Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Preakness

It’s been a full weekend of racing. I’m trying to manage my injury and still accomplish some long-standing racing objectives. Balancing my injury with reaching for my goals went all right. I’ll pay the piper later tonight with soreness in my left leg undoubtedly, when the warmth generated in the leg by my physical activity goes away.

Yesterday my running club held a trio of foot races in Alexandria called the Triple Crown races. The distances emulate the three horse races in the Triple Crown, the 1.25 mile Derby, the 1.1875 mile Preakness and the 1.5 mile Belmont.

Last year I finished fifth in these three races. It’s funny how nobody suddenly gets faster over the course of an hour. I never could catch the guy ahead of me. The person behind me never could catch me. All three race cards looked pretty much the same.

My times were 8:41 (6:57), 8:26 (7:06) and 10:40 (7:07). My time for the last race, 10:40 for a mile and a half, necessitated a do-over this year.

Among the Naval Academy fitness standards is one for running. Last year a senior washed out because he couldn’t do the 1.5 mile run in 10:30. He had to reimburse Uncle Sam for four years of tuition.

My time at the Belmont (1.5 miles) was 10:40. Ten seconds too slow by Navy standards. I waited a year for the Belmont race to come around again so I could try to get my time under 10:30.

Yesterday I arrived at the races late and purposefully missed the Derby. I lined up for the Preakness and used its 1.1875 distance as a warmup. I ran slowly, studying the course. Near the end I practiced my passing and knocked off a couple of runners ahead of me. The clock was almost at nine minutes as I approached so I hurried and finished at 8:58 (7:33). For contrast, Curlin, the horse who won the race in Baltimore yesterday, covered the same distance in 1:53.

The last race for the runners was the 1.5 mile Belmont. I didn’t want to have to extend my "Navy Quest" for another full year so I concentrated on my appointed task of breaking 10:30. It’s hard to find 1.5 mile races.

The starter dropped his flag and called out, "And they’re off!" That’s horse parlance for ready-set-go.

I felt awful for the first quarter mile, very leaden and weak. Soon my breathing became regular, however, and my body felt stronger. I was glad I’d warmed up by running the Preakness. My tendinitis wasn’t "cold" anymore so it wasn’t bothering me much.

The last quarter mile I focused on making the finish line before 10:30 struck on the clock. It was already reading past 10 minutes as I approached. I carefully watched the numbers change and adjusted my speed accordingly. I passed the finish line in 10:28 (6:59). Yay! I could have been a sailor!

Today was the Capitol Hill Classic 10K/3K race. For the last two years I have formed a racing team at my agency to run in the 3K. Bex is a guest runner on the team. Last year she was third in the 3K race.

Bex beat A, who had just finished running the 10K twenty minutes earlier, by four seconds a year ago. We won the team 3K competition last year, with myself, Bex and A providing all the scoring for the team in that order. (Last year at the Capitol Hill Classic 3K, I spent the 2d half of the race chasing down this young runner who would stumble forward until I came up on him, then spurt forward again. It was maddening. My teammates Bex and the exhausted A were both driving hard at my heels the entire way, less that 30 seconds behind me. I finished 19th in the race.)

I admired A for doing a double last year and doing so well in both races. She was fourth in the 3K after finishing in the top 5% in the 10K. The 10K has a killer hill in the last mile which is a quarter-mile long. I wanted to be like A.

So this year I planned to do the double. I also recruited my agency’s rock star, G, to be on the 3K team. He was doing the 10K anyway so this meant he would do a double too. Bex was repeating and A was going to concentrate of the 3K this year. Along with newcomer P, the team was ready.

How did it all go? Pretty well. Maybe Bex already has a posting saying how we did. If not, you’re just gonna have to wait til a later post to find out.

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