Beat the Bridge marks the beginning of the race season for me — this was my 4th year to do it. Last year went really well, when I was able to finally beat the 30 minute barrier and place 5th in my age group. Consequently, I was a little apprehensive going into the race this year. Would this be the first year for me to go slower than the preceding year? Would some fast competitors age up into the 40-44 AG and push me down in the standings? I felt I was in good shape from my increased volume of bike-commuting throughout the winter — but would that really translate into a good run?
Conditions were perfect on race day — sun and temps around 60F, with just a little bit of wind. Wendy and I rode our bikes over to Husky Stadium to avoid the inevitable traffic jam. I had plenty of time for a leisurely warm-up, and at 8:30 I lined up close to the front of the blue wave (sub-35 minute runners).
The gun went off, and a lot of folks surged past me as I tried to settle into a reasonable pace. The experience of previous races really helped in monitoring my effort level and pacing myself. My subjective experience in races is wierd — time seems to go by a lot more quickly overall, but the sensations of each individual moment are greatly magnified. You’re constantly monitoring — the pavement (just don’t trip or twist your ankle now), your competitors (should I overtake this guy or draft off him a little longer?), your breathing (am I going too fast or too easy?), the queasiness in your stomach (uh oh, is this going to get better or worse?), your light-headed feeling (adrenaline or oxygen debt?). Mile 1 and 2 go by pretty easily; mile 3 you feel you’re going fast, but not yet hurting too much; mile 4 and 5 things get tough — this is the time to grit your teeth and HTFU if you want to achieve a respectable result.
Long story short, I kept it together and put out a good effort, catching and passing one of those 25 year old whipper-snappers just as we turned into the stadium for the home stretch. It felt hard, but not quite as painful as last year. Consequently I was very suprised — pleasantly — when I realized I had set a new personal best and improved on my last year’s time by over 1 minute: 27:51. As it turned out, this was good enough to net me a 3rd place in my AG and 27th overall. A perfect start of the 2008 race season.