Monday, September 11, 2017

Schonning 5K

I can be convinced to do nearly anything, as long as it isn't dangerous, unhealthy, or illegal. So, when Steve Schonning asked me if I was running his father's race (in its 20th year), I quickly decided I was, despite not being race-ready and still nursing a sore left plantar fascia. In retrospect, this was borderline dangerous and definitely unhealthy, but as far as I know not illegal. Oh, and that plantar fasciiits has become a part of my life at this point. Heck, the injury is older than my youngest child (and smells worse, too). Fortunately, it hasn't deteriorated as I've reintroduced running over the past two months and has even tolerated 3-mile tempos during the Westerly Fun Runs, so why not try to race on it?

I was thrilled when I learned Tommy would be at the race. I figured he and I could keep each other company for a mile or two, and maybe longer. Given the lack of focused workouts and uncertain fitness, I had no idea what time I'd run and whether or not I'd be able to run with Tommy for long. I arbitrarily decided I wanted to break 17 and it turned out he had the same goal. We agreed to shoot for 5:25-5:30 pace in the first mile and see what happened from there.

At the starting line, we glanced around and, without speaking about it, knew the race would be between the two of us. We took off through downtown Westerly side-by-side, a little too fast at first due to adrenaline and slope, and eventually settling into what felt like a sustainable pace. We crossed through the first mile in 5:25, right on target.

Around this time, as we churned up a small incline, there opened the slightest separation between us. I kept the pace honest but also hoped Tommy would put in a surge to latch back on so we could run together longer. The gap grew a bit more as we made several sharp turns away from the old cone turnaround and to the new section of course added this year. I don't know this area well, so I was caught off guard by the steepness of Cobblestone Hill. I tried to keep a steady cadence without overexerting, in the process passing the volunteer who was scrambling up the hill herself to try to beat me to the intersection she was supposed to be manning (or womanning?). Her effort was in vain, and she eventually gave up the race and resorted to shouting the instructions to take a left at the end of the road. Tommy and I both had a good laugh at that mid-race levity later on.

As I turned on 1A, I caught a glimpse of Tommy at the top of the hill and noticed that the gap had grown some more. While it would have been fun to run the whole way together, this was still a race, and I really didn't want to be caught. I kept glancing at my watch in astonishment that the pace was so much slower than it felt. Mile 2 was 5:36.

My legs had felt heavy from the start but were turning into lead in the third mile. This final mile was pretty uneventful, as the only action came from commentary from the volunteers (Jeff V. said something to the effect of "Tommy's coming for you," which admittedly scared me into a faster pace) and the occasional road crossing, which is always a little dicey when you're the leader and the volunteers/police haven't gotten into their rhythm yet.
Finishing up (photo: Westerly Sun)
(Embarrassingly, this picture was covering about a square foot of the sports pages in the Westerly Sun.)
I passed the third mile in 5:25 and, after a little mental math, realized that I'd be awfully close to hitting my goal. I picked up the pace a bit going around the final turn onto the long finishing stretch in front of the Y. I could see the finish line clock at 16:50 and wondered how much time it would take to actually get there. It couldn't be 10 seconds, could it? I went into the last non-sprint gear I had, as I thought it would be foolish to make a mad dash for the finish when I was racing no one but a meaningless barrier. Still, I really wanted to break that meaningless barrier. Naturally, I missed by a couple of seconds (17:02), and there wasn't even the patented SNERRO two-second add-on this time.

At least I was fairly consistent in my inferiority to my 2014 self. 
I was generally pleased with the race, despite missing the goal, as it gives me something to hopefully build on through the fall. It's a little depressing to now know I'm so much slower than I was at this time three years ago, when I ran 16:20, but I have to start somewhere, right? My foot was no worse for the wear, either, which was a bonus. Most enjoyable, though, was the chance to race with Tommy, even if it was for a shorter duration than either of us would have preferred. Next time...

One other "perk" of being back in Small Town USA? The local newspaper flattery.


  1. Pretty solid for a guy coming off an injury! Sorry I wasn't able to help you out more out there. Hopefully, you are continuing to feel better and better after each run.

  2. You two looked like you were out for a Sunday jog when you rounded the corner on Margin Street! Great race!!