Cesar Rodney. A man who rode 80 miles through a thunderstorm to cast the vote that led Delaware to ratify the Declaration of Independence. And for that he gets a half marathon named after him. At least its not an ultra.
The thunderstorms were so yesterday. Today it was cold and wind. Lots of wind.
I said last week that I wanted to get a 1:17. Last Sunday's 10k predicted a 1:18, but there seems to be a big difference between the two, and it gave me something to shoot for. I've run as fast as 1:15 in this race, but for once I was realistic.
Lots of friends at this race. Seven of us - me, Chris, Matt, Steve K, Craig, Ryan and Devon - came as The Evil Killer Bunnies of Death, a team that, in one incarnation or another, has won the team title in this race for the past three years. I was also running for Phila Athletic Charities in the Mid-Atlantic USATF Grand Prix competition, and we had a good turnout for that as well.
And Reba - West Philly's lone ninja - came out to provide support, expert photography, and extra security.
Cesar Rodney is probably the race I have run most in my ever lengthening addiction. This is either time number eight or nine. In prep for this running I decided to draw on this wealth of experience. So I fished into the archives for my past race performances, with split times, to map out a strategy. I was expecting to come up with some complex strategy, but in looking at these times realized that if I ran the first 10 in under 60, I'd finish in under 1:18. Just shoot for a sub 6 pace for ten and then take off for the final 5k, which are almost straight downhill except for the last .1 mile, which is a tough uphill.
Just before the race I met up with Matt and we decided that our target pace was similar enough to where we should work together.
Mile 1, which was a steady downhill, was easy in 5:54 and I knew that, rather than worry about being able to hang on, I'd have to concentrate on not going out too fast.
Miles 2 & 3 went by in 11:49 (missed the mile 2 split). Still felt easy and me and Matt fell in with about four other guys. At one point Matt pulled ahead a bit and I made the decision to stay with him, the difference between consciously working together and simply working with someone near you out of convenience. I hoped speeding up wouldn't bite me in the posterior later.
Miles 4-6 and we established a groove. 5:52, 6:00 and 5:52. We overtook a few and lost a few, keeping a group of about 5 together.
Mile 7 started the infamous Rockford Park hills. This is a 2-mile long steady uphill segment that is the crux of this race. Run it right and you will do well. This year doing so was made a bit more challenging by the wind (remember the wind?), which blew down and into our face. Our little group did well to take turns on point duty. Matt was particularly conscious of getting in front of me, the problem is that I never get much out of drafting off folks, probably because of my body size, so I just stayed abreast of him. About two-thirds of the way up the hill we reel in the lead and second place females. I missed the mile 7 mark, which is just as well as the hill is best taken as a unit. Mile 7 & 8 pass in 12:27. The hills were over and, even after this withdrawal from the time bank, we were still at an overall sub 6 pace. This boded well.
Now the course flattens and I pick it up. It feels like I drop the group and mile 9 passes in 6:01. However Matt is still with me and we resume working together. Me and him now. Mile 10 goes by in 5:53. Total time here is 59:48.
This part of the course is now miles 7 & 8 in reverse, and screams downhill with a tailwind. Years past I would just fly down this hill, but doing so was painful today. Mile 11 is in 5:40, I'm pleasantly surprised I'm going that fast and worried about my ability to sustain it. Matt starts pulling away from me here and I can't answer him. I hold pace as mile 12 goes by in 5:39.
Mile 13 flattens out again and I'm hanging on, dreading that last tenth of a mile before the finish. One guy, with a Runaway Success shirt who was part of our earlier pack, passes me just before the final turn. Th
en its the uphill and the wind, swirling full-force in my face, made me forget about the interloper. The uphill finish is hard, this wind made it ridiculous. My legs shut down with about 100 feet to go, they had nothing left in them. Last 0.1 miles took 43 seconds. It didn't matter. I cross the line in 1:17:37 - 16th place overall.
If the race was 13.2 miles long I likely would have lost a place or two, as two people finished right behind me. Never was aware they were on my tail. My finish got me 5th place in my age group. That means that 5 of the first 16 finishers were Masters (and Matt is 39). Although I came away shwag-less, I love that showing. TEKBOD won first place in the team competition handily, with Chris winning the race outright, me and Matt, and then Steve and Craig (both low 1:20s) rounding out the scoring five, with Ryan and Devon (both low 1:30's) also running well. Steve and Ryan both pr'd - very impressive under these conditions. Not sure how PAC did in the Grand Prix, stay tuned. Mike ran 1:30 something and was happy with his time. I've often seen him run well, this was one of the few times I've seen him happy with his performance. Deirdre and Erin, who rode up with me, were part of the female champion Bunny Crusher team, and were third fastest out of any of the teams, regardless of category.
Reba's support was much appreciated
, and she gets the photo credits, as well as credit for freezing her cute butt off on abbreviated sleep this morning. And Wilmington had respect for the lone ninja - there were no security incidents. The pics are of me just before the finish (proof that I left everything I had on that course) and of the now four-time Cesar Rodney team champion TEKBOD. Should make Ian proud.
And finally, like Mike, I am happy too. Not much that I would have (and could have) done differently today. I'm still getting faster and feel like I'm on schedule to peak at Boston.