Last year, I ran 19:00 flat, and this year I was thinking I would be low 18's, but my goal was sub 18. It also would be nice to finish first again. The pressure was on!
I arrived early with my dad, and picked up my bib and shirt. In the parking lot, I noticed an unfamiliar fit-looking guy. I also saw fellow teammates Jeff (directing and running) and Mike B. My body was tight, and I decided to head out and run the entire course as a warm up. The weather was spectacular (about 60 degrees and sunny, some wind). Running really helped me relax and focus. I glanced at my watch and I was going a little too fast during the first mile (mid 6's). Oops. I slowed down and continued to the big hill. I tried not to storm up it. I was impressed with its steepness and length, thinking that I had been exaggerating it in my mind from last year's race. It made me think that it definitely was going to be an advantage to me place-wise (I love hills!), but not time-wise (goodbye 17's?). On the third mile, the stranger from the parking lot jumped onto the road ahead of me. He looked smooth and fast. I checked my watch - I was running about 7 flat and he was pulling away from me on a warm up! Yikes. I finished up around the fields at the registration area and found my wife and kids. Next thing I knew, it was almost time to start. I ran some more and then waited at the line.
At the gun, I sprinted to the front. I tried to dial down my enthusiasm and stay under control. By the time we were exiting the park, I was passed by the fast stranger. He steadily increased his lead over the first mile. After the fast start, I settled into my goal pace for the first mile (5:30). I could hear footsteps behind me, but they weren't too close. I reached the first mile in 5:32. I continued on to the long downhill section until the course turns left onto the big hill. I figured it was a good sign that Jeff hadn't run me down by now. I began the ascent, watching first place ahead of me to see how he handled the hill. I was gaining some ground, but he was still 15-20 seconds ahead of me. Then the course turns left, but continues to gain in elevation. I was really feeling the burn here. As I crested the hill, it took a while to recover, but luckily it was downhill (briefly). One more small climb, and I saw first place glance back at me. I took this as a sign that he was tiring, so I tried to pick up my pace. This was right about at the 2nd mile mark (6:01 split). I felt like I had narrowed the gap to about 10 seconds before the course reaches its highest point, and then he descended speedily towards the finish in the park, and increasing his lead. I got my pace back in to the 5:30's, and picked it up to low 5's as I finished through the park. I was surprised that the clock was still under 18 when it came into view, and I sprinted to finish in the 17's, which I thought I had in 17:59. SNERRO strikes again, just like last year when I thought I finished in 18:58, the official time was 19:00, my time this year was 18:00. Oh well. The winning time was 17:45. Jeff came in 18:30. My dad finished in the 24's. I chatted with the winner, and then was greeted by my wife and kids. After more mingling with fellow WTAC runners and watching the awards/raffle it was time to go.
Finishing up. Photo courtesy of Jeff Walker.
Overall, I was super pleased with this race. Last year I ran 19:00, and then 18:08 a couple of weeks later on a flat course. I'd love to duplicate that 52 second improvement when I race that same flat course next week. Kudos to the WTAC for putting on a great event!