Roadrunner, “BEEP BEEP”, the coyote after you.
Roadrunner, “BEEP BEEP”, if he catches you you’re through!
Ever get that feeling that the faster you try and go, the farther you fall behind? You cannot stop for if you do then your world comes crashing down around you. When did living life become a race for life?
We all have work, housing, cars, bills, repairs, family commitments, some kids and their needs and activities too. You try and solve problems as they arise, satisfy needs, but is there ever enough money to lubricate all life’s squeaking parts!
We runners know why we are attracted to the sport. For a brief time, on roads or trails, your focus is on you. Sure, the outdoor air, weather, etc. But I mean you must focus on your body’s immediate needs; fuel, hydration, cooling, breathing, muscular discomfort. Granted your mind can also explore life’s problems, considering alternatives and solutions, but eventually you need to refocus on your physical needs as the miles accrue or you up you pace. Running forces you to focus on you, running's siren song!
So, am out to dinner on April 30th, prior to the New Jersey Marathon, two of my R2C14 crew, Jim and Marguerite mention they are signed up for the Superhero Half Marathon. The race is staged in nearby Loantoka Park, Morris Twp, NJ and to benefit Christopher Reeve’s Foundation, (Get it?)
Sunday morning May 16th is a speedy 7:15 am departure with Jim and Marguerite to park and speed walk to the starting line ready to go for an 8:30 start. Wow! It is crowded with over 1000 runners and another 300 relayers! This relay business is getting quite popular!
The temps are low 60s, quite a contrast from the marathon two weeks ago. My race strategy is to start slow and comfortable for 2-3 miles then see where I am at legs and cardio wise post marathon death march two weeks ago.
The three of us line up and start off together a few hundred back from the start line. Jim is just getting back into the swing after a bout with plantar fascia, and Marguerite has been cross training but not running much distance. However, both always run with passion and will run all out full throttle, beep beep. There goes the gun. During mile 1 I find myself trying to rein both of them in to a non-blow up 8:10 1st mile pace.
After the initial post start jockeying through the narrow neighborhood lane, the field spreads out onto Woodland Avenue. I am chitchatting with Marguerite and Jim is right behind. Marguerite is excited about her new job at Lululemon after a ten year private sector hiatus to work at raising her boy and girl. She is full of hope and the prospects for a life beyond her current one of mothering housewife extraordinaire.
I share with her some details from my 2003 accident and how the experience changed my outlook on life. She encourages me to write about the experience more deeply, and someday I will. Of course I need to reserve the film rights so when I appear at Kona, I can be one of those Ironman special interest stories!
We turn off Woodland Ave onto Kitchell Pond Rd and duck onto the local Patriot Path trails in Loantoka. We cross mile 2 together a shade over 16 minutes or 8 min pace. Ok, Marguerite and Jim are settled in. Let’s do a system’s check, feet, legs and hips- good. Breathing- relaxed. Stamina- solid. Let’s open this baby up a little bit.
I recall the last time I tried to run fast. Save a couple of 5K’s last summer, I must go back to the 2007 Cherry Blossom when I last ran fast for more than a 5K. I study the lines on the curvy path and hit the gas. Two, six, ten, twenty, I pass. My heart rate rises into the 150s. Approaching mile 4, I leave the trail and I am in the 160s. I am revving my aging plant toward the red zone. Hey there is “Steve Davenport, out rooting for his wife Anne” The Davenports live up the street and host a killer 4th of July party we must hit one of these times!
I hit the only hill on the course pitching up onto Spring Valley Road to circle back to the start in McGinty Park. I am redlining and I power walk the top of the hill to regroup and Hammer a Gel. The heart rate drops quickly enough to resume pace. I am moving along at pace and passing runners through to mile 6 and right on my redline. My brain works on excuses to slow down. Should I stop and pee? Yes, I can afford 30 seconds to bring my heart rate down and lighten the load by 16ozs, I reason with myself. I lose position on ten runners or so but am back in my prior spot as I cross the 1st loop in 52 minutes for the 6.6 miles. A decent 7:50 pace considering the slower start and the pee break, meaning I have been running about 7:35s. Now can I keep that up for another 6 miles?
I am pushing to max pace through the neighborhoods for a second time. I pass and focus 100% on my breathing and relaxing my shoulders, arms, and run over my core, not side to side.
Once you can run 8 minute pace, the key to getting roadrunner speed is not ability, stride length, or power. but efficiency and turnover. The fastest runners can turnover 90 steps a minute, whereas most are stuck in the 65-75 range. The extra 15 to 25 steps is what makes them fast. That, and not wasting energy on clenched faces, fists, or sideways balance readjustments.
I breathe, exhale, and relax. My mind is in the moment. I tune into what I can do to keep my turnover as high as possible. I am on the redline, and have to stay here for another five miles. It hurts, but it is a good hurt, knowing that I will be rewarded with a sub 8 minute per mile time at the end.
I hit the trail again and continue to pass runners taking the most efficient lines through the corners. I am gassed but maintain I come up on two young males that are cruising along at my pace. I tag behind and draft off them for a spell to recover. Just like in bike racing, running directly behind someone can be 7-10% more efficient than solo. Another way to look at it is you can maintain equal pace but with 10% less effort allowing some recovery. As I am redlined that is my hope.
After 5 minutes the guys are getting annoyed with me on their heels and make room for me to pass. I reluctantly do so. We hit the hill up to Spring Valley Road and as I walk the top again to re gel, they pass me by. I am envious of their youth, but at the same time I am pleased that I am competing with them. I am hammering down Spring Valley, keeping up with younger fit runners. By now we are “paced up”. Meaning everyone is at redline and no passing is happening except for the isolated blowup as a runner “pops” or fades back to a jogging pace.
At mile 11 the hurt is more acute. At Mile 12, my brain is screaming stop and I reason with it that we have under 8 minutes of suffering left! Here I get passed by a 42 year old gal dressed up as Wonder Woman. That is OK. Then her husband my age also passes me. Now that is not OK!
As we enter the finishing stretch crowds I let it out and pass him. He counters and passes back. I surge one more time and put him behind me with my sights now set on his Lynda Carter. My lungs are screaming and my body hurts. As I approach the tape he edges me out. I guess this guy loves Wonder Woman wifey. Oh, well, I finish in 146th instead of 145th out of 1008 starters. My tape time is 1:42 flat, which equates to a 1:41:30 race time or a 7:45 race pace.
A Speedy Post Race
As I recover, Marguerite and Jim finish within a minute of each other, both sub 1:55. We grabbed a post race photo op, a bagel and are quickly back to the car as finishers continue to pore in. I would enjoy to stay but the race of life is not over!
We arrive home at11am or less than 4 hours door to door from our departure that morning. Pretty speedy, McCready! We are not the only neighbors that are fast. I receive a FB notice that Angelica B. also ran and came in 148th place or 15 seconds behind me. As we shared both identical 1st loop split times of 52 minutes and second loop 49:30s negative splits she was chasing me . I feel bad referring to her as my Wile E. but apparently she was on my feathers the whole race!
Back in the race of life, I managed a quick shower than sped off with all three kids for a noon rock climbing birthday party followed by the Castle playground and a neighborhood scooter. Gotta keep all those moving parts moving!