Monday, May 23, 2011

Another running narrative

For the second time in six days, I ran a competitive race. After running a the Magellan Development 10K race in Chicago on a cold, rainy, blustery May 15, I ran the Sunrise Rotary 8K race, starting at Potawatomi Woods Forest Preserve near Kirkland, IL, on a warm, rainy, blustery May 21.

In the Chicago race, I had more "in the tank" at the end, and chided myself for holding back too long. Although running is a simple sport, a race can involve a lot of strategy, most of it personal to the runner. I went into the Magellan Development race with the game plan of taking it easy the first three miles and then building up speed all the way to the end. In retrospect, given how good I felt at the end, I should have started my big push sooner. So, the strategy for the Sunrise Rotary 8K was to start out strong and then try to hold on until the end.

This strategy improved my average pace per mile by almost a minute, from a 9:09 average to 8:14. My goal was to finish in under 40 minutes. I fell just short, finishing in 40:57. Considering that I felt under the weather, fighting mild flu symptoms, I am very happy with the results of Saturday's race. The only downside is I did not get the psychological pleasure of passing scores of runners like I did in the Chicago race.

In addition to being shorter, the Sunrise Rotary race had a much smaller field, 82 runners, compared to the 700 runners in Chicago. This meant that registering was a lot easier and I didn't need to adjust my pace at all to avoid running into other runners. I also didn't have a chip on my bib and there were no digital timers every mile. Instead, volunteers called out the time as runners passed. The Sunrise Rotary race took place on country roads and passed through the town of Kirkland, passing by a disc golf course I've frequented countless times with my friend Todd.

I finished the first mile in 7:45 and eventually slowed from that best time. I didn't pass anybody after the second mile and nobody passed me after mile 3. I put on the afterburners at the 4-mile mark, but was not fast enough to catch the next runner in front of me. I closed the gap, but she finished 10 seconds ahead of me. I could hear the labored breathing and footsteps of the runner behind me as we approached mile 4, but then he faded out of earshot.

My next race is a 10K at Sycamore Speedway June 25. I may race a 5K in DeKalb June 4. It's only $20 and would help me reach my goal of running at least 12 races in 2011. It's also a different distance, involving a different strategy. My goal is to improve on my average per mile. The bar is set at 8:14. Not bad, considering that when I resumed running last November and 25 pounds ago, my initial goal was to run a mile on a treadmill in less than 11 minutes.

I talked with my mom Sunday and she asked me if running these races is my latest "thing." I guess it is, though I can't say I'm obsessive about running yet. I just like to do it and the races give me mini-goals to shoot for and keep me on task.

Click HERE for the overall results of the 2011 Sunrise Rotary 8K. I finished 27th out of 82 runners and 6th out of 12 in my age group (35-44). It is humbling to note that the top three finishers in the men's 55-64 age group all finished ahead of me. Of course, they've probably been running a lot longer than I have.

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