It rained today. Today was also the day for the two training groups I direct to do their long runs, the Half-Marathon Group in its fourteenth week, and the 10K Group in its third week.
The calls started last night. "Are we gonna meet tomorrow?"
"Well, I thought since the forecast says there's a 90% chance of rain . . . ."
I learned years ago as a cop to never finish other people's sentences. You want to keep 'em talking. So that sentence never got finished.
Sighing. "Okay. See you then."
This morning it was raining slightly but warm. Two people came to Gotta Run in South Arlington at 8 am for the half-mary workout, Sasha and Stephanie. Sasha had a cold. Off they went on their 13-mile run like troopers. (Right: Stephanie bringing it home in a 12K race last month.)
I drove over to Fletchers Boathouse west of Georgetown at 9 am. Five of thirty runners and three other coaches came to the 10K workout. One coach had a cold and left.
Off we went towards Bethesda on the Capital Crescent Trail on a straight 34-minute run. At seventeen minutes out, we would all turn around and come back. A run of four miles or less. Simple.
I was chatting up the runners, starting in the back and working my way up the pack. We rapidly got strung out along the trail. One coach was at the tail of the group and another with the fastest intermediate runner.
I got up to her and asked where T was, the only fast group runner to show up. Both fast group coaches were out of town.
"He's way up there."
The blacktop trail stretched out for a ways and then gently curved around a corner. T was out of sight. I started after him. The coach I left was not thinking that I would catch him.
In olden times, prior years, the students thought I was fast. I would work the line, talking awhile and then putting on a burst to catch up with the next cluster of runners ahead. Here was a challenge, to catch T and make it worth his while that he paid $35 to participate in this 12-week program. Have him have a coach available today as he ran.
I went around the curve. No T. I traversed another long straightaway and curve. Still no T. I passed a half mile marker doing a 7:40 mile. These days that is an I wish race pace for me.
Finally, there he was, way up there. It took me awhile to determine that I was actually gaining on him, slowly. I considered giving up and dropping back to the intermediate group. He was about half my age. He actually did races. I could let him catch me on the way back, and impart running wisdom to him then. Yeah, that sounded good.
But I kept on. My breathing was ragged and my limbs were heavy. I hadn't run like this outside of a race in a long time.
I ran him down. Thirty meters away, he looked back. He knew someone was back there. I thought he was going to increase his speed but he let me catch up.
"How fast were you going to catch me?"
"Oh, 7:40s I guess."
"What do you think we're running now?"
"It feels like 8:30s to me."
I didn't want to show that I was tired and was glad I could now slow down slightly. We turned around at about seventeen minutes, about two miles out, and started back on the downhill half. Our strides were long and our conversation was sparse. T knows what he's doing.
T started falling back. I slowed slightly but he fell back further. I kept on then because I could tell he was used up but could bring it in. I was thinking I could catch an intermediate runner but I never did.
For T and myself, that was our problem with being the fastest in the group. On an out-and-back based strictly on time, because you're furthest out at turnaround time, you wind up being DFL.
I drove the last mile in 7:40. T revived nicely the last mile and finished only a few dozen seconds behind me. The rest of the group was in the parking lot already, sipping gatorade while waiting for us.
We arrived sweaty and wet from the rain but smiling. Those four miles felt great.