Friday, July 11, 2014

Return to the Roads: Slow, Fast Frustration and a Great Cause

It has nearly been a month since I wrote regarding OSS. For much of that time, little of note has been happening until the past week.


Due to so much trail and ultra based running, I felt I needed to return to some speed on the roads. With the core of summer coming, races dry up like a drought in the west, so I had to do some scrambling to see what works time-wise.

First up ended up being the Revolutionary Run held in Washington Crossing, PA. As the same suggests, it is where Washington crossed the Delaware River. (It's a famous moment in US history.) It had many of things I wanted: reasonable entry fee (this is getting harder these days), quick easy travel, and an early enough start time. The bonus was the 10K option. While there was a 5K, I want more bang for buck and registered for the 10K. The Rev Run is an extremely popular race as parking is over a quarter mile from the start and registration areas. I would have been closer had I parked in NJ and walked over the bridge. For this race, I was incredibly nervous. I had no idea where my capacity for speed was at. I told myself, I was strong enough to run well and do what I could. In the end, it was lots of suffering. Mainly, it was because I felt slow. When the race started promptly at 8:30, it was a quick start. Not by me but from some of the other racers which led me to instantly respond. Having been away from such short distances there was the worry of not responding and never having a shot. In retrospect, maybe holding a tad back would have helped some but I do not think by much. By the mile mark, I am sitting behind two young college runners. Mile 2 is where things went south. As the 5K started 15 minutes prior, we were now weaving through the masses. Stupidly, I did not expect this. My reaction time to the two leaders was slow and I begun to lose a stride or two. By the time, we got through this overly crowded section, I had lost contact. Negative thoughts about quitting rang in my head as my brain for some reason was telling me I was going really slow, while the truth was not as bad. Around the 3 mile marker, I get passed by another younger runner. I tried to keep contact but I could not turn my legs over any quicker despite this being something of a downhill section. Eventually, we turned around to run this section again uphill, so I was not looking forward to it. I was in a dark place. However, once I hit the turnaround, I felt like I was running at a better gear. I felt faster. Despite that, I was not gaining any ground on the 3 runners ahead of me. Now and again, I felt I would get a shade closer but it was not any real change. I was a solid 4th. With the way I ran the back half of the race, I felt my time would at least be under 34. Nope. 34:25. Horrible. Granted the winning time was 33:05 but being 4th AND over 34 minutes was a bad taste. Instead of hanging around, I took the chance of missing a podium spot by walking the mile to the car (the finish was even farther from the parking area) so I could get home quicker. Did I win an age group? Yeah, I did. Do I care? Not this time because I wanted more in my return. I had very little excuse. A few days after this race, I felt better about my efforts given that the three people who beat me consisted of two D1 runners and the current 3200m PA state champ.

As a result of my 'poor'' showing at the Rev Run, I saw it as more reason to get another short distance road race in. With my efforts to maximize weekend time when Peg is home, finding the Moonlight 5K was perfect. A late Thursday night race close enough by. Yes! Start time was 9pm meaning I did not have to leave for the race until 7:30, thus, missing rush hour traffic and allowing me to walk Falcon. Even better was the cause for this race was one I could relate to.

The Moonlight 5K was for the benefit of the Cure4Cam Foundation. It is an organization whose purpose is to raise awareness and support therapies of childhood cancers. It was founded in honor of Cameron Evans who died in May 2012 of leukemia. Cameron was a cross country runner in Downingtown.

Back in October 1996, my friend and cross country teammate, Robert Morris, passed away from leukemia.

Considering that connection, I felt strongly, the Moonlight 5K was an event to support so I signed up. Even did so in advance. Also, I deemed it highly important to run my hardest here. By participating in a race inspired by the memory of a runner lost to leukemia, I felt I was running in Rob's memory as I know a lot of people in the local HS and running communities doing so in Cameron's memory.

The Moonlight 5K took place last night in Exton, PA on a two loop course through a corporate complex. One which I must say had some of the freshest roads I have ever run. Upon arriving, I picked up my number and shirt before heading off on my warm-up. Usually during warm-ups I stay off the course (or if I have to be on the course run it in the opposite direction) this time, I ran it in the actual direction. Not the whole 5K mind you but one complete loop. I was very happy I did this as it was much more rolling than I expected. With a lot of local HS runners at this race, I knew it was going to go out fast and furious. And with Chester County Running providing the timing, you know that some of the best were coming out. Once more, I told myself run smart and don't get dropped.

About 15 minutes before race time, it started to rain. Nothing major at first but as the start time got closer and closer it was much more consistent. It is around 5 minutes prior that it was clear the rain was not letting up. This was going to make for a much darker Moonlight 5K since the clouds were blocking the moon and there is not a ton of street lamps in this corporate center. Then again that was part of the allure of the event as people would be sporting glow sticks and glow bracelets. As we lined up for the start, I learned that there was a relay component. Oh great! That means things just got faster! However, it appeared that most of the young guns were running the relay! YES!

After a rapid start command, we were off. If there was any point, I felt slow, the start was it. A swarm of about 10-12 jumped out in front of me. Initially, I thought, 'This is not going to be pretty'. Yet, there is something about running in the rain that helped me fall into place. I started moving up the ranks. About 3/4 of a mile in I was 5th. Then, a little farther, I was 4th and then 3rd and 2nd! I was a short step behind the lead runner. He was a relay guy so I knew I was the lead individual. This was the one time I got to clearly see the clock posting a 8:07 for about 1.6 miles. Meaning I had a shot at sub 16 with only 1.5 to go. But I was not on fresh legs like the relay runner was. Boom, he was opening some distance on me on the open road. However, as the rain continued and we began to lap the back of the packers, I began to slowly eat at his lead. I had a shot to win the whole thing outright?! I kept pushing. I was feeling great. Yet, in the last 1/4 mile, I was caught by a relay runner bumping me down into third on the road. This is where I would stay. I can report that the runner who caught me also caught the runner ahead of me. Because of the driving rain and people at the finish area, I could not make out the clock for my time. It looked like it might have been high 15's. I thought I saw 15:54 when I came back around to the front. Despite not immediately knowing my time, I felt I ran awesome and only 'lost' by a handful of seconds to two relay teams.

Not knowing the state of things, I went back to my car to drop off wet racers and singlet. With the weather basically being a monsoon, I opted for another loop barefoot as my cooldown. Oh yeah! That was awesome! Rarely do I run shirtless but I did. In fact, all I had were my racing shorts on. With the water on the smooth asphalt, it was so soothing. It was during this lap that it appears people just stopped. The loop was rather barren. It was not until 1/3 mile left that I saw another runner. When I got back to the finish area, the clock read only 33 minutes. The parking area was rather empty, the timing mats were pulled up and everything was being broken down. There was no stopping the rain. Clearly no awards were going to be done there so I hoped in my car and drove white-knuckled home. Roads were flooding in the area. Thankfully, I got out of there when I did. By the time I reached the King of Prussia area, there was no rain. Whew.

Due to the rain, I rain fast and enjoyed it. Also got home earlier. Sadly, I did not get to enjoy any post race time with people. Still I was excited when I got home and so anxious to find out what the recorded times were.....

Until, the timers sent out an email today saying they could not provide results for the event due to their timing system malfunctioning. Now, they used an electronic timing mat system. It appears there was no back-up. None of the bibs had pull tags and it was a rainy night out so maybe it was not realistic to use a tape. Yet, I am sad at this moment to not know my time. I know I could have just worn a watch but I like to race shorter distances free of it. So this situation certainly opens up some food for thought about back-up timing systems at races along with what happens when mother nature strikes.

Also, I know I ran a race and was the individual winner but with no results, there are likely no awards, does that mean it was not a race that occurred?

(Also, have since learned the mats went dead even before we came through for our first lap. Apparently, they were even sparking!)

Certainly a question for me to ponder. I consider this a win simply because I am lucky enough to know my standing when it was still a race. Plus, at the end of the day, I had a good time and supported a cause that is personally relate-able.

(Lets hope somehow I can find out what my time was.)

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