Odd Experience: Being in the lead (Read 1238 times)

Interval Junkie --Nobby

    tl;dr: Leading is weird; I hope to get a lot more practice at it.


    I'd conned my two-pack-a-day running buddy into joining me for a 5K about a half-hour away from the running mecha that is my town.  It was your typical small community charity race.  While it was pretty clear it was the first time these people had done a race, they had everything well organized except for the pins.  


    This was my buddy's (let's call him TwoPack) first race.  He was kinda nervous about it, so we had to drive around a neighborhood by the race location (an elementary school) to find a place for him to furtively suck down three cigs before we could pick up his number.  He was pretty worried about looking odd, so kept asking me if he should wear his white running shoes, or the black sneakers that matched his black socks and wool pants.  At 6:30 am he wasn't in his right mind to remember shorts -- not after staying up until 2am the night before chatting up a girl:


    "Yeah, I got to get up in a couple of hours to run a road race."

    "Oh?  What kind?"

    "Ultra-endurance race."

    "Really?! How long?"  

    "5 kilometers."

    "That's not much of an endurance race."

    "It is if you're a chain-smoker".


    I went for a jog to warm up, but had to cut it short for a bio-emergency.  The stalls in the boys' room were about 3ft high, which was a bit humorous.  Still, I made it out just as the RD was explaining the course.  For some reason he decided a turned-up traffic cone was all the amplification needed.  I was doubtful, but I figured all I had to do was follow everyone else -- what could be that hard.  I looked over the field and told TwoPack: "There's your winner right there," pointing to the guy with the ultra-toned legs with the "MudRunner" tat on the back of the calf and a tech shirt hugging his pecks.  The rest of the field looked pretty meek.  About 60 runners by guess.


    My last 5K was in Feb -- a PR of 21:34.  It was not an easy course, with some switch-backs and mud.  This course was a bowl and I was hoping for sub 21:00.  My year goal is sub-20.  I've been doing track workouts with the local club and running 50mpw.  I did a hard workout of Wednesday before I found this race, so I wasn't optimistic that I was in prime form.  I wasn't even sure what I was capable of: I'd been running with the fastest group at the club, but I don't think the local champions run with them.  Asking around, the guys I keep pace with run 6:15-6:30 pace 5Ks.  Some run sub-19, but I can't be sure they are giving it their all in workouts.  I certainly am.  (not racing, just working hard . . . okay, a bit of racing).  A recent tempo run told me I had 2mi @ 6:40 after 5mi at 7:00.  So that sounded promising.  Anyway, this was sure to be a PR, but mostly just a baselining run.  Sub-21, at least.


    The RD brought us to the vague notion of a starting line.  I toed the notion.  He said that the principal would be starting the race with a cow-bell.  Then she, without any ceremony, rung the bell.  The runners all kinda looked at each other like, "uh, do we run now?".  I took off.


    The first 1/3 of a mile was down hill.  I took out in front just to get clear of the crowd.  I figured I was going to bank the first mile, taking advantage of the hill.  The goal pace over-all was 6:35.  With the first mile banked at 6:15 I figured I could pull a 6:30 then a 6:45 for last with the 1/3 up-hill and I'd nail it.  However, off the mark I was running 5:20 by my watch.  I thought i'd be quickly passed and would just slip into the crowd somewhere in my usual spot in the pecking order.  5:20 was too fast even for a hill, so I slowed to eventually check in a 6:01 first mile.


    The entire time I'm waiting for someone to pass me and reading Livestrong off the ass of the guy on the bike leading the race.  I was in front.  Actually, I was completely lost with the experience.  I've never lead a race before.  I didn't expect it to last more than the first 400m.  But there I was.  It was unnerving.


    I scarcely looked at my watch, instead I went by feel.  This is new to me.  The track workouts gave me a good sense of how to feel the pace I was capable of.  This felt fine.  But why the heck was I leading.  The bike took a right and I used the corner to look behind: two guys about 40ft away.  My shin-muscle felt stiff and I hoped it wouldn't be an issue. I half hoped to cramp up just to stop being in that weird position in front.  It felt completely untethered.  Like an astronaut disconnected from the ship and just hoping momentum would carry him to safety.


    Just before mile 2 there was a pavilion.  This is when the green-horn RD proved the value of experience.  At the pavilion was a sign that said, "Run through pavilion."  So I did.  But the bike went around the pavilion.  Must have low clearance I thought.  The water table was there, and I waved them off.  But when I exited the pavilion there was no clear path, but an arrow out to a road that seemed a bit off.  I halted a bit in the confusion (you can see this on the race-graph).  The guy on the bike yelled for us to go back through the pavilion.  So I made a U-turn.  The front of the race collapsed on me a bit, but I think I only lost about 20ft on the lead.  They were still about 20ft back.


    Mile 2 was the only marker. 6:30split.  But now we started looping back on the rest of the field.  TwoPack shot me a nice Go Man as he passed.  He looked good.  I wasn't sure if he'd be walking by now.  Fastest we've ever run together was a 10min pace, but he's an old athlete from way back.  QB1. Rugby.  Ice Hockey.  Naturally fit guy except for the lungs.


    In mile 3 the up-hill climb started.  I knew I was doing well, and headed for a certain PR.  Well exceeding what I thought I was capable before the race.  I felt good, but the hill was eating at me.  I pushed.  Just trying to hold on.


    After 3mi the hill got steep.  I saw the shadow of my pursuer at my 5-o'clock.  I tried to give a little more, the engines responded, but not with much.  The shadow drew up to my side -- and then easily passed me.


    Here I re-heard the words of the vet racers of this forum: when you pass, pass with authority -- give the impression you could keep this up forever.  This guy must have read that post.  He passed me and his foot-falls were ninja-like.  His breathing was silent and unlabored.  I think he was doing the Saturday crossword too.  I didn't have it to catch him.  I was already near the red and didn't think I had the kick to catch and finish.  And I was just too happy with my pace to let the place bother me.  I was just too disoriented about being in first-place in the first-place, to muster that killer instinct when it was taken from me.


    I saw his "MudRunner" tattoo flash in the sun and I smiled.  I climbed the hill after him and made sure I wouldn't get passed again; I kicked.  I kicked for time.  I had a bit of a longer kick in me and didn't realize it.  I'll know next time.  But I don't think I could have caught him.  I don't even think this was close to a PR for him.  I think he just hunted from the back and was going to shoot for 1st.  He might have been hoping for more of a race at the end.  But it was all him.  He beat me by 5seconds.


    I came #2 at 19:38.  A new PR for me by 2 minutes.


    TwoPack came up the back stretch just in time for me to see him get chicked by a 18yo.  I'm shouting, "go chain-smoker!" (which some middle-schooler started echoing as "go cheese-burger!") and he looks like crap.  Right in the last 30meters he's passed by a guy in his late 40s (TwoPack is 43) as I'm telling him to kick.  When TwoPack kicks over the finish he almost runs into the other guy who is hunkered over wheezing.  The guy gasps out, "Wasn't worth it," to TwoPack.

    My chain-smoking friend brought in a 24:49 -- didn't walk.  Thought about it.  But didn't.  Better than where I started this.


    Last year in June I ran my first 5K in 26:07.  One year later: 19:38.

    Thanks, Jeff, for the suggestion to shoot for lowering my 5k over the Summer instead of logging 80 slow miles a week.  You're right, I learn a lot more this way (primarily to look for obscure races nobody knows about Wink ).

    2016 Goals: Lose the 10lbs I gained for not having goals

    Feeling the growl again


      I came #2 at 19:38.  A new PR for me by 2 minutes.




      Last year in June I ran my first 5K in 26:07.  One year later: 19:38.



      Nice....very, very nice...

      "If you want to be a bad a$s, then do what a bad a$s does.  There's your pep talk for today.  Go Run." -- Slo_Hand


      I am spaniel - Crusher of Treadmills



        Thanks for the fun read Smile

          Excellent race, and even better write-up. Nice work!

          fake it till you make it

            Excellent race, and even better write-up. Nice work!



            Very nice PR!.


              Great read!!! congrats to you & 2-pack! 

              Best Present Ever

                Great race report.

                old woman w/hobby

                  Congratulations and great report!



                  Just run.

                    Nicely run and nicely written, Stadjak.


                      And you can quote me as saying I was mis-quoted. Groucho Marx




                        Nice job.  You're gonna run out of goals.  Smile

                        “What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the fight in the dog. – Dwight D. Eisenhower


                        My blog is JT Running DC.  It's awesome.

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                          Great report, great race.

                          It's a 5k. It hurt like hell...then I tried to pick it up. The end.

                            Loved your race report - felt like I was there! Great job!!

                            Go as long as you can, and then take another step.

                              Awesome report, and a fantastic accomplishment--six and a half minutes in one year's time is incredible.


                              Looking forward to seeing what you pull off in the rest of the year, stadjak. 

                              "When a person trains once, nothing happens. When a person forces himself to do a thing a hundred or a thousand times, then he certainly has developed in more ways than physical. Is it raining? That doesn't matter. Am I tired? That doesn't matter, either. Then willpower will be no problem." 
                              Emil Zatopek

                                Fun read. Congrats on a great race and second place.

                                19:38 is awesome. Cool