Initially going into this race I wasn't really sure how I was going to run it. I accomplished my goal of breaking 1:20 at two weeks ago and I've been putting in some quality training time without much recovery since then. I knew I had not gained enough fitness to make a sizable difference time wise so I just wasn't sure how much I was going to be willing to give when it all came down to it unless I had a clear shot at winning the race outright. Since It was only four weeks out from Knoxville, I did not want it to impact any of my training for the last few weeks. I was already sitting at a negative -24 Training Stress Balance (TSB) and I knew doing anything stupid would have a big impact on my remaining training weeks. To put things in perspective I was at a -3 going in to Savin rock two weeks ago, much more balanced.
When I went to go pick up my packet on Thursday and I was talking to the race directors about who was signed up and how many athletes. They told me that they weren't really sure who was racing, but someone will probably show up and run a 1:20 and win it. In my head I suddenly went from running a Sunday morning tempo run to thinking that if I ran like I did two weeks ago I have a legitimate shot at winning. However there is something special about races held at Tod's point in Greenwich, it doesn't seem to matter what kind of race it is, there always seems to be a big chunk of Fairfield county's finest athletes toeing the line!
We arrived at the beach somewhere around 6:20 for the 7:00 AM start. Since we already had all of our stuff all that was left was the obligatory bathroom break as well as our warm-up runs. Since I had such success with a minimal warm-up 2 weeks ago I decided to try and do the same and see if it stuck. Unfortunately Once I started to run I was amazed at how shockingly terrible I felt. My legs felt like bricks and my breathing was heavy as I was struggling to run a 7:30 pace in my warm-up. I also saw a bunch of the guys I knew I was going to be be competing against and got a sense how the competition was going to stack up for the day. This actually took the pressure off because although I knew it was still possible, I no longer expected myself to win.
I placed myself at the start right at the front in between the two guys who I thought to be my biggest competition on the day Mitch and Gus. I've only finished in front of Mitch once, and still have yet to finish in front of Gus. I figured since I was feeling like crap I would see how they would take it out and take it from there. The start gun went off and it was like I was shot out of a cannon somehow I ended up leading the pack, which is exactly what I did not want to happen. I looked down and my heart rate and pace were both lower than I expected so I just went with it. I thought it was funny that someone shouted out just don't get us lost. So here I was again at the front of the race but this time, it wasn't part of my plan. I ran steady for the first 2 miles with a short lead as I could hear someone breathing down my neck and right on my heels. I was sure it was Mitch or Gus but I wasn't going to waste the energy to turn around and find out which one it was.
Right around 2 miles Gus decided it was time to make his move, he convincingly sprung past me with a nice little surge. As soon as he did he opened up a nice gap and knowing how I was feeling on my warm-up I decided to stay back. It seemed that we put a big gap on the field early because I no longer heard any more breathing or footsteps. So I just stayed focused on trying not to let Gus get too far ahead. As bad as I felt I was still having a decent run so I figured to see if I could at least hold my position for the next 11 miles. Gus seemed to be slowly increasing his lead from miles 2-3 but in my mind I was still in striking distance. He only had about a :15 second lead and 13.1 miles is a long way and anything can happen.
After leaving the beach area the course is slightly uphill and rolling. I was still hot on Gus's tail until we got to the hillier section from mile 5-7. This is where he made a big move and I lost sight of him. There was a bunch of rolling hills and a steady climb that wasn't terrible but certainly shows my glaring weakness of being 172+ lbs and competing with guys that are 20 lbs lighter than me. I figured if I was still in second after mile 7 I would probably be able to hang on for 2nd place as 4 of the last 6 are rolling downhill, and the last 2 miles are on a beach/trail section that is hard to gain traction on. When I lost sight of Gus it became quite a lonely run for awhile as there was no one behind me and now although I could still hear the police escort siren no one in sight in front of me. As I was coming into the final climb one of the spectators told me I was about 90 seconds down. Right around that point is where my race started to really unravel.
There was a short steep downhill section just after mile 7 that was probably would have been fine any other day but for some reason effected me. The pounding must have jostled my stomach a bit and I suddenly had a slight urge for a nature break. I just tried to ignore it and soldier on hoping the sensation would go away. I ran the next 2 miles getting more and more uncomfortable as time went on. Initially I didn't realize it but It was certainly effecting my pace. Around mile 9.5 I could hear that someone was approaching by the cheering at the aid station I had just passed prior. I estimated there was about a 30 second gap without looking back. My immediate thought was to actually slow down and let him catch me, then make a move and see if I could break, but once he caught up, we actually ran together for about .5 mile and chatted briefly. When I saw it wasn't Mitch I knew he likely wasn't far behind and I needed to stay on my game. When he started to pull away as we hit the entrance back to the beach I had no response as I was growing more and more uncomfortable by the minute.
So there I was with 3 miles to go sitting in 3rd and extremely uncomfortable, I passed a Porto let near the gate house, but I thought it would have taken too much time to stop because Mitch was hot on my tail. I kept James in sight and was hoping that my situation would somehow miraculously relive itself so I would be able to make a final push. Unlike two weeks ago when I was able to bury myself and just push the pace, this time I was in damage control mode and just trying to survive. Sure enough about 11 miles in I started to hear footsteps and I almost immediately knew it was Mitch. He caught me about 11.5 miles shouted a few words of encouragement and went on his way. He sailed right on by rather smoothly, there was no surge, as I couldn't respond while being as uncomfortable as I was.
With a little over a mile and half to go I turned around and looked behind me for the first time and I noticed there was no one in sight. I knew that if I was going to try and make a push to take back second or third it was going to cost me a bit of pain and probably a few days of training. Knowing I wasn't going to score a PR, and I had the age group win in the bag I decided to shut it down and run it in easy. I dropped my pace from roughly 6:11 to 6:50 and decided to just cruise in comfortably. If anyone was going to challenge me for 4th I would respond, but I ran the last section as a cool down. There was nothing for me to gain my running any harder, and I would likely lose valuable training time by pushing the pace so I am comfortable with my decision. I was running a little too relaxed as I ended up missing the final right hand turn and I had to be sent back on course by one of the volunteers which resulted in me having a narrow age group victory of only 17 seconds. Gus blew away the field with a 1:15, and Mitch surged into second with a 1:20, with James hanging on a few seconds behind him for 3rd. On a good day given the course I feel I could probably run a 1:18, but today wasn't that day, maybe next year!
One day later I couldn't be happier with my decision. I don't feel run down and I can go in to a normal week of training. Not only that, my TSB decreased slightly to -21 as I only worked out for about 90 minutes yesterday which was my shortest stint of the week. That allows me to get in about 3 full weeks of quality training before dialing it back before Knoxville. Of course no race report would be complete without a thank you to the support of my generous sponsors Endurance Films, Forte Gelato, Pacific Swim Bike Run, and Skora Running and my lovely fiancee Erica who managed an 8 minute PR of her own!