Woke up this morning to a slushy inch or so of snow outside. Not optimal for racing but decided to go for it anyway. C & I decided that it wasn't a good idea for T to run the 5k, so we didn't have to be at Brian's Run until a little before the 1:00 start time for the 10k. KF dropped by at about 10:00, so that meant that we had plenty of time to sit around the kitchen counter and shoot the poop while eating C's killer french toast (w/ bread machine bread and real maple syrup) and drinking my thick as mud black Zapatista coffee before leaving at about 11:15 for the hour ride to West Chester.
No precipitation in the air once we got to West Chester, and with the overcast skies and temps in the 40s, it was near perfect running conditions. KF and I did the usual prerace stuff and scouted the first half mile or so of the course to warm up, noting the hills starting right from the start. It did not look to be a PR race, but I told KF I'd take my inspiration from him and start out fast to see how long I could hold it. WTF?! Last race of the year and if I die at least I'll die trying.
Brian's Run is one of the bigger runs in the area, and the biggest one held out in what I think of as Route 202-land, the far-flung suburbs past the Philadelphia Main Line. There are several contingents of Africans and other foreign nationals who train in these parts, as well as some very good local runners. The prize money ($1,000 1st place, with cash going 10 deep and first three masters deep) generous enough to bring these folks out and (short of the BSR
) the field is easily the most competitive of any race in the area. West Chester is also far enough from Philly to where it's a different running scene, and I only recognize a few folks including my old coach and mentor KK who's from this area, local standout RM, and CB from my BMRC days.
Gun goes off and there are about thirty guys, myself and KF included, in a big lead pack (clump?) for the first half mile or so. I feel like I'm playing 12th wildebeest in the stampede scene in the Lion King
until we make the first turn onto Rosemont Ave and the pack thins out a bit. A clock comes up at what would appear to be the 1 mile split until I see it read 4:35 and I don't even pretend to believe that's accurate. At this point we've been up and down several hills and I'm more in 5k than in 10k mode. See how long it lasts, I think, and don't be afraid to risk having to walking in.
Rounding another corner onto High St. and I'm with a short African-looking guy and together we pass by about ten people. This guy is about a foot shorter than me with disproportionately long spindly legs and a unusually round midsection for a runner. We remain abreast of each other as we go through West Chester University campus, where the frat boys considerately have set up a beer and donuts stand for the runners. Two miles passes in 10:59, and this feels accurate and about where I want to be. People have now pretty much fallen into order, and I see KK three places ahead of me, and figure if I still have him in my sights I'm not doing too bad. Meanwhile short guy and I trade leads, and I note how I fall back on the downhills (although I consider myself a good downhill runner) and can surge ahead on the uphills (which I don't consider myself particularly strong on). Short guy is very obviously racing against me, and comes charging back everytime I pick up some yards. Short guy seems to be running my race, a questionable strategy, and the company helps me maintain my focus at a pace that I'm fearing is increasingly over my head.
I miss the 3 mile marker and tell myself to just focus on tactics. At about this time short guy charges by me and jostles me to the side like we're in the inside track lane running a 1600. "Watch out" I yell and get no response. This kicks up my adrenaline and I again question short guy's intelligence, as I'm now prepared to shove him into the weeds in response to another move like that. The race now becomes personal.
Mile 4 passes by and my mile 3/4 split is 11:09; still even effort as the uphills exceeded the downhills over these miles. The next stretch includes two screaming downhills, and short guy and I blow by one of the runners ahead of us. Mile 5 split is 5:10 giving me a 27:18 cumulative time, which would be a five-mile PR. Please let me hang on.
In keeping this 5k level of intensity, I was both dying and euphoric. I note that regardless of how I do, this is exactly the manner in which I'm going to need to push myself next season for my times to go down. A big uphill that I'd been warned about comes up and I'm still game after we top it. Here I start to pull away from short guy but not for long. We're are now in back of WCU stadium, neck and neck as we come around to the front and onto the track. We enter the stadium and its a lap around to the finish. I pull out the pathetic little kick I have left and short guy fails to respond. I run like I'm being chased and at the far turn I hear C, not yelling encouragement but loudly warning "coming up behind you" (smart girl!) and I reflexively kick it up a notch higher. But there won't be any real challenge from behind. The challenge is now up ahead, where I see the clock at 34:10 and watch it tick off the seconds until I'm in at 34:23 and a new PR.
34:23!!!! PR by 11-seconds! I am ecstatic. Tough course, two weeks post-marathon, and likely last race of the season. Goes to show what lets see what happens will bring. It's like "and if you order now, as an added bonus you can apply your marathon training towards a free 10k PR!" Operators are indeed standing by, and will be as I'll now enter the new year with my sights set on, among other things, a sub 34 10k and a sub 2:40 marathon.
We all hang around for the schwag. I place 14th overall, which gets me a nice black longsleeve Nike Dri-Fit shirt - exactly the kind I don't wear in my winter training. I also place as third master, which gets me a $50 payday. KF snags third in our age-group with a 35:37. I'm proud of us, as you can look at the results
to see the caliber of the competition that was out there today.
And short guy? Well, it turns out that short guy was actually short gal - as in Jackline Okemwa, the first female finisher. Surprised the hell out of me, and I'm so relieved that I didn't use my elbows out there. Googling her name on the web brings up:
Jackline has primarily raced cross-country events and recently placed 4th in the Kenyan 8K national championships. She has run a 1:15:01 half marathon but has been mainly focused on cross-country events. Jackline is married and has one child. She also enjoys music and dancing. (link)
Jackline Okemwa from Kenya ensured that the women's race was not as close. Okemwa (22) and third in 33:00 at the Sallie Mae 10K one week earlier, won easily at Pike's Peek [10k] in 33:11. (link)
This means she obviously had an off day and should have kicked my ass all over West Chester. This doesn't surprise me as much as that she can do what she does with such an apparently non-runner's body. And to that I say "you go girl" as I'm all too aware that, at 6'1" and (all I can do to stay under) 180 lbs, my body is hardly a prototype either for a runner.
We blew my hard earned cash at a diner on Market St. in West Chester (open 25 hours), where I had a most delicious plate of liver and onions and T had two milk shakes with dinner. By the time we dropped off KF and got home ourselves, it was already well past dark. A most excellent afternoon!
PS - Memphis Marathon was today, which was my initial target race for this marathon cycle. The results
show that, if I had run my Philly Marathon time out there, I would have finished 12th and picked up $500 for second male master. Oh well, John Noblin of Jackson MS is celebrating and thanking me for not showing up and, as for me, it goes to show that some of my best races are those I never ran.