Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Circular reference

Since rejoining the running community in Oct '10, I have been running trails and roads. They are fun and ever ending. Well with the winter this year I was reminded that some folk run track, and worse yet indoors. My Alma Mater hosts one of these said events.

One of my old teammates of the kinder gender who I reconnected with since running said she ran one last year. So armed with this information I decided to see what these tired old legs could do.

Step one contact the current coach to verify it was an open event. His response, "you ran here when? "Did they have a track team back then?" Ok with that kind welcome over I asked if there were masters events and the reply was, "no we'll just seed you based upon time." So now I decided to sign up, but I have to put a seed time in. Well how the Fek do I figure out what my seed time is? I could use my last indoor mile, (4:08) but that was 20 years ago. Hmm, this summer the track club did a few mile repeats and I was 5:20 on those. That probably is no good either, it was run on a crushed gravel path and they were repeats, not all out. Ok, let's try to figure this out. Ummm....4:40 it is. And for the 800M, we'll use 2:15.

Now that I'm registered, I notice there is one other entrant in my two events. His times are 4:2x and 1:58. Oh crap, Ima get lapped in this thing. During the week both events fields fill out and my seed times are in the mix. I'm in the bottom 25% but I'm also old enough to be every other competitors father. I'm pretty sure in reality I am none of their fathers for those wondering. The whole time I am planning this soiree, I was under the impression it was a Saturday event, but about 2 weeks out I realize it's a Friday night run. Hmm, go to work then scramble south to the meet and run, Harumph.

The week of the meet I decide to taper a tad.
  • Sat: 15+ miles between 7:00 and 6:33,
  • Sun: 20 miles at 7:40s
  • Mon: 3 mile morning run and 8 mile run at lunch
  • Tue: Speed work I chose to do 10 x 200 just to see if the legs had speed. They were all between 30-32 and breathing was measured. I might be ready.
  • Wed: easy 3 mile morning shake-out
  • Thu: Tough run in the snow on the trail so there was a lot of lateral running.
  • Fri: It's Race Day Fans!!!
So I show up at the old campus. Now when I left Lewis, we had a 90% ashphault outdoor track, and a handful of promises about how great they were going to build up the facilities. It turns out that only our class was lied too, because they eventually did build a very nice indoor track 4 lanes around and 6-8 on the straight away. They also have a beautiful new outdoor track that look Olympic in stature. After parking it took me a long time to walk around the building to find the entrance, but I made it. Once on the track I looked up and saw two banners that made me a tad proud. They had the National Qualifying team banners and right there at the top was 1988, Oh crap I was out of running for 2 yrs. longer than I had originally thought. But it was nice to be recognized as the first team to qualify for Nationals in cross-country. The next banner was the GLVC conference champs banner and again at the top (first team) was the 1988 team. I also found the top ten lists for the track events and my Steeplechase time from 1988 was still hanging on to 7th place.

Ok, enough of the trip down memory lane, I need to get ready. I find a spot at the end of the sprint straight-away and drop my bag. It was at the far end of teh arena, and I did get some curious stares and to paraphrase those stares, "How old is that guy?" or "Is that Moses other brother?" I settle in and get my shoes, socks and singlet laided out. There are 45 minutes to warm up before the sprints start. As I get dressed a gent walks over to introduce himself and asks, "What are you running tonight?" I respond, "The mile." It was comical how big his eyes got. He then felt obliged to ask, "How old are you?" He was again surprised by the answer. He mentioned something to the effect that usually old people can run that fast. I chuckled, but deep down hoped he was in my race. It turns out he was running the 3000, so there would be no duel this day.

He goes on his way and I get prepared to do a couple miles outside for a warm up. It was chilly that night. After the warm-up, I came back and checked in to get my hip number and lane assignment. I am really starting to feel the days of yore and the excitement of racing. Well we get called to the start line and I am in the 3rd position, there are 2 unattached runners inside me and 7 college runners. The unattached runners are only one year out of college. Turns out I am as well, since only last year I decided to go back and complete my degree. But they were only 1 year away from competing too.

The gun goes off and it's on. I have a lot of adrenaline and settle into third position. I am not able to keep on the leaders but I am only losing about 1 second per lap. I came through the 200 in 32, quarter in about 65, the half in 2:23 and then I started to soften. I was gasping for breath and was just now remembering, "You're old, you idiot!!!" Well in this quarter I finally get a challenge from one of the runners behind me. I think I slowed more than he passed but the net result is the same; he passed me. By the start of the 4th quarter he had about 20 yards on me. Well I know it's only a little suffering left so I decide to try and reel him in. While I did not catch him I did gain a tad and my last two laps were increasingly faster. I was optimistic with my seed time of 4:40, but I crossed the line in 4:58.7. At the age of 44 and a 1/2, I had just run an indoor mile in sub-5. I wanted something better, but I could be proud of this.

My college buddy Kevin, came down to watch, so I went up to chat with him. It was just about now that I realized how dry indoor try air is. I opened my mouth and formed words but no sound came out. I was so dry I couldn't get air through my passages. I mouthed, I'd be back and went to get some water. It would be about 4-5 hours before I truly recovered from the breathing. But the night is not over. I signed up for the 800M too. After the mile I did not do any of the necessary tasks. There was no cool down, no stretching I just wandered around the track. About 15 minutes before the half I decided to get a few blow-out sprints in. I was feeling something, but for now I was going to ignore it.

The start of the 800M was more daunting. Most of the guys in my heat had a much faster seed time. I lined up in the outside lanes and the gun sounded. I could feel the inside lanes making up ground on me and knew I'd have to step it up a bit to be able to fall in with them when the lanes merged. As we finished the first curve I settled into 5th place behind a solid group of guys jockeying for first. This lap was much faster than any I had run tonight, but I felt so loose. As we crossed the start/finish line the first time, I had A. run a sub-30 200 meters and B. felt that twinge that I felt during the warm-up. I decided I should pull up, and took the first opportunity not so as not to disrupt the runners behind me. The twinge was not a pull or strain, but this spring was all about Boston and I was not going to sacrifice that for a silly indoor half.

Well the racing was done for the night. I had a really good time and love that excitement that track offers. I did not do as well as anticipated, but I'll take it for a guy who's 44 and only 16 months back to running after a 20+ year break. I also know I can do better and next year they'll be a reconciliation.

For now it's back to training for the Boston Marathon. Can I go sub 3:00? Threaten a 2:51? Only the shadow knows.

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