Nov 8

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we have reached cruising altitude and you are now free to use laptops and other portable devices.”

I am aisle seated on an overpriced 40min United puddle jumper from Wichita to Denver. 2 babies are crying. The dude next to me has rancid breath, but I’m fighting back with a dirty shirt and some¬†pizza breath of my own. And my left leg is twitching so badly there’s a fear it may spasticly flail out as the flight attendant patrols by. BUT THAT’S ALL OK, CAUSE IT IS WRITEUP TIME!

35 minutes left

The tragic truth of this race is that it was both a fantastic milestone moment as well as an entirely forgettable event. It was my first race in 27 months (and a mile no less!) and yet, I really felt nothing for this race. No nerves. No butterflies. I only took one pre-race dump… It smacked of a workout.

Have I lost that competitive fire? I sure hope not. (Somewhere, Jared just guffawed). Nono, don’t get me wrong, I’m competitive in just about everything I do, but this race was just average competitivity. Not enough to trigger that body-altering chemical release that normally rushes through you as you arrive at the race.

The event itself was thoroughly underwhelming. The race was held around a mall. While several mile races were scheduled for the hour leading up to the elite race, I only saw about 100 people cross the line in total. The spectators were grouped solely around the starting/finishing area, and merely numbered in the dozens, most surely family members of previous racers.

This turnout, or lack thereof, shocked me. One of the calling cards of the race was that Jim Ryun was there. You know, the former world record holder and first high schooler to go sub-4?? He’s also been a Kansas congressman! I was sure blessed. It was truly awesome to meet him and hear a few short stories. Oh well, all I can say is Wichita missed out, and the race organizers should probably re-evaluate their avenues of publicity.

Also, the competition was light. Christian Soratos, a 3:55 miler and Frezer Legesse, a 3:54 guy, were the only big guns. An old friend, James Noonan, from my racing past was also actually making his debut after his own 28 month sabbatical. But he’d only been training for a few weeks.

20 minutes

I was able to scout the course the night before, after I landed. It was a nice hump course (my favorite) which means that the first part is uphill and the finish is slightly down. This generally plays into my hands nicely because my long legs can still really eat up ground efficiently when tired. Conversely, I would get annihilated on a bowl course. Uphill running is a serious struggle for these puppies once fatigued.

It made the race plan simple; sit on the two big guns and see what I could muster for a kick!

The Race

Jim Ryun fires the gun (was it even a gun? I don’t remember) and Christian is OUT. I’m sitting on Fraser’s shoulder with Mr. Noonan on mine and watching Christian put a few steps on us.

Too many steps. I’m feeling pretty smooth so I glide past Fraser to lead the chase pack.

400m. 53. What the?… No way. I can’t even RUN a 53 uphill right now…

Actually, if the marker had to be wrong, I’m glad it was wrong by that much. I might have hesitated more if I was out in, like, 58 uphill. So the shock of the number was very short lived. And that was the last I looked at the numbers. (By the way, the course had a net elevation gain of 35 feet so not an insignificant climb.)

By 800m I had separated from Fraser and James and was maintaining a 10m gap on Christian. And now the course was leveling out. My time.

I picked up my stride ever so slightly despite the already pervasive burn, mostly trusting in the fact that we’re only at 1400ft above sea level and that had to help me. Over the next 400m I might have closed 5m but I did not make contact.

400m to go. Christian turned it on. It was noticeable how much he picked up his pace. I matched the effort but not the power and prayed for that downhill. Finally the downhill came but I was at the end of my rope and Christian now had 30m on me. He continued to pull away all the way to the line, eventually beating me by 6 seconds.

I looked up at the clock as I was crossing the strip, completely gassed, and to my dismay it said 4:15! Ouch. Well at least I held on for 2nd, and a nice travel compensating $400!

The rest of the day really looked up from there! James and I cooled down with Christian, Fraser, and the girls’ winner, Rachel Schneider. It quickly came out how slow we all thought our times were. Christian had just run 5th Avenue mile in NYC in 3:54 and was saying he feels even better now. He thought he was throwing down a solid sub 4 before crossing the line in 4:09… Rachel said it was her slowest mile since sophomore year of high school.

Normally not a huge deal. But this time there was the added bummer that the race had incentives for time performances. Hotel compensation for sub 4:10. $500 for travel if sub-4. As it happened, Christian was the only one to get his hotel compensated.

We all split up, showered, and reconvened for a beer, pizza, and football at the local BJs before heading out for the airport.

Time’s up. Seat belt dong. “Descending…”

So I had to look up the course. I got as granular as I could on Google Maps, and assuming it’s totally accurate, looks like the course was long by .03 miles, or 8 seconds. So at the end of the day, 4:07 for me, which is much closer to what I felt I was accomplishing. Hell, I just ran a 2:06 800m as the last of a set of 10 (the rest were 2:teens. Calm down.) so I’m chalking this one up to shoddy course work. Which meshes with my assessment of the rest of the event.

So 6 seconds behind a Christian Soratos that led from the gun, and clearly had plenty left. That’s my take away from the race. I think this kid is one to watch.

I got work to do… but I knew that.

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