Saturday, February 9, 2013

Tuning up for Toyko...or rather, Osaka

Okay, this is it...don't get scared now.  In just about 48 hours I will be making my way half way around the world to meet and run with the good people of Izumi, Japan!  Huge thanks to the Bloomington Sister City Organization who hosts the exchange.  I am so appreciative for this opportunity, one that is sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Since taking about one month off due to illness, I've been anxious about how ready I am for the Senshu International Marathon (Feb 17).  I've only had one hard training session since the beginning of January, and my mileage has been relatively non-existent by marathon training standards.  So to shake off the cobwebs, my MN RED coach (and teammates) opted to race a small, local 10k this morning in Mahtomedi, MN.

There were only about 80 participants, it was only a 10k, and the weather and course weren't anywhere near ideal, but it was a competition; something I was in dire need of before jumping into the Japan race.  My training partners Brian Davenport (Slim) and Rob Economy (Poppa Rob) were on hand to help set the pace of the race.  Both outstanding marathoners, and with better leg speed than me, I knew the goal for the day was just to keep them in sight.  I had been planning on working together with another one of my training buddies, Melissa Gacek (2008 Olympic Trials participant), but her kid was blowing chunks on race morning, so she was benched for mom duty.

Slim, Poppa Rob, and I warmed up around 8:15am on course for the 9:00am start.  The streets were a little icy on the edges and corners, but we found some good lines to follow.  We were set.  9:00am, we queued up at the start line and off we went.  The course was an out-back that started off straight up hill...brutal at the beginning, but good for the finish.  Slim, Poppa Rob, and I made our way about a mile and were already separated from the pack.  Approaching the first intersection, we were guided by a couple of high school kids to take a right turn...not unusual except for the fact that when we warmed up on course, we had gone straight through that same intersection.  There was no lead vehicle.  This was interesting...

           Poppa Rob in the lead, Slim in his neon kicks (viewable from space),
                          and me bringing up the rear

We quickly found ourselves off of residential streets and on "gravel" roads.  I say "gravel" because it was really more of a slippery, slushy, packed snow/ice surface instead of gravel.  What the heck?  Our crew was still holding together, and confused about the turn of events.  Come to find out later, we warmed up on the 5k course.  This was in fact, the correct 10k course.  The next 4 miles would be on this garbage surface with all racers fighting to keep their feet under them.  Poppa Rob almost went down once, another MN RED runner actually did take a tumble; it was tough going.

Around mile 2, Slim started breaking away from Poppa Rob and I.  This dude is a gazelle.  6 feet, some inches of graceful power.  It's fun to watch...from behind...which is where I usually find myself.  It's great though, I love having something to aspire to!  We made it to the halfway point, carefully whipped a U-turn on the slippery roads, and started back.  I wasn't feeling great so I backed off a bit and Poppa Rob gapped me.  I caught a little breather and then refocused.  His gap was about 5-10 seconds and I was going to do my best to keep him there (or close the gap).  Slim, Poppa Rob, and I maintained our spacing for the last two miles, all finishing pretty strong, considering we had spent the entire race fighting to keep our balance and gain traction on the ruthless MN back roads.

We crossed the line 1, 2, 3 - Slim in 35:05, Poppa Rob in 35:47, and me in 35:50.  A PR!  Well, that is until I realized the course was a little short.  Add about 60 seconds and you have our true 10k times.  I was still pretty pumped with my splits, which were all right around 6:00/mile.  Considering the course conditions, I'll take it. 

                                                                My sweet prize

After the race, my coach and I hatched a plan for Japan.  Boston has always been the ultimate goal for spring and nothing has changed.  The trip to, and race in, Japan are going to be for fun.  Because of the training time that I lost while sick, it's going to be a battle to get sharp for Boston.  The race in Japan needs to be an "easy" training run so that when I get back, Coach Ron can beat the crap out of me (so to speak) for 4 weeks to make up for lost time and get me primed for Bean Town.  Hopefully I can behave and stick to the 3:00-3:10 marathon we have in mind for Japan.  I know the competitor in me will hate not to leave everything on course, but I have to keep my eyes on the prize!


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