Not getting any wiser with age, I was back again for the Beat the Bridge 8K race – my 5th time. Every year around March I start having strong misgivings about the race: is it worth doing the unpleasant speed work I know is necessary in order to achieve a good result? My justification this year was that I had just aged up to the 45-49 age group: based on the 2008 results I was in contention to win that category. Plus, I just need to HTFU.
I dutifully put in a few sessions at my local ‘track’ – the dirt trail around Genesee Park. It’s about 3/4 mile and I was happy to note a time of 4:04 on one of my more intense efforts. I felt fairly well prepared going into the race, but you never know.
The conditions on race day were perfect: sunshine and not too hot or windy. I lined up at the front … and waited. There was some problem with the timing mats that delayed the start about 5 minutes. It got a bit tense and nervous until we were finally sent off.
I tried to pace myself on the first 2 miles up to the University Bridge and was feeling pretty good. Mile 3 gets progressively harder, but I was able to latch on to another runner going at about my own target pace. Miles 4 and 5 are where you find out whether your training and pacing were up to the mark. I was able to maintain the pace all the way, and seeing that there was a big gap behind me, I did not completely destroy myself on the home stretch. It was still a slog and the post-finish pictures aren’t pretty. Fortunately, recovery is as quick as the race is short.
As I ran in, I was pleased to note a clock time of 27:53, which equates to a net time of about 27:48 (assuming, conservatively, that it took me 5s to get to the start line after the gun went off). The reason for the delay at the start was revealed the next day – the timing device had failed completely, so there was no accurate net time for the race. I’m glad I was close to the start and have a pretty good idea of my time.
And what do you know – reality matched my ‘on paper’ form and I took the first place in my age group (34th overall) with a very comfortable 1 minute lead! Compared to last year I only improved by about 3 seconds – but that’s OK considering I didn’t train any harder. To keep things in perspective – and my ego from inflating too much – I again failed to beat the fastest female runner … and I was trounced handily by a 51 year old. Oh, and the banana came in 9th overall! All in all it was a great day and a perfect season opener.
You can check out the photos here.