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Race Report: Syttende Mai 20 Mile Run

As always, the result first: 2nd place in 2:08:29. Next, many thanks are in order: first, to the race director and organizers for putting on a first-class event; second, to the volunteers for their time; lastly, a big shout out to Kip for keeping me in the race (more on that to come).

It should first be noted that I was far from meeting my goal of two hours flat. It should next be noted that there was good reason for this. I based my goal time partially on my fitness level and partially on the times from the previous year. Of course, what I didn't know was that last year the conditions were ideal: cool, overcast, minimal wind. The conditions this year were quite the opposite: warm (over 80 degrees when I finished just after 9:30am), sunny, moderate wind (and a headwind at that). To give you an idea of the impact that these conditions had: the second place winner last year, who ran a handful of seconds over two hours, finished third this year in 2 hours and 12 minutes. Clearly, I should have curtailed my goal from the beginning.

The race began as expected. Half a dozen of us went through the first mile in just under six minutes with the leader 15 or so seconds ahead. The eventual winner broke off from this group just after the mile mark and myself and the eventual third place winner, Kyle, moved ahead of the remaining front runners. I ran with Kyle for the first five miles before moving into third place. The first five miles were covered in thirty minutes and change. Then the hills began and they wouldn't go away. I kept up the six minute mile pace for the next three hilly miles before Kip, a race volunteer, began to escort me by bike. He would stick with me for the last twelve miles. I made it through the half way mark in just over sixty minutes, that is, according to my Garmin 510. I crossed the halfway point, according to the course markers, in 1:01:30. As it turns out, the course was long this year (near 20.5 miles) and so the halfway point was, I think, also long. In any case, it was at the halfway point that the conditions previously mentioned began to take their toll. I felt tired and my legs were really giving me hell. But I was only 50 seconds behind the 2nd place runner. So I began to push the pace down the backside of the hills and, by mile 13, was probably 35 seconds or so back.

It was at mile 13 that I first thought of bowing out and it was at the same time that my pace slackened and I lost contact with the eventual winner (though he, too, had a much slower pace in the second half). Kip told me that I just needed to keep up a decent pace and that I'd finish third, since the fourth place runner was out of sight. Fine. I continued. The same story could be told at mile 15, when I again wanted to step out. I have to credit Kip with keeping me in the race again, as he assured me that I had a good advance on the fourth place runner. Kip probably would have told you that I looked great but I'm almost certain that he was feeding me lines all day to keep me going (and I thank him for that!). The short story, then, is that I maintained just under a seven minute mile pace for the last 10k or so--hardly the sort of pace that would ordinarily qualify you for a podium place in this race. But, alas, the conditions wore on everyone and on the lead runner more so. He dropped out with just 200 yards to go. Evidently he collapsed and couldn't even walk the final stretch. When I finally made it to the finish line, second place was mine.

I'll remember this race not as a physical battle but a mental one. As it turned out, my legs felt fine afterward. Winning a mental battle, though, can be as beneficial as anything. That's a wrap!

Presenting the hardware (thanks to Tim Yanacheck for the photo).


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