The fastest mile that I have run this year was about 7:00 (maybe a little less?)…and it was downhill. The last time I ran a sub-6:30 mile was in November at the West Side Best Side Cross country Race; where I ran one before dropping down to a 6:45 pace.
But, here I was, standing at the starting line of the Gasparilla 15k looking to tie together 9.3 sub 6:30 miles to hit my sub-60 goal. My mantra aligning my (lack of) training to my (ambitious) goal was (as always) “O’Doyle Rules.” It doesn’t matter how hard you trained; go kick ass.
After a warm up mile, I was already sweating as I squeezed up towards the front of the start corral. My breath labored against the thick 90% humidity air as I stood shoulder to shoulder with people who had trained far less than I had, who would run far slower than I would, and who provided me the opportunity to imagine myself as Bo Jackson in Tecmo Super Bowl stiff arming them out of the way as they hobby jogged across the start line. I mumbled the National Anthem and smiled appreciating that this is America; a place where the pursuit of personal happiness and short term satisfaction is more important than working within the system established to help the group succeed. I wasn’t bitter. 😉
I settled for high stepping through the crowd, and left the Truck Stick in my mind, as I criss-crossed the crowd in the first few tenths of a mile. After a quarter mile, I appeared to be settled in with my people. I didn’t worry much about my pace at this point, because I know that it would be a bit off due to the crowds. I see the 6:30 pacer right up ahead and feel at ease.
After a mile my watch buzzes and I am cruising at a 6:36 pace. My breathing is a bit heavy, but not strained, and my legs feel comfortable moving as they are. I think about trying to push a little harder to close the gap on the pacer, but the rhythm of the pace feels right. Let’s warm up a mile more and see where you’re at.
I grabbed some beads from the Rough Riders at mile 2 holding tight to my pace. The beads served the dual purpose of having fun (it is Gasparilla after all) and giving me the excuse of “not taking it too seriously” if the wheels fell off. The beads provided very little resistance as I plodded forward focused on my cadence and position of my footfalls as I wrote love poems to my new shoes.
I am back for my third stint as an Ambassador for Altra Running this year! It started with a bang with the release of the Altra Escalante. Altra is known for it’s foot-shaped toe box which allows your toes to spread out and their zero drop sole that allows you foot to strike more “naturally” as the heel isn’t raised. The Escalante combines this with a knit upper that hugs your foot like a sock and Altra’s new Ego™ mid sole that is a little squishy but very responsive. I named my poem: THIS IS THE BEST ROAD SHOE I HAVE EVER WORN!
But I digress. As mile 4 approaches and passes, I have the tragic experience of grabbing a cup of Gatorade from the aid station. My running nutrition for the past several years has been solely Tailwind Nutrition (shout out to Ambassador #2 even though I didn’t use it during the race; also check out those thighs on their home page!). I mix it light so the sweetness isn’t overwhelming and it keeps me going all run. I could smell the Gatorade in the cup long before I even took a sip.
Another quick aside. The weekend prior I went to my friends Dan and Julia’s house for dinner. We made margaritas. In order to make it proper, I made some simple syrup. At the end of the night there was some simple syrup left. I took a sip out of principle.This tasted similar to that, but with a strong lemon flavor. I don’t miss it. I realized that not bringing my water bottle with me may have been a mistake. (Thanks Aid Station Volunteer! It’s not your fault they gave that to you to give to me! I appreciate you!)
As I cruised through this zone as a slightly decreased pace (~6:40) I realized that the big goal was not going to be in reach today. I may have been able to dig deep for it, but I wanted to make sure that my legs were in good shape for my next week of training leading up to the Colorado Marathon (Fast forward to today as I write this blog and I am still fucking exhausted).
I maintained my effort past the halfway point and am sad to be holding a 6:45 pace past the woman holding the Krispy Kreme doughnuts. I had told myself that if I dropped off to a 7 minute pace I could have a doughnut. Damn.
I’ve been running around the same people for most of the race, a few going up and a few moving back. All of a sudden, around mile 7, this 60 year oldish woman come blazing past my right shoulder and just keeps on trucking ahead of me. I have a moment of dejection as I think about keeping pace but realizing that she’s too strong. I watch her awkward gate pull into the distance and dream about crushing kids dreams as a grandpa. I look her up after the race only to find out that it’s running legend Joan Benoit Samuelson. I feel less bad.
I start thinking about the book Grit that I read recently and through it my discovery that I did not have much of it. My legs were getting a little fatigued and I was no longer able to just glide through, I had to think about pick up my legs to keep them moving fast enough. I was pretty sure that was as gritty as I was going to get today.
As the finish line approached I found that I have done an ineffective job of “racing” this race. The problem with never having run the 15k distance is that I didn’t really know how to run the 15k distance. With a mile to go, I realize that I had a lot left in the tank. My heart rate was probably still around 160 (or less) there was no lactic acid building up, my legs felt basically fine. My pace was probably more on the half marathon level. I decided to slowly start picking it up and see what happened.
I go a little faster, hold it, that’s still ok….a little faster, still ok….repeat. This continued until I’m running a 5:30 pace as the finish line is steps away. By no means could I have held this pace for much longer, but I am enthused to realize that it was there at the end. I come up behind a guy who had pulled away from me a few miles prior and he looks over his should with a “oh fuck that!” look on his face as he sprints in right before I jump across the finish. In the end I complete my last mile at a 5:55 pace. Oops. Final score: 62:31 / 6:42 pace.
I hurry through the finishers area to grab some water and my medal to get back to the finish to cheer my brother Dan and Kaitlin through. In the process I award myself one O’Doyle point for my final mile and half a point for holding a 6:42 pace. O’Doyle didn’t rule the day, but it was a good day.
Dan finished strong in 71+ minutes with Kaitlin chasing just behind in 73+.
We waited for my mom to come through and then headed off to pick up our free “beer” from the Michelob Ultra tent.
It was fun racing spending the morning racing and recovering with my family on an unfamiliar surface, at an unfamiliar altitude, and an unfamiliar humidity.