Going into the final race of the year I had many reservations. It's the morning December 30, so it's gonna be freezing cold. It's also coming off probably my most satisfying race yet. Just two Sunday's earlier I had run the Jingle Bell Jog in Greenwich, a rolling 3 miler. I finished that race in 21:51, so 7:17 splits. Not bad especially considering the weather and hills there. That, though had raised my own expectations for the Race for CJ. I figured though the 5k was adding .10 miles it wouldn't be as hilly, and I was aiming for a 21:40. That would be 6:59 splits. It would also place me in a higher seeded queue for the Indianapolis Mini.
I never sleep well before races. I always attempt to get to bed early, and I always toss and turn. If I were to study I would guess that my race times usually are nearly equal to the amount of continuous sleep I get the night before. It seems I wake up nearly every half hour. Dec 29 though, I got sucked into some hockey and football, and didn't get to bed till midnight. The alarm was set for 6, I was making coffee by 5:45, and outta the shower eating some granola by 6:15.
By 8:15, I've found my way down to the Athlete's Foot where we are getting race packet pickup. For the first time, I look the part, and looking the part makes me somewhat uncomfortable. I have a brand new dri-fit long sleeve Nike tech shirt. When I go to check in, the man at the athletes foot says, "Ah, you look like one of those elite runners." I nervously smile and tell him yeah, I am. I am bib number 10. A nice low number. I take that as a good sign. It's still 45 minutes to race time, I am in my car attempting to stay warm when I get a "Run motherfucker, run" text from Spitz. I complain a bit about the temperature. He tells me to get out there and warm up. I realize thats a good idea.
The Race for CJ is a fundraiser for the family of CJ Sweeney, a well loved kid in CT who passed away from cancer in early December/ After some prerace ceremonies, including a proclimation from the Mayor that it's CJ Sweeney day in Stamford, it's time to get ready to start the race. Somehow I find myself way towards the back middle of a good 200-300 people. This won't work. I nudge my way through a bunch of people and wind up finding myself 2-3 rows back on the outside. The Mayor sets off the race. And we go.
Within the first 100 yards I almost trip over a kid. Twice. Eventually I get by him. I then here two guys I am passing talk, "Yeah, let everyone go out quick at the start then we pick them off at the middle and at the end." Not exactly what I wanted to hear. I had the idea of just attacking this race at the start and hoping I was able to keep up a good pace throughout. If I am gonna do this in 21:40, I can't exactly stay back at any point. Not with my previous times at least. I need to push myself the whole time. At about 1/4 mile in on my right a guy just fly's by me. I think of using him as a bit of a pacemaker for a moment, but at the pace he's going, it doesn't seem reasonable.
It isn't until about a mile has passed, that I think I am getting my feet under me and feeling good. I think it's a mile anyway. I can't tell. There are no mile markers. Nobody is yelling out times. I haven't run this race before, and I sure as hell am not familiar enough with the streets of Stamford to really know. I have nothing to do but keep running. I am more or less by myself. I can hear people behind me, but not really close enough to pass me. And i have a group of 5-6 people about 10-15 yards ahead. This goes on for what feels like forever.
Finally a mile split time. 2 miles down 13:56. Shit! That's not bad. But I am definitely gonna need to pick it up. I pick up the pace and start picking off a few in that group of 5-6 in front of me. Then very soon afterwards, "2 miles down 14:58 !" Wait, what the hell? Which mile marker is right? Shit! At any rate, if either were right I need to pick it up, quickly.
A slight uphill, thats alright, I tell myself I have trained for that. Soon enough I start seeing street signs that I recognize from my drive down. 2rd street. Was it on 6th street that we turned? No it turns out it's on fifth. I can see the shopping center where the finish queue is just a few hundred yards away. And then it comes, that side stich. Are you kidding me? This couldn't happen at the one mile mark. Regardless, I know I just need to run through it. Not as quickly as I would like though, and I get passed by 3-5 people who are having a much more succesful kick than me. When I can read the clock in the distance I can see it at 21:38. Damnit. I am not gonna get in under 21:40. I pass sometime between 21:52 and 21:55 unofficially. Still a personal best, so I shouldn't be too disappointed. Though there are no official results up of the race yet, there is a flicker site up. This is how someone looks when they set there personal best, but are frustrated they didn't reach their goal.
After the race I start feeling better. That cat that passed me around the 1/4 mark? He finished in 19:59. Thats great, I tell him. He asks how I did, and I tell him 21:55. How's that rate for ya? Oh, it's a personal best, but I was gunning for 21:40. Nah, thats great, he says it's not every race you get a personal best. After a few waters, I decide I want a mocha, I hit the starbucks across the street. i see another cat with a race bib, and chat him up. He tells me, "I couldn't keep up with you after that hill, I tried but I just couldn't do it." It turns out he finished 15 seconds behind. And he was in that group ahead of me shortly before 2 miles. I'm not feeling so bad now.
I head home, still a bit disappointed that I didn't hit my goal, but not distraught. My mile splits were around 7:05, and I imagine, if the actual results ever good posted I finished in the top 15-20% or so. Now I just gotta translate that to a 10k this weekend.
Unofficial Results :: 5k 21:55, 7:04 mile splits, still waiting on placement