Let's rewind the clock . Let's go back to a time before my first marathon, before Ironman, before my first 10 mile run come to think of it, before College, before mounds of insurmountable student loan debt. Let's go back to my Senior year of high school. In November 2002 I signed up for the Fischang Cicchetti 5 mile road race in Waterbury, CT for the second time. I showed up wearing my Holy Cross High School Track Jersey, my XC/ road race flats and not a prayer in hell against a fairly stacked field. The year before in my first attempt at this race, my first race over 5k, I had puked green Powerade all over East Main St. as I had drank too much before hand and at the aid station at mile 2.5. In 02 I went in on an empty stomach, took one cup of water at the aid station, and collapsed into a painful bout of dry heaving at the finish line 32min. and 55 sec later. I had PR, revenge and I didn't puke. I finished in 49th place and would not race the Cicchetti again until a frigid day in 2008.
In the three years since when I have raced, I haven't come close to that 32:55. The first year in balmy 15 degree F weather I did a 33:56, I didn't race in 09 and in 2010 did a 33:50, last year I did my slowest effort here a 34:36. So after throwing down a big PR in the Hartford Half I figured it was time to bitch slap my high school PR.
I bummed a ride from my friend, training partner and nemesis, Alexei. I proceeded to foam roller my leg as my glutes were tight from a 7 mile training run on Friday. I went for a 15 minute, mile and a half warm up jog and did another bout of stretching before tossing my warmups in my locker and making my way to the start line in a singlet, shorts and gloves.
As I do every year I lined up on the front row so I could get my picture in the paper and a clean line around the first turn. The gun went off at slightly after 9am and a pack of 400 runners made their way through downtown Waterbury. We went around the Civil War Monument then down Church St. and the onto Grand Street past City Hall. I was getting passed like it was my job, but the guys going around me were no joke. Well except for one kid in a pink long sleeve shirt holding his i-pod. I managed to pass him as I got owned by the top 3 women, one of them was Cervelo Chick, aka 2 time USAT collegiate triathlon national champion Jessica Broderick. Even in the year when I got passed by a future Olympic marathoner (Waterbury's Lisa Stublic, who would race for Croatia 2012.)it took almost a mile. They passed me this year in the first quarter. We cut down a side street and then up East Main St. I could hear Alexei huffing and puffing behind me. Part of me started to wonder if this was going to be another disastrous day as I could feel my sides cramping as we hit the first mile in 6:18.
I started to settle into a comfortable pace as this mile was slightly up hill to Hamilton Park. I was keeping Alexei behind me but I was getting passed by other runners, including that kid with the pink shirt and the i-pod. We hit the mile 2 split in 13:18 I had done a 6:59 mile. I had to pick up the pace, I had run my half marathon at a faster pace for crying out loud. There was a guy in front of me with red racing flats I focused on keeping him in sight as we made our way through the flat section of the park to the turn around. I hit the aid station neck and neck with Alexei and I took a cup of water. My mouth was feeling dry as I was spitting loo-gees every 2 minutes. I decided I couldn't let Alexei hang close because if it came to a sprint in the last mile he would flat out destroy me. I had to gap him and fast. I closed the gap to red shoes and tried to surge.
I could still hear Alexei on my tail as we went back through the park. I surged and caught red shoes and I could hear Alexei faintly in the distance. Was it enough? Red shoes and I started to pace one another I would tried to surge, he would catch me, he would surge I'd catch him. We went through the 3mile in 6:45 and hit the 4 mile mark in 6:26. As we made our way past the mall and back down East Main, red shoes put in one last burst. In my head Phil Ligget was making the call " He's stretching the elastic and the elastic has snapped." my body didn't have the effort to go with him. He got a few feet which turned into a few seconds in the matter of 100 meters.
Now my thoughts went back to the race behind me I could hear someone catching up and Alexei's breathing was starting to enter my ears. Did I have the gap? I tried to keep my pace high as I passed the police station, then went through the intersection and hit the bricks on the lower part of East Main. Less than half a mile. I looked back to see a kid in a red long sleeved shirt zoom around me as he was going full sprint. Alexei was still a ways back. I looked at the finish line clock: 32:25...this could be a PR day. I started to sprint as the seconds started racing by agonizingly fast. 30...35....40...45....50... I was almost at the line and then *cough *cough* uggg. No not now! Not again! I slowed up hoping not to lose breakfast I came to a dead stop on the timing mat as 32:59 came and went as I stepped over it and started coughing and gagged up the mother of all loo-gees. Then walked forward Still bent over I didn't even hit my watch until I felt Alexei pat me on the shoulder. "Nice race." he panted "yeah it was" I gasped trying to wipe the spit from my mouth. The timers had me at 33:02 which put my last mile as a 6:36 not bad considering I slowed to a coughing, gagging jog in the last 20 feet.
So 17 year old me still has the last laugh, by 7 measly seconds, granted I did top 25 and I had gone faster here than I had in years so it still was a good day. Now off to Goshen on Thanksgiving for a 10k before the turkey.