Monday, May 12, 2008

Short and Sweet

No, teammate, I’m not talking about WCTI Channel 12 News anchor Colleen Maloney! I’m talking about the Jacksonville, NC, Trails and Greenways 10K April 12.

It seems like all the races I have taken part in lately have been marathons and half marathons. It seems like a 10K will be just a trip around the neighborhood. Well actually, two trips. The Jacksonville, NC, Trails and Greenways 10K is a nice run consisting of two laps around the Jacksonville Commons.

Good Luck Friends

We arrive with plenty of time to spare. Soon I’m running late as I start seeing many friends I’ve made over the last year. In particular there are S- and D- and my good friend, R-. I’m beginning to think that S- and D- are good luck for me. They were at my very first race, the Navy-Marine Corps Run-The Runways 10K at Cherry Point. I did a personal best at that race that stood for quite a while. They have been at many other races I’ve taken part in when I’ve performed better than I expected. Well, for my first 10K in quite a while, good luck will be welcome.

It helps to have to have a strategy for each race. At least then you know what to do different when things go wrong. Most runners try not to burn out early in the race and save some energy for the end. I’m finding that what works best for me is to go as fast as I can early in the race. I normally get started ahead of the runners. And I’m not fast enough to stay ahead of the fast runners. But if I can get out far enough at the beginning, by the time runners start catching me, the field will be spread out enough that we won’t get in each other’s way. That way I won’t be boxed in when I get on a stretch with a tailwind or a downhill. So my strategy today is going to be to go out as fast as I can for as long as I can and arrive at the finish line fully depleted.

Warm Send Off

Today I get started about a minute (or less) early. I’m the only wheelchair participant. I wonder if I’m their first? Maybe I’ll get to set a new course record! The starter calls out my name and the runners applaud. Wow, that’s a nice feeling. Especially when I know the caliber of some of the athletes in that field. I would applaud them any day.

I have a dry eye problem. To conserve the precious few tears my eyes make, I’ve had my tear drain ducts plugged. That still wasn’t quite enough to keep my eyes moist, particularly outdoors, in the wind, so I started using Restasis. Restasis seems to “kick it up a notch” for the tear glands. So now with the drains plugged, when my tear glands secrete, the tears don’t have anywhere to go but to overflow onto my cheeks. I tell friends that since taking Restasis, I get teary-eyed just going down the greeting card aisle in a department store.

So it is that when the starting horn sounds and this nice group of eastern NC runners sends me off so warmly, a little emotion and a lot of Restasis sends a little trickle down my cheek. It’s going to be a great day.

There’s a slight breeze but it’s picking up. There’s plenty of sunshine so I’m a little worried about overheating. For now it’s cool enough and if I run into problems later, I’ll just have someone at one of the water stations toss a cup of water on me. I hear the runners start about 30 seconds behind me. As I start down the main road I can hear one of the leaders coming up behind me. Wow he’s fast!

On the Road

The course is basically two laps on an oval-shaped street with a short out-and-back down an entrance road at one end. As I round the turn at one end of the oval I can feel the breeze at my back. This is going to work perfectly with my strategy. I lean back and pull hard on the cranks. I’m happy with the way things are going. I’m keeping up with some of the faster runners. I know it won’t last, but I’ll take it while it does.

About two miles into the course I feel like my little rush of adrenaline is starting to fade. I’m getting great encouragement from the other runners. It’s all quite welcome because many of them are starting to pass me. I try to return the encouragement wherever I can. On the out and back, I realize I’m not all that far behind the lead runners. I meet my friends R-, S-, and D- heading out as I’m heading back. I yell as loud as I can. As we start up the backside of the oval I’ve got a bit of a head wind. It’s freshened a bit since the start. It seems like I’m slowing down quite a bit, but when I look at my GPS, my pace is not that bad. Still, many runners are passing me. Three young guys appear to be pacing each other running abreast. I wonder why they don’t run single file and take turns pulling the draft. I try to catch them hoping I can draft them. It doesn’t happen.

Wearing down

The rest of the trip back on the first lap is rather uneventful. After passing the start I pass the first turn and get the wind behind me. It has picked up a good bit since the start. I’m glad to get the boost but my GPS tells me the first lap wasn’t all that bad, for me anyway. The downwind half was a little slower than a six-minute pace. The upwind half was about an 8 ½ minute pace. Wow.

I’m glad to have the rest, but I’m not capitalizing on it. I just don’t have the spunk I had the first lap. Still, I’m passing quite a few runners. Some later said it was disheartening because I went by them so fast after they passed me ten minutes earlier. Sorry! I’m making a 7-7 ½ minute pace for the time being. Not as good as the first lap but for some reason it feels faster. I pass one gal that passed me very early. I yell, “nice work!” She replies, “You must not have seen me fall down.” Ouch, that had to be tough.

Rounding the turn and heading back upwind on the backside, I get hit by a tough headwind. I’m catching back up with the three guys running abreast and fall in behind to catch their draft. They look behind and assume they are in my way and scatter. Oh well. I scoot past, but not for long. The wind catches me and they’re gone. I feel like I’ve got no energy left. Maybe I ate my pre-race Snickers and Red Bull too early. Maybe the sugar blast is causing an insulin spike. Or maybe I’m just worn out. Next race, I’ll Snicker up a little closer to the start.

At about mile 5 ¾ we go through a stretch with tall trees that seem to block the wind. About that time I seem to be getting a second wind. I crank with all the energy I’ve got left. At one point I attain about a 5 minute pace. There’s no one in front of me at the finish line so I go all out, throwing my hand in the air as I cross the line.

Wow, that was a good feeling. I collect my finisher medal and go back up to the finish to watch R-, S-, and D- finish. My time was 48:28. A 10K PR! Maybe S- and D- are good luck!

The folks at the Jacksonville Parks and Recreation are nice enough to have a Wheelchair Division award for me, although I really didn’t beat any other chairs. It’s like I say, I may not have beaten that guy in first place, but I sure beat all my friends who are home in front of a TV today.

So I’m happy with today’s work. The workouts on the bridge seem to be paying off. My only problem with my performance was that I started feeling depleted sooner than I hoped. I think that on my next race I’m going to try to hold off on my pre-race snack until closer to the start and see if my energy level sustains throughout the race.

And by the way, don’t forget to support our wounded warriors. Hope For The Warriors is an amazing charity that looks out for their needs and those of their families. Today I’ve added 6.2 miles to my goal of 2008 Miles of Hope. Please help me with another goal, to raise $26,200 for Hope For The Warriors. Donate online securely using our donation page or download my donation form and mail it to us with your check.


t said...

wow-sounds like an awesome race! i am so proud of you! i am sorry that i won't be there with you this weekend, but i hope you have a wonderful time at the Run for the Warriors! i will be thinking of you!

Charlie said...

Congratulations Paul on another great race and PR! You're getting stronger and faster with each race...Way to Go!

Have a great race this weekend!

P.S.: I don't see a DSS Half report!

LetsRoll said...

Charlie, you continuous support and encouragement are a tremendous source of motivation. On the road you are a "rabbit" I constantly wish to chase down. One day, we'll cross that finish line together. I'll consider THAT an accomplishment of note.

I haven't forgotten DSS. How could I? I've been tied up with some preparations for the R4TW which we just wrapped up today. I'll get posts up for both events soon.

Keep blogging! You motivate me!