It had been four years since I last ran the RISP Foot Pursuit, but upon arriving there were a couple familiar sites. There was the winner from four years back – Derek Jakoboski -- still looking fit and fast. And there was an old favorite – Gray Shirt Man -- who was wearing a sleeveless variation of the shirt he’d worn then, with the bold addition of Italian flag-themed running shorts. We'd soon see if he was still up to his speedy exploits at the start. (See my write-up from the 2014 rendition for historical commentary on Gray Shirt Man. Note how much more creative and humorous I was then.)
I warmed up solo along the seawall (with a couple of Schonning run-ins) and then connected with Jeff at the starting line. As always, I was relegated to the second row after too many optimistic/anxious runners squeezed in front of me. No matter, the position would help me stay conservative at the start, which is a permanent part of my plans.
Now for a quick ode to GPS watches. Some lament that we Garmin-enabled runners are a slave to the watch. We no longer run by feel, instead trusting in and relying on our watches to tell us how hard we should be going. Well, I couldn’t disagree more. Maybe it’s because I spend much of my waking hours thinking about data, but I say we should be able to use whatever information is reasonably available to us to make us better runners, as long as we know how to use it. If I could get real-time readings of my blood lactate, or electrolyte levels, or stride symmetry, and I had a way to quickly digest and make sense of it all, I absolutely would.
I say all this, because I was reminded of the importance of the GPS watch during the first mile of the race. Had I been going off feel, there’s no chance I would have happily settled into 9th place, getting dropped by the leaders, within the first quarter mile. It wouldn’t have been until oxygen debt hit (far too soon) that my body would have sent a signal saying maybe I am out of my league. Instead, all it took were a few glances at my pace to know I’d be in trouble if I didn’t relax and run my own race. How I wish I’d had this technology in high school and college. So many excessively enthusiastic starts could have been avoided.
After roughly half a mile, I’d overtaken all but the top three runners in the race, who were well off in the distance already. Interestingly, a few of the guys I’d gone by had latched on and were running right behind me through the mile (5:25). I was feeling OK and forcing myself to lean into the downhill, which always feels surprisingly unnatural, despite being way more efficient. Shouldn’t evolution have fixed this flaw in our thinking?
With one or two guys still on me (I wouldn’t give them the courtesy of a look-back, so I am guessing based on the footfall pattern), we turned onto Boon St., and I saw that one guy ahead had been dropped by the leaders. I mistakenly assumed we’d overtake him quickly, given how suddenly he'd been gapped, but boy was I wrong.
Just after mile 2 (5:24), I caught up to the third-place guy, and we turned onto Ocean Rd. a stride apart. I was feeling fairly good after running the first two miles just ahead of goal pace, so I saw no harm in accelerating and hoping to make quick work of him. As I passed, I urged him to “hang in there,” not expecting him to take my advice. He matched my pace and stayed a few feet back for a couple hundred yards. Eventually, I could no longer hear him, but I knew he was there from the small break between cheers from spectators. We made the final turn, which leads to the interminable finishing straight along 1A. Here, again, is where the GPS watch changes everything. A quick peek reminded me that I had less than half a mile to go, not the 700 miles there appeared to be left based on how far away the finish banner looked. I crossed mile 3 (5:06) and kept accelerating. This guy wouldn’t go away. Some bystander muttered a single “wow” as I passed, and I wondered whether it was because my pursuer was sprinting so fast or because someone as old-looking as I am is in third place.
Mercifully, I crossed the line (16:39 / final 0.1 at 4:40 pace) four seconds ahead of 4th, and well under my goal time. It was a nice confidence booster and hopefully a springboard to faster times this summer and fall. All that said, it was slower than my younger self ran in 2014, so there's still work to do.
|Finally able to relax, a few steps out from the finish. Look out for the giant anchor!|
|This motley crew managed to capture the team victory.|