Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Another Wednesday, Another Run

Today was the third Wednesday of the month. Time for the monthly noontime Tidal Basin 3K run, which dates back to 1974.

I consider this fast and furious 1.86 mile race to be my speed work. I usually run a low 7-minute pace for the near two mile distance. This is after a 2.6 mile warmup run getting there from my office. After the race I have a 2.6 mile cooldown run back to work. Lately I have been throwing a third-of-a-mile charge up Capitol Hill into the cooldown run so I can get a little hillwork in. This is because I am getting ready for the hilly Lake Tahoe Relay Race in three and a half weeks, where I'm going to run on Bex's team. I have been assigned a leg that goes over a mountain pass, topping out at 6800 feet after climbing 500 feet in two miles. (Left: The "hill" on the course, running on the sidewalk up past the Tulip Library.)

This staple on my race calendar (I have done 83 of these hummers in the last 92 months) is my great strategical laboratory. I have a shadow in this race named Peter who is always nearby and usually beats me. He beat me by nine seconds in the 3K race on Sunday, after we had both run a race during the previous hour.

Peter is only three years younger and near my speed, although he has a different style than me. He utilizes a powerful finish whereas I prefer to go out strong and hold on.

I view him in my binary view of the world as faster than me. However, because I am capable of beating him, I can’t shrug his usual success away to the work of the gods.

Today was a nice day for running although there was a slight breeze. When the race started, Peter took off as usual. Today I decided to match his early charge. Usually I let him go and catch him mid-race, hoping I can put enough distance on him from there that I won’t succumb to his signature final furious finish. (Right: Here's another view of the "hill," looking back at the where the runners come from as they run up the sidewalk on the left. Notice the Tidal Basin off to the left beyond the trees.)

I pressed at the start and passed him at the quarter mile mark. He fell away behind me as I uncharacteristically hung with the back-of-the-front-packers for awhile. Soon I was really laboring though and I fell away from that group.

I passed the mile marker at 6:59. Although I felt like I was definitely slowing down, Peter was still behind me, too far back for me glimpse when I glanced back.

In the final leg, two men ran by me and I could hear two more closing in. This last stretch is interminably long, a slog down a flat straightway that just goes on forever for a runner like me who typically doesn’t do negative splits. I feel like a fly in amber on it, running numbly while getting caught by fast finishers.

I started swivelling to locate Peter. I spotted him back there but thought I was too far ahead for him to catch me. I had some payback in mind for last Sunday.

The finish clock was reading in the 12:50s as I approached. I like to break 13 minutes but I was too far away for that. I finished in 13:01 (6:59), two seconds faster than the time I had on Sunday. Peter finished fourteen seconds later. I was 29th out of 66 runners.

I had evolved a strategy in this race of starting fast in order to beat Peter, but I didn’t break 13:00 which always used to be my goal. My fast start robbed me of the endurance I needed for a stronger push during the last half of the race and a surge at the end.

When I go by Peter late, as I usually do, he hangs onto me then, and kills me with his finishing charge. This time I got away from him and he couldn't run me down. I wonder if I am focusing on the wrong thing in this race. What do you think?


Sunshine said...

Running over a mountain pass sounds exciting.
How great to have a regular Wednesday race appointment... like you have that whole group of running partners.

Lisa - Slow & Steady said...

I just can't relate. I would focus on enjoying the beautiful course and the opportunity to run it. This is why I finish near the back of the pack and you do not. ;)

Tomas said...

Love strategy... sometimes it is fun to stop focusing on times and splits but focus on racing someone and seeing how even in a short race like this a race plan can be pivotal to success.
Great race although the time goal was not reached.
Have been absent from the internetworld for a while, will be catching up on your training and racing, hoping things are going great for you!

yumke said...

All i've read about beating end-of-race sprinters is to build a big lead and hang on. So you've got that one down.

If you don't already, try doing 100metre striders during one of your routine aerobic runs. You run at a very quick pace (not quite sprint) for about 20 seconds. Do this from 6 to 8 times with proper recovery. This gets you working on quick leg turnover and teach you speed. I found this kind of workouts sprinkled in a run helsps you on race day and will give you a finishing kick when you're tired.

Thanks for the trail advice. I haven't done a lot of them and have found osome online sources. Gonna start plotting my next long run in DC.

Susan said...

Good luck in the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey! I'm going to do the DC version next spring.

I am not selling my bike. No way!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a good ole' competitve spirit to me! I like it. I think your philosophy is a bit like Pre's ;)

ShirleyPerly said...

Well, it sounds like your main focus on this race was to beat the other Peter and you did -- Congrats!

Next time perhaps if you focus on sub-13, you can do both!!

Rainmaker said...

Ahh yes...that little bump is evil.

But nice job cracking sub-7!

Makita said...

I like your binary vision of the world... though for me it's more like: Those who run. Those who don't. :D

Jade Lady said...

Interesting binary world you think about. I haven't run races in so long, so can't comment. But, I must say, that I do think of runners in that way - faster or slower than I. Most of the folks (like u) seem to be in the former category!

Sunshine said...

By the way, fun to see your list of bloggers you have run a race with. Honored to be a part of that.
We got "participation" certificates for Chicago.. along with the fat book listing us with the participants. Wow!
I still think it was sort of amazing to be a part of history. (Even though I would rather have finished!!)

Just12Finish said...

Wow, time for Tahoe already? Good luck out there!