Saturday, August 10, 2013

Race Report: Bridge of Flowers

Western Mass is home to 3 competitive (regional-level) road races, all of which I love and have run well a few times each.  And, run poorly a few times each.  Today at the Bridge of Flowers 10k, I did the latter, posting my slowest time (by far) in the 4 years I've run it.

I ran the twisty and hilly first 2 miles conservatively, as was the plan, but the pace was too slow-- 10:47. Fifteen seconds faster would have been good but I planned to take it easy, so as to hammer the rest of the course.  The field was uncharacteristically weak this year and I thought I might chase down Justin Freeman and post a top-3 finish.  But upon hitting the giant (GIANT) kilo-long hill, instead of putting it in gear, I felt weak.  I crested the hill at a shockingly slow pace, posting a 7:45 mile split according to the person reading off times at mile 3. (The hill is absurd, but I have a feeling this split is my slowest in 4 years.)  Instead of hammering the downhill and flats over the second half of the course, I spent time looking over my shoulder at the fast approaching 5th place runner. My feet burned, a problem that I've dealt with for years, and today it was distracting but not debilitating.  My lips went numb shortly after the climb, which is normal for me but too soon into the race, and I knew that both my focus and physical condition were not up to the task today.  I was caught at mile 5, and my wedding ring-- by now covered in snot-- came off and was flung into the detritus on the shoulder at this exact moment.  I ground to a halt while the other runner (Michael Roda) apologized profusely-- he didn't want to beat me like that!  But he probably would have anyway. I spent perhaps 10 seconds looking for it before returning to the race. I suffered into the finish in 35:11-- a minute slower than last year's effort, which was run in worse weather, and almost 2 minutes slower than my 2010 and 2011 marks.  Matteo Jesus and Stoneman jogged with me back to the 5-mile marker and helped me dig around for the ring.  No luck.  This was not a good morning-- I didn't feel like a runner, and in losing my ring I felt like a schmuck taboot.

My racing now is up and down, and I can't figure out what causes the bad races.  Matteo Jesus pointed out that it's harder to lock into the zone every race now that there are other life responsibilities to worry about; I can't afford to obsess over a race for weeks beforehand.  I get on the line, and either I lock in or I don't.  So there's the mental piece, which I'd like to get more control over.  The physical piece-- fitness-- is also a bit puzzling.  10k is usually my best event.  I ran 3 XC 5k's in the past 4 weeks-- 16:18 and 16:12 in awful weather, and 16:02 in better weather, my best time on that course in 6 years and 13 total tries.  And all 3 on tired legs.  And it's a rather slow course.  But whatever gear is required for 10k is just not present at the moment, perhaps because I've only really been doing 'fast' training for 4 weeks thanks to the 10-month (and ongoing) achilles recovery. I can 'fake' 5k by hammering like an animal but a longer race requires something else. To get ready for the Western Mass Distance Project XC race I'll need to push that 5k gear out a little farther.  For the next 4 weeks, I'll spend two days a week on the UMass course across the street from my house, hopefully finding that gear.

Happily, the day ended on a great note-- Stoneman hosted a BBQ at his house in Greenfield.  I laid around with my wife and dog, licking my wounds and drinking beer.  Any day that ends like that can't be too bad.


Addendum-- Approx splits (from folks on the course):
5:23 (up/down)
5:24/10:47 (net up)
7:43 /18:30 (net up, 371' climb in 6/10 of a mile)
~19:11 5k 
16:00 final 5k (loses 371')

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