Wednesday, August 20, 2008


At noon today I ran in the monthly Tidal Basin 3K race. There were about 60 of us mad dogs and Englishmen out there running in the midday August heat.

I haven’t been running too well this year so I have started doing track workouts. Last night I ran 8X600 at 2:50s (7:36 pace) with a 200M recovery jog. Those intervals about killed me so I wasn’t expecting to do well today.

I was thinking about the track workout as I passed by the half-mile mark in the 1.86 mile race. I was busy formulating in my mind how the prior evening’s routine had doomed today’s race so I could mentally quit and "walk it in" at an easy pace.

This monthly race has its own immutable rhythm. All of the regular males were ahead of me, along with at least one woman. Another woman, perhaps the second female, was practically on my hip. Suddenly my doppelganger, Peter, cruised by me.

Peter, who is about my age and about my speed, keeps me honest in this race. He is my conscience.

Usually he doesn’t pass me until late, after a mile and a half have been run. Then he puts me away with his finishing speed. Whenever I beat him, it’s always because I have built up too large a lead during the first mile and a half for him to overcome.

Today his pass was early. I passed him back. He passed me again. I passed him once more. Again he passed me. I returned the favor again.

This could seem to be a riveting battle if it didn’t merely involve a couple of middle-aged mid-packers in an obscure (but venerable–dating back to 1974) little noontime downtown race.

I passed by the mile marker in 6:55, about 10 seconds faster than usual.

I started casting covetous looks at the back of the septuagenarian who always goes by me early and beats me by a few seconds. Maybe today I would overtake the 71-year old and it would induce me to a sub-13 minute finish, a rarity for me.

This month’s race, unlike most months, didn’t stretch out interminably. It passed by swiftly and I was able to take deep breaths during its latter stages. Maybe the track work was helping, not hindering, me.

Two or three younger men passed me late, but the second woman didn’t, nor did Peter. The 71-year old finished five seconds ahead of me. I finished in 13:09 (7:03), a fifteen second improvement over last month.

Peter came in a few seconds later. I jokingly accused him of trying to disrupt the natural flow of this monthly race by passing me too early. He said he was trying something different, pushing it early so he could pass me sooner rather than later. It left him with nothing for the final stretch, he said. I told him his uncharacteristic appearance beside me so early in the race had induced me to run an extra-fast first mile.

He said earnestly, "You’re welcome," and we both laughed.


Sunshine said...

OH Peter! You sound good. Glad you are finding joy in running. No doubt your presence was welcomed by other runners.
Your post cheered day.

We 3 will run the half marathon in Rochester MN on Saturday: more mad dogs and Englishmen (Don) out in way more heat than is sane!
Don has his Mayo check-up the previous day.

DawnB said...

very nice post peter. After doing track work out today I wondered if thats what put me away at the 11 miler:) very nice race especially when you have someone to play cat and mouse with. those 71 year olds always gets me too when I tell my mom that I people her age (74)beating in races every weekend she never believes me. The older you are in a race the bigger my inspiration.

Anne said...

I miss my track workouts for just the reason you enjoyed them: that confidence and extra kick of endurance. I'm a little jealous of these mid-day monthly races too, even in August. What fun!

Jade Lady said...

Sounds like you have a very friendly rivalry!

Susan said...

A 15-second PR is wonderful! I like track workouts... looks like they're doing wonders.

jeanne said...

kickin' ass, as usual!

ShirleyPerly said...

Glad the event turned out well!

Indeed, I miss this one woman who used to push me to race harder than I would have if she weren't in the race. She was a local TV celebrity and I was often mistaken for her (we were both of Japanese descent, in the same AG and had similar builds). It was annoying but at the same time flattering. I would do everything I could to try to finish her in a foot race (she was a much better triathlete, however).

I need to find another doppelganger!

David said...

Kickin' basin once more.

Those intervals always leave me gassed but tuned into a higher stroke pace the next time I run. Sounds like it happened to you too.

Black Knight said...

The friendly rivalry helps to run better and with more happiness.

Just12Finish said...

Sorry buddy - you're on your own. I'm running my 12:00 min/miles far far away from D.C.!

Don said...

I'm glad the other Peter changed the rhythm. It's good for us to mix things up. And I envy you the track workouts. They do seem to help.

We used to have a group that met on a local track one evening a week, but that folded when the guy who organized it had his hip replaced. :-)

Isn't it great to have people who push us? I had my best year when I was in competition with a guy a little faster than me - I always had to run a PR to beat him. Sometimes I did, and sometimes not, but we pushed each other.

Don said...

I've NEVER in my life run a 3k race. That would be interesting.

Petraruns said...

Fantastic Peter - isn't it funny how unpredictable running is? Amazing what can bring out the good stuff..