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?