Wednesday, July 4, 2007

If you can't beat 'em...

I was invited to run a Fourth of July 5K race with Jeanne. You all know Jeanne, she hides behind the misnomer of Not Born To Run.

Well, we all know that she has burned two marathons. She's been to Boston. She has smoked many 5Ks and an 8K here or a 20K there. The only thing that ever got ahead of Jeanne was surgery earlier this year, that she is just now coming back from.

How could anyone turn down down an invitation to run in a race with Jeanne? The publicity value alone is immeasurable. Whenever she posts something, she gets a dozen comments right away, guaranteed.

I arrived in Potomac (MD) at the Cure Autism Now (CAN) 5K this morning hoping that my trepidation wasn't showing. There I found out that Jeanne's daughter, known worldwide as NOD, was running too! She's even faster than Jeanne. It's in the genes.

This wasn't fair. I felt like an Ethiopian amongst a bunch of Kenyans. Early in the race they'd surround me and take turns setting a pace that would grind me into the pavement. I started to run through my usual running ailments to see which one I would advance for DNFing. But then Jeanne said grandly that we didn't have to worry about NOD, she was going for a PR today and wouldn't be running with us. She was going to jackrabbit off at the start.

Whew. One less person I'd have to worry about keeping up with.

I thought maybe I could hang with Jeanne, because she was still recuperating from surgery and I knew her training hadn't fully kicked in yet. I was determined to give it a try. Maybe today would be the day I caught her off form and took her in a race.

The gun went off and we set out. CAN is one of those hot, hilly and humid races everyone is told to avoid. The first half mile was crowded and up a grade. We started too far back (at least one of my stratagems worked) so we were immediately hemmed in and slowed down by the crush of runners on the narrow two lane rural roadway (no shoulders). I caught a real break here.

It took us practically a mile to break into the clear. I had to shove aside a child or two to keep up with Jeanne who kept going to open spots and getting ahead of me. NOD was already way out front and it didn't seem likely that she would "come back to us" today, she was running so effortlessly.

Jeanne was running relaxed too, obviously concentrating on her breathing. She worked her arms nicely on the uphills and seemingly glided on the downhills. You could learn a lot from watching her run a race.

We passed MP 1 at 9:55. Uh-oh, way fast. I started talking to Jeanne in short bursts between ragged gasps to distract her. I told her stories about my recent running escapades, which she'd already read on my blog. My brain couldn't conjure up new stories. Jeanne politely engaged in the conversation and even asked me a question or two. Do you know how many people there were in the 13 original colonies? I guessed 2.6 million. Wrong! 2.5 million.

The morning was heating up. Whenever we passed a lawn sprinkler system spraying the street, I veered over to run through it to cool down, and Jeanne politely followed. I told her we should walk through the water stop, and she accommodated me. I caught a breather as I slowly drank from my cup. Jeanne seemed rarin' to go but I kept giving her the cheers sign with a raised cup to show her I wasn't finished yet. We passed MP 2 in 10:03, still too fast but better.

The third mile, a series of rolling hills, stretched out endlessly. My pace was slowing down and I was back to thinking of which typical running ailment I could pull out to insist on a walking break. Jeanne was eying me closely and listening to my breathing. "Why don't we walk for a minute?" she said gently. I felt like I would live after all!

The break was over all too soon. Noting my red, flushed face, she suggested another walking break half a mile further on. More mantra from heaven! We passed MP 3 in 11:20. That was more like it!

The finish at CAN is a 150 meter downhill straight stretch where you can see the race clock the whole way. With the finish line in sight and a nice downhill to run on, I took heart. I was even with the great Not Born To Run late in a race! Notions of tomorrow's headlines flashed through my mind. Peter Catches Jeanne on her Return From Surgery. It would be grand.

Jeanne sped up. But so did I. We ran down the hill side by side, arms pumping, legs driving. I was sucking in oxygen, trying to lengthen my stride so I could edge her out. The finish! The finish! Only twenty yards away!

Huh? Jeanne beat me by three full seconds. It was like, suddenly she was just gone. I swear I saw a little burst of trailing dust in the air, like in the roadrunner cartoons, as she accelerated into the finishing chute and left me flatfooted behind her.

To be honest, I think she was toying with me the whole race. Her last split was 1:00 for a finishing time of 32:18 (10:24); mine was 1:03 for a finishing time of 32:21 (10:25). She cleaned my clock that last 20 meters. What a finishing kick!

NOD was waiting for us. She had been unconscious while she raced and finished in 29:40 (9:33!), a PR. Well, she is younger.

Thanks for the great race, Jeanne.


susie said...

I love being paced! What a good guy you are...and what a great race for Jeanne. She's amazing:)

jeanne said...

quite the storyteller you are! who'da thought you had it in you to write such terrific FICTION?!?! I was on the edge of my seat the entire time!

well done peter!

21stCenturyMom said...

There is a special place in heaven for pacers. Jeanne had a great race!

WannaBe5Ker said...

This is a very special RR:-) WTG to both of you:-)

Thomas said...

Excellent report. "I felt like an Ethiopian amongst a bunch of Kenyans." Great stuff! Love it!

Juls said...

I am glad that Jeanne posted a link to this Wonderfully written race report. You did well. 2 seconds is nothing.

My son has cute habit of challenging me to a 10K, complaining of ailments that make me hold back to pace him, and then turns on the guns at the end to beat me by some "small" number of seconds. Then he has the nerve to call EVERYONE to claim that he "kicked butt" or "blew me out of the water" or something else to that effect. Of course, I love it.

a.maria said...

i'm with Juls.. two seconds is nothing.

but THREE!!!?!? daaaamn.

she SMOKED you! ;)

ah hahahahahaha. hee hee.

Just12Finish said...

I'm so believing this story. NBTR is such a sandbagger on her blog!