Monday, September 26, 2011

Rum Runners 2011 - Here We Go Again

So last year was my first taste of the relay running / long distance style of race. I was an alternate for Runningmania.com. I must say I rather enjoyed last year and Leg 6 of the race where I placed in the top ten and had a personal best time for the distance I ran (10.7 km).

This year I was a full fledged team member due to my running the year before and I was ready. When asked which legs I might want to do, I requested first and foremost Leg 9. I was offered it the year before but was intimidated by he extra distance of 12.6 km, having never really run ore than 10km before. But this year I had already completed a half marathon and numerous training runs well over 13 kms. So I figured I could compete.

My main goal was to beat 1 hour, having run a best practice time of 1 hour and 5 minutes. But that was practice and the excitement of race day always speeds one up. Also Ian McGrath was kind enough to lend me his Garmin 305 for my Leg, which was going to help me with pacing. Side note, that thing was awesome and I now must buy one.

The day had been going very well. Our runners were doing great jobs in their legs, and even though our main goal is fun first, it is nice to give it your all on the day. We had a number of new teammates who all succeeded in conquering their Legs of the relay, even though the weather went from blah to blaher.

The day started with fog and humidity for Ian McGrath in the dark (nice) and right before my Leg was a downpour. I stayed dry inside Mike Milloy's van while waiting for him to finish Leg 8 as I didn't want to be soaked before I ran. And waiting helped. Just as they called us to the start line at 4:15 PM, the rain let up leaving only a thick humid mist.

I said before that I wanted Leg 9 as my first choice this year. Partly I liked the distance, but mostly I liked the fact that you finish coming into Mahone Bay and it is a darn pretty way to finish any run. Also this meant I actually would know the end of the run pretty well, having traveled there numerous times.

So the start came about on time (as usual in this event), I hit start on the Garmin and began signing Don't Stop Believin' in my head (as the beat was just right for me).  I stayed with the first few runners for the first kilometer or so and kept them in site for the first 2 kilometers or so. This was nice as they were impressive runners.

Now normally I go out as fast or faster than the leaders, but then slow down and get caught up, then find a rhythm, then finish the race really fast. So I was happy to have the use of the Garmin to keep me in check. I wanted to keep a pace of 4:30 min/km and this beast would tell me exactly how I was doing. This would get me well under 1 hour for the race at about 58 minutes or so.

About 2-3 minutes into the race as the leaders were pulling away I was stuck behind a guy and our pace was 4:18. I felt good and made the bold move to pass him even though we were well ahead of my goal pace. But then, I am stupid that way. It just felt slow at that point and I wanted to hit a comfortable stride. I stopped looking at the Garmin and ran at a decent pace.

Awhile later I looked down and saw my pace was anywhere from 4:08 to 4:18 and I was still feeling good 20 minutes in. I knew only 5 people were ahead of me as well and one runner was maybe 100 meters ahead. He would end up staying there for almost the entire race.

The run felt great and only once did I look down and see my pace had drifted far from where I wanted to be. So the Garmin really helped and I was able to get back to the low 4's and away from almost a 5 min pace. I must have really put some distance the people behind me as well, as I didn't here anyone being cheered for after I passed the jubilant fans on the the road  side as the water stops. This Leg was also very up and down with little rollers, which I run through very well. This probably helped me put some distance on those behind me.

Finally I rounded a corner on the road and saw those famous churches of Mahone Bay and I knew I was but a couple of kilometers away from the finish. I picked the pace up a bit in this downhill section to try and catch up to the runner ahead of me as well. I had avoided doing this earlier in the race as I was afraid pushing my pace would lead to me running out of steam too early and allow those behind me to pass. I would have rather stayed 6th than end up 10th. But now I knew I had a little reserve.

It would seem though that I was only slightly faster and the gap was not really closing down any. So I kept running, though the on coming cramps in my ribs. But just as I was set to accept a well raced 6th with a great time, I found a little more speed and caught right up with Chris Smith. I paced right in behind him, having to slow myself to do so to see if he had anything left in the tank. He didn't respond, and with a 150 meters or so to go, I took off. I didn't look back but kept running hard and fast and made the finish in a time of 52:39 for an average pace of 4:11 min/km. Thank you Garmin and Ian for the push to get me up there.

Needless to say I was extremely happy with the result and 5th pace overall in the Leg. I had beat my set goal by over 5 minutes, which in itself was probably 7 minutes faster or so that I had done in practice. And I was also extremely impressed with our team placing, coming in 21 overall (out of 60) with an average pace of 4:57 min/km. Way to go team.

Here is looking to next year.
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