling loose and ready to go. I do my final preparations and see a lot of people while I'm waiting in line for the toilets. That line took forever and I probably should have stretch more.
Okay, on to the race, but first the annual elevation chart disclaimer:
So the gun goes off and I settle in for a first mile in 5:44. Surprisingly around where I wanted even though I thought it felt faster. Mile 2 is really down hill and I was by the top 3 females in the race. We split a 5:30 for mile 2 and 11:14 overall. Mile 3 I started to lose focus going down 5th avenue in Oakland, a gap formed between me and the top 3 female runners and I came through mile 3at 5:56 pace for 17:11 overall, leading to a 17:30's 5k. My one hamstring tugged a little at me after mile 3, but I got it to calm down. At the same time, I realized that I hadn't thought about my ankle since the race started. Also, somewhere in the mile 3 range, I met up with triathlete extraordinaire Billy Hughes and ran with him for the next few miles. Mile 4 was a 5:45, putting me at 22:55.
We were at the base of the Boulevard of the Allies and I said to Billy, "let's go get some people on this hill." He obliged and I think he was right behind me. Also at this time, I was around my "arch nemesis" (see tongue-in-cheek blog post from a few years back.) Going up towards Duquesne, I was able to pass a few people and put a little ground on the arch nemesis. However, the feeling of moving fast didn't translate to the clock as I split a 6:07 and was at 29:02. I think this may have been the tipping point of my "competitive racing" for the day. I'm not sure why but seeing a split above 6:00 and doing the math that I wasn't going to go sub-35 (or even low 35) took the wind out of my sails.
Thanks to it being a downhill last mile, I still split a final 5:38 but my heart wasn't in it. I was passed by a good 10 people in the last mile. I put a little surge on at the 6 mile mark when I saw the 6 mile clock say 34:41 and thought I still had a shot at salvaging a sub-36 race. Yet again, my hamstring tugged at me a little and I yelled at it to "stay in there!" I entered Point State Park and I coasted towards the line. Turns out, my arch-nemesis ended up catching me right at the line and (despite having the same time), his chip (and body for that matter) edged me out in the results.1:14 in the last 0.2 miles, 35:54 overall, 53rd place, 48th male, and 2nd in the 35-39 age group (I'm getting old)
So, I get passed a lot near the end, and then the skies open up after I cross the line as it starts pouring. (Insert phrase of "when it rains, it pours"). I chatted with a couple of guys from school, the Ballou Skies triathlon starts of Billy and Joe V, and a couple of other runners. It was still pouring and I was getting cold. I was planning on doing about 7 or so miles as an extended cool down to get 16-17 miles for the day so I got that going. The ankle cooperated (albeit a little stiff to start out on the cool down) and I rehashed my "soft" finish to the race as I ran back to the start area.
After a day to reflect, all in all, it was a decent day. I wasn't near my 35:07 PR, but need to remember that my ankle did mess up my week of training, still wasn't 100% for the race, and also need to keep in mind the big picture of preparing for the Columbus Marathon in 3 weeks. So, after some quad soreness today, time to get back on track and get ready for the final weeks of training.
In other news, the Pirates sure had a bang-up weekend on their way to loss #82 and a 20th consecutive losing season. Loss #81 was at the hands of a Homer Bailey no-hitter on Friday. Loss #82 was the Pirates' first loss when leading after 8 innings. A blown save. In a season of peaks and valleys, there were many peaks throughout June and July, but this past weekend sure were two extremely deep valleys. Well, there's always next year...