Friday, May 18, 2007

ACLI Capital Challenge 2007

Two weeks ago I ran in the ACLI Capital Challenge, an invitational 3-mile race, where teams from the legislative (Senate and House teams), executive and judicial branches and the Fourth Estate (Print and Electronic media teams) compete. Each team has five members, one of them a woman, and has to be captained by a Senator, Representative, Chief, Judge or Bureau Head. All five members on a team are scored by the place they finish in the race, and those place numbers are added up. The team with the lowest total wins.

I said in a previous post that it was a low point of my running career. It was a depressing morning.

I have assembled the team for my agency for the last two years. Last year the agency head who was our captain won an award in his age category, Male Captain Over 60. Our team did well last year, coming in 15th out of 113 teams. I PRed at the 3 mile distance in 22:09. I was fourth on our team. A beat me by five seconds.

However, our captain was injured as a result of training for that race and this year he asked me to find someone else if I could. No other head of the agency was available, so he stepped up to the plate again. His injury was still bothering him and he could only train on a bicycle.

C replaced one runner who ran a 21:22 last year who couldn’t participate again. I thought I was ready for the race and felt confident I could break 22 minutes (7:20 pace). Ten days earlier I had passed the three mile mark in a 10-mile race in 21:57. I had been training fast 3-milers with A and I had bet her that I would beat her this year. I thought I was in the same league as her. (Training for the Capital Challenge with A and Jake on the W&OD Trail outside the Beltway in Fairfax, Virginia.)

The early Wednesday morning out-and-back gun-timed race in Anacostia Park SE was down a flat two-lane blacktop along the south bank of the Anacostia River. I was too far back in the starting chute to get a good break out of the gates. It took me 15 seconds to cross the start line. A was up front with G, our team’s ace, and they both got away cleanly.

The first half mile I had to run on the grass where the spectators were standing to get clear of all the slow moving runners. I did a 7:10 first mile by race time. I thought I was on track for my PR, with 10 seconds already in the bank. I also knew for sure that I wasn’t going to catch A, who was motoring. (A was ready for this race and, more importantly, its aftermath.)

The second mile was not so great. I started noticing how humid it was, which bothered me after the long cold winter. I did a 7:34. I thought I could still PR if I could step it back up the last mile. It wasn’t going to happen. I started crawling up the road thinking, I could stop and still do allright if I walked it in from here.

I let myself and my team down by sluggishly running a 7:45 last mile. I never picked it up. I finished at 22:30 (7:30), 21 seconds slower than last year. A year older, that much slower. (Entertainment was provided. A local juggler with a running problem. Instead of headphones, try this when you're bored with running.)

I had teammates looking to me for help in the scoring. I didn’t dig deep.

A year ago I finished in 165th place. This year I fell to 217th place, a veritable free fall.

Our rock star, G, poured it on for us. He was one full minute faster than last year, finishing in 18:14 (6:05). He improved his place from 43rd a year ago to 29th. (G came ready to play. How about finishing 29/670?)

A also stepped it way up, running 55 seconds faster than a year ago. She finished in 21:09 (7:03) and improved her place from 162nd to 145th.

Those two gave the team a combined gain of 31 places from a year earlier. I gave it all back plus some with my solitary loss of 52 places from a year ago. I also realized that A is seriously faster than me and when she runs with me, it’s nice that she lets me hang with her.

C ran an excellent time of 23:34 (7:51) in his first race.

However, the worst was yet to come.

As a veteran runner, a former EMT, and a coach, I tell people who run that Rule Number One is: Don’t Injure Yourself. But sometimes the mania of running causes me to use less than my best judgment. Our captain wasn’t close to 100% this year. I knew it. Still, he came to play. But I should have let the team lapse this year.

After I finished the race, I watched for our captain. Soon he came into view with A running alongside of him. She had gone back after finishing to encourage him. He was hurting, running on pure determination and she was watching him closely. Two hundred yards from the finish, he stumbled. A caught him and prevented him from going down in the road. Thanks for being there, A.

The medical personnel were there in a flash and checked out our captain as a precaution. Being the tough competitor and former 3:00 marathoner that he is, our captain insisted on finishing. Which he did.

He was okay.

We finished 36th out of 124 teams this year.

I walked the four miles back to work. It was an hour of reflection.

I was depressed for awhile about this event. How shall I put it? It was a personal letdown, which also let teammates down. I did not pull my weight, much less exert a positive influence. I exercised suspect judgment, and someone came close to getting injured.

So much angst over 21 seconds. You’re not supposed to feel this way about running. Fortunately I have running to help me get over it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

36th of 124, with all the adversity??? Pretty darn good. We all have tough days--this one was a bit tougher. I had a good race, but trust me, I don't "let you hang around." You push me. I push you.