Wye Island NRMA

Wye Island NRMA

Monday, May 25, 2015

And Where Are You Going?: A Race Recap

We were moving fast on Light Street's gradual northbound descent to Pratt in the last mile of the McVet 5K.  There are uncommon moments in a race when things click.  Suddenly you feel strong, fluid, and confident, while covering ground quicker than anticipated.  This was our experience as Conrad and I postured in attempts to break away from the other.

Conrad and I beneath the Battle Monument, nearing the final stretch
This was my first road race since December 7.  Nearly four months of aches, injuries, and a body out of balance inhibited my training and dashed my ambitious plans for 2015.  In late March, I changed strategies and sought new motivations and challenges in trail running.  The soft surfaces helped my body heal while I regained fitness.   And spending more time exploring the region's forests revitalized my mind and spirit, reawakening dormant memories of my boyhood in rural Ohio.  But my road racing goals still simmered.  

I failed to update my blog regularly throughout this period of rehabilitation.  I logged daily on Strava and Running2Win, but I couldn't compel myself to do the hard work of reflective writing.  To recap, I began introducing fartlek, tempos, and threshold workouts - the vegetable protein (meat) and potatoes of my training regimen - in mid April, completing nearly all sessions on trails at Robert E. Lee Park and along the NCR trail.  Early workouts indicated that I had retained fitness during my quarter-year of fragmented training.  I tested myself at the Seneca Creek 10K, part of the Xterra Mid-Atlantic Series, where I finished first in 35:11 on a challenging trail.

May began with new adventures and additional indicators that my fitness was returning, attributable, I believe, to my embrace of the trails.  We spent the first weekend of May at a cabin in Rocky Gap State Park near Cumberland, a site warranting a blog post.  While there, I engaged tough, rocky climbs on Evitt's Mountain and completed my first 18-mile long run of the cycle along the Great Allegheny Passage Trail.  In the weeks since, my threshold and tempo workouts began resembling the splits I logged last fall.

I toed the line at McVet confident of my rebounding fitness but uncertain how fast I could run.  I also feared the aches and pains would return as I pounded pavement in featherweight flats.  Anxiety dissipated as the starter sent us off at a conservative pace over the gently rolling first mile, which we covered in 5:06.  Shortly after, I took the lead and gradually increased the pace, hitting mile 2 in 10:05 with Conrad on my heels.  Could we finish in the 15:20s?  Faster?

Conrad and I pressed hard after two miles of cautious pacing.  I fought tenaciously to hold him off, wary of my odds in a head-to-head sprint to the finish.  The last half mile climbed north on Calvert Street.  It was near the hill's peak that Conrad broke free and opened a small gap.  I continued digging, but he had momentum and I harbored self-doubt.  The day belonged to him.

We thrashed each other for 3.1 miles, testing each other's toughness and fitness on an honest course that included climbing and sharp turns.  Our rewards were watches that stopped at 15:09.6 and 15:12.6, near misses for both our personal bests at the distance.  More important, I walked away confident in my training, knowing that the trails I've grown to love haven't diminished, but perhaps enhanced, my ability to quickly traverse the roads.

Our holiday weekend wasn't finished, however.  Conrad and I transitioned from competitors to comrades to complete a long run together on the Appalachian Trail the following morn, engaging new challenges and grateful for the opportunities running presented us.  Setting out from Gathland State Park, we covered 19.5 rocky, undulating miles in 2:53:00, the longest duration - not distance - I've run.

The McVet 5K is a stepping stone to a short summer season that includes the Bel Air Town Run 5K and the last two installments of the Xterra Mid-Atlantic Series, including the Big Elk Half Marathon (trail), my target race, on the Summer Solstice in Cecil County.  The next five weeks are going to be great fun.  Onward.  

1 comment:

  1. You are never one to back down from a challenge and are the first to hug a competitor, win or lose. Such a good soul:-)