Before I get into this post, I’m going to warn you that I am currently high and cannot be held accountable for how this post comes out. Oh.. on second read I better clarify that before you get a wrong opinion. By high I mean ALTITUDE, as in the neighborhood of 10,000 feet. Unfortunately, my body is not taking it that well even though I’m probably in the best cardio shape in my life since hanging up martial arts. I recall a previous discussion with a doctor in Breckinridge where I learned the better in shape you are, the worse altitude sickness can affect you – that time was a lot more serious than this trip (thus the prompt care visit). My main problem this time is just a slow nagging headache and inability to get good sleep. The latter is good for attempting to get caught up on my posts this month. So, today I bring you an update on my race season. On September 13th I once again participated in the Illinois Valley Striders Half Marathon in Springdale Cemetery.
Avid readers of my blog should be familiar with how difficult this race is. There are three hills in each of the two loops of this race that can make a grown man cry – if they have not properly trained (or “practiced” as my brother likes to refer to it as). Two years ago, this race put me on my knees (link here). That was not a fun experience by any means and Linda will often reference that event when wanting to make a point about my obsession for long races. She would of course refer to it more, but now she usually leverages “the episode” from last year to drive the point home. Last year was suppose to be my redemption year.. supposed to be. Once again Mr. Humidity showed up to remind me that he still owned me. Sure, I made it through the race much better than the year before, but then I put a punctuation mark on it by throwing up on the way home (link here). This year was going to be different. I had trained too hard this season to let this happen again and then there’s that whole threat from Linda on the consequences if I pushed myself over the edge again. Nothing like a little more pressure to pour on the day seeing how there is a bigger goal that would be in jeopardy should something go wrong at this event.
Unlike most of my races .. err…more specific all but like 1 short one, Linda wasn’t going to be there to cheer me on and more importantly keep me from getting too worked up about it. Nope, she was leaving me to my own accountability, which quite frankly isn’t the wisest decision to make, but she had a dog commitment meaning I was flying solo. On race day I woke up at 4:50am and took a gander outside to see what I was in for. Unlike the last two times, there was a definite chill in the air. The temperature read 48. Good thing I was alone then because I broke out my very rare happy dance. Things were looking up and I hadn’t even wiped the sleep from eyes yet.
Hit the jump to see how things turned out!
Thanks to some late nights at work, I missed the pre-race day packet pickup. That was the cause of the early rise seeing as I had to get there a little earlier than planned to get my bib and hoodie. Bundled up, I made my way over to the check-in area and retrieved my bib and swag. While doing that I managed to chuckle to myself twice. Two guys were spending waaaay too much time trying to get the IVS sign staked up. They started while I was in the car and by the time I made my way out and over it was like 15 minutes. Lots of starts and stops, stake pounding, stake removal, more stake pounding, then sign hanging. That was a lot of energy spent to end up putting the sign up wrong – the state goes up and down – I mainly laughed because the orientation made it look similar to the Nazi SS symbol – in my best Jake “I hate Illinois Nazis”. That laugh took a lot of the pre-race tension off. The other laugh was when they gave me bib 404 – oh great, I was a web page not found error for the day. I should not have been fretting that much due to all the runs I’d been on with Ryan and Sung and had even completed nearly three loops of that course like two weeks earlier. However, the weekend before this left a little bit of skepticism. We were on a training run in Springdale with a planned full three loops. It turned out a bit hot that day and for only like the second time in my running career I totally bonked and had to call it after 10 miles. No matter what I did, I couldn’t shake the heat and eventually decided it wasn’t worth the risk of a hospital visit to continue. I felt bad for Ryan and Sung and truly appreciated them walking with me back to the car. Later that week I was able to get some good miles in .. but that little doubt was lingering deep inside.
The race eventually started and I was shivering – from a runner’s perspective, that was awesome. I also noticed my nemesis in the starting crowd (see the 7th and 8th picture in the link here – he’s the taller, white haired dude that has kicked my butt so many times I forget the actual number). No matter what strategy I take, he ALWAYS beats me. This year I was planning on taking it easy and trying to knock out some 9 minute miles – there were bigger fish to fry later in the race season and again.. I was on my own today.
For the most part I was trying to hold back at the beginning reminding myself there were plenty of miles to go. The first hill went really well. My nemesis ended up twenty or 30 feet ahead so I tucked inline behind him and tried to match his pace. Problem is, I was holding back but still cutting into his lead. By mile three I was parallel to him before deciding to take the lead. At convenient times a glance back revealed he was losing ground rapidly. This scenario had played out on previous races, but in those cases I was pushing myself to go as fast as I could. This time I was holding a comfortable pace. The rest of the first loop went exactly as planned. Comfortable pace and drove the hills without much issue – training in Springdale and Jubilee this year was paying dividends. The second loop came and the first hill on that loop was a little bit more difficult, but up and over again without much agony. Eventually I came upon another runner who noticed me behind him and proceeded to speed up. This seemed too early in the race to push it, but decided to fall inline behind him about 15 feet. He ended up matching my pace for the most part. He would lose ground uphill bringing me right up behind him and then push ahead on the downs to open up the same lead again. All this while I was keeping a controlled steady pace. After a mile of this I finally pulled next him and explained I wasn’t purposely shadowing him, but he was averaging my overall pace exactly. Bizarrely he responded with “That’s okay, I can take it but what’s with all these women going fast this morning – unbelievable how many are running hard today”. The whole time I’m next to him he looks like he is struggling big time at a pace he really wasn’t prepared for. Based on his incoherent statement I’d say the course was getting to him. I gave him some words of encouragement and pushed up my pace and left him behind. That elevated pace felt really good so continued with it even up the second and third hill. An acquaintance from work ended up letting up on the third hill looking totally exhausted. I wished her well and took satisfaction in knowing the hard parts of the run were all over. All that was left was a large downhill, 1.5 miles of flat and a slight incline out to finish. It also felt good to be heading down the hill and noticed my nemesis struggling to make it up the third hill.
I finished that race 23rd overall with a race time of 1;51;35 with a race pace of 8:31. I shaved off ~6 minutes from two years ago and ~3 minutes from last year. There was even thought of going ahead and doing a third loop for training purposes but opted out because I didn’t want to take any unnecessary chance without Linda being there. I had met this race head on and proud to say redemption was had. To put it more bluntly in runner’s term.. That day I made that race my bitch!
Until next year IVS – for now I own you.