This year has been very frustrating for me, from a running standpoint. I started off the year running more miles than I have ever done in the winter, then ended up taking five weeks off in the spring due to a hamstring injury. Since then, I have been nursing that injury as hamstrings don’t really like to heal, it seems. Instead of running under 16 minutes in a 5K like I had planned, my goals for this year were only to “get healthy.”
However, in my new leadership role with Roadkill Racing, I wanted to set an example and actually race the Pete Glavin Cross Country series. Being that we did not have a huge open men’s team, many times I was needed to run as the fifth person on the team, otherwise we wouldn’t count with just four runners.
The first race went about as expected. I ran a 5K in just over 20 minutes; my slowest time in over ten years. I was also beat by my high school track coach’s 11-year-old daughter. But in my defense, she is really fast! My hamstring felt ok during the race, but hurt on the drive back home. I iced it, used a foam roller, and got a standing desk at work.
The second race went a little better. I ran 18:34 and felt like more of a runner, but was obviously lacking strength and speed. Again, my hamstring was angry at me on the drive home.
|The course was hillier than expected|
I finally felt strong in the third race, another 5K in 18:43 with a huge ski slope that we had to run up just after the second mile. I actually out-kicked a few 50-year-old GVH runners here, which made me very proud. Who cares if they are 20 years older than me? The hamstring was only a little cranky as we drove back. There are no photos of me from this race, so did I actually even run it?
The fourth race was a 6K, and I went into it feeling very tired and not at all excited to run. It was windy, and the course was muddy and soggy. But I felt good as soon as the gun went off, and ended up finishing second on the team! I even unleashed a pretty monster kick to catch a former RKR member at the very end. Unfortunately, he is in better shape than I am, and was able to pass me back right before the finish. Still, I was feeling confident, and my hamstring barely yelled at me after!
The fifth and final race was an 8K, and served as the championship for the series, as well as the USATF Niagara open cross country championship. I consulted my friend Ryan Burke, who is a race predictor extraordinaire, and he guessed I would run 29:36. Apparently he thought I could run a faster pace for 8 kilometers than I could for 5K just a few weeks ago.
I was stressed and frustrated at logistical problems the morning of the race, but the weather was perfect for me. It was cold; maybe 40 degrees, with a threat of snow and the ground was hard. When the gun went off, I found myself running right behind Josh Harter, Mike Nier, and Al Evans, three very good masters/veteran runners from GVH. I hadn’t even been close enough to see them all season. But I was feeling good, so I stayed with them, knowing full well that I could fade in a mile or two. Surprisingly, I never faded. Mike Nier and I ran the whole race side-by-side almost, and together we picked off other runners who went out too fast.
Right around the 5K mark, I caught up to and passed James Davenport, who was our captain at SUNY Brockport and has run under 15 minutes. Knowing that he and Nier were right behind me gave me a little more impetus to dig deep and stay ahead of them. At 7K, I could still hear Nier right behind me, and I know he’s a strong runner, so I recalled Ryan Pauling’s advice of trying to make each stride just an inch longer. The entire last kilometer was a grind, made even more dramatic by the snow that had started falling. As I charged my way to the finish, my hands and arms started to tingle. Usually this only happens at the end of hard marathons. Finally, the finish line was in sight, and I gave everything I had left.
|Feeling but not looking fast|
Somehow, I ended up running 28:09, for an average pace of 5:41 per mile. I honestly have no idea where that performance came from. It is a cross country PR by almost a minute, and only a few seconds per mile slower than my road PR. The course was extremely fast, and even if it was a little short, I did still beat many runners who had been leaving me in the dust up until that race. Needless to say, this is very encouraging. It means that despite only running 30-50mpw the past few months, with no real workouts to speak of, I still am in decent shape. If I can stay healthy over the winter, there is no reason I can’t train to attack the 16-minute barrier again in the spring. I hope to be able to report that next year.
For now, I am not racing until Johnny’s Running of the Green in March, so until then, I will focus on staying consistent and healthy. I wish the same for everyone else!