Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Amherst 10 Miler- Rude Awakening or Promising Start?

After Half at the Hampton was canceled this past weekend due to a "weather event"(despite temperatures in the 40's), I signed up for the Amherst 10 miler to help the Gate City Striders race in the New England Grand Prix. When I say help, I mean support, not provide points for the team. With the best runners in New England toeing the line, this is a race where I'd be lucky to break the top 100.

I went into the Amherst 10 miler this weekend unsure of what kind of shape I was in. I had done some pacing at a half marathon, marathon and an ultra but haven't done a race of my own-except for the Mill Cities relay- since the Jackson Hole Marathon(which didn't go the way I had hoped) in September. And nothing in about a year at the pace I was attempting to run Amherst. To compound matters, between my fun winter trips and the lousy weather, I really hadn't put in the mileage I was hoping for. In fact, looking back at my training log, I hadn't run outside in over two weeks. Oh boy, this ten miler was going to hurt.

Before the race, I spotted Jim Pawlicki of the Central Mass Striders. When I'm in really good form, I try to stay with him, but judging by some of his recent performances, I knew that it wouldn't be happening this race. At the start of the race, when looking around, it occurred to me just how long I'd been out of the local running scene as there were only a few runners that I was able to recognize. Or it could just be my failing memory as I also vaguely remembered this race from 2012 where I had run a 58:53 and thought that it wasn't as hilly as everyone made it out to be.

Side-bar: As a physical therapist, I often see patients with poor balance or weak muscles who invariably say I used to be able to do that! shocked that they were not able to stand on one leg or lift a weight overhead. That's the beauty and the crux of the problem with the human body: it will adapt and adapt following the path of least resistance without us even knowing until one day something breaks. As we age we give up so many little things over time in such small increments that we often don't notice we're even doing it. This happens in the mind(called patterning) and happens in the body where we flock to a set number of activities and often then neglect other key elements of our health and wellness. Runners, however, aren't likely to arrive at their old(er) age surprised because they are on a daily, monthly and yearly reminder of their performance declines as that once sub-60 ten miler now takes a bit longer. But we are not always aware of our decline until we check back in our logs and see the evidence of a faster version of ourselves. But at the time we view ourselves as the same.

Which was the case with me this past Sunday, where I went into the race thinking of myself as that 2012 runner and the race as a moderately fast and flat one. I went through the first two miles in 12 minutes flat where I had settled in just in front of some fast female runners like Christin Doneski and Heather Mahoney and just behind some fast Masters runners like Craig Fram and Paul Hammond and was content not to push it.  And then came mile 3. That is where the hills reside. It seemed that every time I thought it would taper off, it actually got a little bit steeper. I finally went through mile 3 in 19:26 running almost 1 1/2 minutes slower than the previous two miles. Yikes! This was not the race of my memory and not being run by the runner of my memory. This was going to be a long day!

Luckily the course is a loop so you have to lose the elevation you gained in mile 3 and over the next five miles, it seems like it was either all flat or downhill. Also luckily for me the great photographer, Ben Kimball, decided not to plant himself mid-way up the tough hill but instead on a nice long flat.

Northeast Race Photo's photo.

I ticked off fairly evenly paced miles all around 6's primarily out of fear of another photographer lurking around the corner if I decided to slow down. As you can see from the picture, the terrain wasn't the best but I'd estimate it probably only slowed me down 2-3seconds/mile. Those middle miles definitely can fool you into thinking that Amherst is a flat course, but a slow 9th mile brought me down to earth. I was still  able to finish 109th with a time of 61:51. Not exactly the race I was hoping for but those middle miles were comfortable and hopefully I'll be able to pick up the pace a bit at the much flatter New Bedford half marathon next month. I may not be the runner that I was a few years ago but there is no reason for me not to still see improvement if I can tweak my training habits and increase my mileage above 20/week.

And based on how sore my quads are feeling this morning, I guess I better get myself back outside to get them used to running on pavement again.

Up Next: Another race for Danny? Yep-doing the Kingman Farm Snowshoe race. This will be my first and only snowshoe race of the season but after having not done it for a couple years, I'm excited about doing this night time race again this year. Chris Dunn of acidotic RACING always seems to put on a good race and this year this is a chili cook-off contest. While I'm not participating, I'm sure I'll be sampling.

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