What a day! Can't even believe it. So I showed up about 50 minutes before the race start and got signed up. Interestingly, they handed me #869, the very same number I wore when I DNF'd Lake Placid in '08. Was this an omen? Bah, forget about it. Saw some friends and started getting changed. Contemplated bagging the warm-up but went out about 15 minutes before race start with Mark Bancroft, Steve Tenney and Dave Brackett. We jogged around for a bit but more or less were just waiting to run. Headed to the start line and saw Jeanne, Rob Smith and Tim Keene as well as Stacy, Mary, Mike MacDonald and Rick Ackermann (with two "N's"). Found myself standing next to Tenney but lost track of him when the race started. I assumed he'd jumped out ahead and put him out of my mind. Before the race I told Mark I was going to start easy and see how it goes, try not to rip of a 6:30 in the first mile and then pay for it for nine more. He told me to just run the first one whatever I felt like and not worry about it as it is mostly downhill anyway. Good point. I'm a listener so I decided to give that a try. He was right. As I clipped through mile one at a 6:20 pace I noticed I was pretty close to Rob and Tim. I knew this wouldn't last long as they are both in great shape and training hard right now. After about a 1/2 mile Mark Bancroft pulled alongside me and asked me how to work his Garmin GPS. After a few moments I told him to give it me and I got it going for him so he could see his pace. In the meantime, we had settled into a pretty comfortable 6:40 pace and agreed we'd run together as long as it worked for both of us. We hit the 2 mile mark in about 13:45 and we both were feeling great wondering how long it would last. We both were very aware that the wheels could come flying off this buggy at any time. We said "screw it" and just kept running what felt good. I told Mark that I wasn't worried about miles nine and ten because I could run those "sub seven" on heart alone - cocky little bugger huh?. hehheeh......I almost lost Mark after about four miles when we hit a little roller. He runs hills from his house and it was obvious every time we hit an incline. He's pull slightly ahead and then I'd recover and catch up and fall back in. This was the way it went for the next several miles as we managed to stay right around the seven minute mark or a little below. We passed our wives at different spots, Mine was taking pictures and surprised to see us at sub 35:00 at the 5 mile mark. His wife, Angela was surprised to see us running together and running so well. We were having a freaking BLAST and were starting to get geared up for the last two miles. we kept looking for Steve Tenney but figured he was way out ahead of us and we weren't going to catch him. We saw Doug Welling out there on the course on his bike, he yelled at us and gave us a boost. As we strode through mile nine I said to Mark that we were going to get a little recovery and then rip it up for mile ten. It was about that time I felt something on my right shoulder. I took a quick peek and caught a glimpse of the only thing I did not want to see in my rear view mirror at that point in the race - STEVE TENNEY! WTF? Where'd he come from? Oh, SHIT! I said to Mark, "we got company". He looked back and realized Steve was there. Mark said something to Steve and got no response.....OK...I can tell he's serious. This was shaping up to be a classic finish. WHY does this always happen to me?!?!?! I knew that Mark and I would probably be finishing near each other and would likely be sprinting the finish but now Steve was in the mix, pushing the pace and I started to wonder if I could hold on. I decided to pull hard going up the hill toward the school entrance as we worked our way through mile ten thinking maybe I could crack one of them - no dice. Heart rate 180, pace 6:20. We crested the hill and leveled off on our approach to the school entrance. They were both running strong and I slid in behind them to get out of the wind hoping I could just hold on a little longer. I started to feel a little something strange "inside" and realized I was probably getting close to my max effort, in fact I was sure of it. As we turned into the school Mark and Steve surged, I pressed a little harder to close the gap back up. They were now going to crack me and I wasn't going away easily. I started to lose the stride again just as I started to feel that strange feeling again. It was just about then that had a violent uncontrollable urge to puke and that's exactly what I did. HARD. Nothing came out but it was a message from my body saying "knock it off, or I'll shut you down for good next time". I looked at my GPS and the pace said 5:20! So here I am running 5:20 pace, hurling, and these guys are pulling away. I dug in a little deeper and surged again. Owen Lisa spotted me closing on Mark and Steve and hollered at me to catch them. Had he only seen me five seconds earlier! We hit the finish, Mark, Steve, then five seconds later ME. Unreal race. I had set a PR by almost a minute! Couldn't believe it! I had no idea I could do this today. I was impressed with Mark's ability to run like that and Steve's competitiveness in running us down late in the race. And I am pretty proud of myself for hanging tough with them. We headed inside, changed up, hung out for a bit and then went to lunch. Jodi and I enjoyed a nice lunch with the Bancrofts and the Wilsons at Flatbread - awesome place. Everybody had a great day today. All my friends did well and many posted PR's. SOOOooo glad I decided to race (see pre-race post). I got to know Mark a little better and also see where I stacked up with Steve. I was impressed with Mary, Stacy and Erin. Dave Brackett had a PR and Jared Buzzell ran strong too. Mike MacDonald had a solid run. Owen Lisa, Brett Helstedt and Al Bugbee toasted me and they should. They are very talented and tenacious runners - all doing Ironman this season. Tim Keene and Rob Smith both beat me and did so in fine fashion. No problem there, I know I can mix it up with them in the spring and look forward to the challenge. So it was good to get the juices flowing in the middle of the winter and get recommitted to my training. So glad I raced today, I'll remember this one for a long time. Hadn't really planned on turning myself inside out but hey, what the heck - it's a RACE BABY!
Looking forward to spring!