When I read Kym's Jubilee CityFest 8K preview the other day I thought it was an excellent description of the race course. She cleverly got our friend, Hilary, to go along and take some photos of her along the route, and the moment I saw the one to the left it made me think of boxing. The way she was holding up the mile marker number reminded me of how the women walk around the ring holding up the the next round number. Before continuing I should clarify that Kym in no way reminds me of those women. :)
I knew this morning's 8K was going to be a lot like a boxing match. This was the third time I've entered the race, and I've practiced on the course a number of times. Each year you can just about count on it being humid, and this year was no different. At the start of the race it was 71* and the humidity 98%.
Mile 1 (6:37): I toed the line and quick as a wink shot off down Columbus St and turned left onto North Perry. Traffic cones lined the route and pushed runners to the opposite side of the street, which was different than my training runs where I could cut corners for the most direct route. We turned left onto Dexter Ave and began the climb towards the State House. I used to dread this part, but after training on it so long I've grown to like it a little. Even the right hand turn onto Bainbridge, where the hill continues another couple hundred yards, isn't too bad. Round 1: Me.
Mile 2 (6:53): The downhill reprieve on Bainbridge was very short lived. I turned left onto Alabama St and then another quick left onto Union. This part was flat and my legs were just starting to recover from the Dexter hill when I turned right onto Madison. It was here when I could really start to feel the humidity. I powered up the hill toward Cramton Bowl and by the time I crested the top I felt like I'd been punched in the gut. Round 2: Split.
Mile 3 (7:20): The short downhill stretch down Madison past Cramton Bowl was not nearly enough to recover from the Madison hill. I staggered around the ring and let the ropes hold me up before the approach to Hopper. Here I turned left and was greeted with another stupid boxing metaphor. This area where you turn left onto Hopper and then right onto St Charles isn't very long, but it's just steep enough to kick your ass. And that's exactly what it did. By the time I reached the Capitol Heights flats I was fighting the urges to stop and walk. To make matters worse, Paul Bonds, who floats like a butterfly, kept stopping to tie his shoes and then would catch and pass me. It was demoralizing, and he did it FOUR times. Round 3: Course.
Mile 4 (7:17): I was pinned in the corner and getting battered. I felt a little dizzy at times, nauseous at others. This time it was courtesy of Frank Garcia, who passed me right before the left turn onto Panama Street. I did my best to stay with him, but I was really hurting at this point. As he put distance between us I focused just on him and blocked everything else out. It must have worked, because I barely remember running down Yancey. The only thing I do remember is one of the rolling hills looking like Mike Tyson in the distance. Somehow I hung on and never hit the canvas. Round 4: Course.
Mile 5 (6:48): Coming down Yancey I crossed North Capitol Pkwy and could see the downhill stretch awaiting. I felt like Rocky looked in the late rounds against Drago in Rocky IV. I used the hill to my advantage and was able to catch my breath a little. This small victory was offset by Bill McCain passing me as we ran past the Oakwood Cemetery. If a plot were dug and open I might have jumped in it. Since Frank was long gone I now tried to stay with Bill, but he too pulled away. I pushed up the final hill by the police station and gave the last third of a mile everything I had left. It wasn't much, and I was disappointed to see when I got close to the finish that I wouldn't break 35:00. At least I was saved by the bell. Round 5: Me.
I sat on my stool in the corner for a few minutes (figuratively - duh!) and tried to collect myself. I have never hurt like this in a race before. I really felt like I'd been knocked around like a tomato can. Still, I'm pretty happy with my performance. The judges scored it a split decision and there will be a rematch next year.
Incidentally, this was a huge PR. My official time was 35:10, which wasn't even good enough to place in my age group. I did rank 19th overall out of 301 finishers, however. Previous bests at this distance:
2009 Jubilee CityFest 8K: 42:24
2008 Jubilee CityFest 8K: 43:35
2008 Spinners 8K: 41:00
2007 Great Pumpkin 8K: 42:30
My training partner gets tired of hearing this, but the numbers don't lie: I am a far superior runner today because of her motivation and support. Every race since we began training together I have realized significant improvements. Sure, I've put in the work, but without her what do you think my time today would have been based on previous 8Ks? I know the answer. ;)