JFK 50 Miler

May 25th, 2010 - Race - Lowell, MA - 3.1

Day 145 - As you can see from weatherman Peter Griffin's report below, it was absolutely stifling at race time:


I felt OK throughout the day and made sure I stayed hydrated, but that all changed the moment I stepped out of my air conditioned coffin at 5:30PM.

Like I had promised a few folks on the Good Times forum at runningahead.com, I was planning on showing up "buck naked, or as close as legally/morally allowed."

I ended up going with just a pair of shorts (who would have thought that this decision was probably the reason why I would go on to a 3rd place overall photo finish) and the race debut of the Five Fingers KSO (naked enough for me, and everyone else there). I didn't plan on breaking any PR's tonight, given the temps and the recent string of races including the 12k on Saturday, so it was a good time to spice things up a bit.

The main goal tonight was to find out how the Five Fingers would fare under race conditions, even though it's not fair to judge them based on this one performance given the reasons mentioned in the previous paragraph. I have had some doubts about them, like could I hit my top speed in them? Or could they fly off and kill an innocent bystander part way through a race? Inquiring lawyers want to know!

By the time I got to the starting line, I had already received a few comments and looks from the peanut gallery, but it was all in fun. I think.

Titus had told me before the race that he was going to win tonight's race. He had also mentioned that he was going to fall down 30 seconds into the race and still kick our asses. Pffffttt. Whatever.

The gun went off and Titus shot off the line like a Kenyan! He wasn't kidding about taking the title tonight, gender/age/weight be damned!

We rounded the first corner, and I was sitting in about 7th or 8th, with a large pack around me. It was actually quite scary trying to manuver into position. EJ, Tom, Joe, Eric, Rick, and a few others were crowding around me, and I was a little hesitant to make any move because of the Five Fingers.

Once again, the sharp pain in my right knee made a quick cameo, and vanished just as quickly. I gotta figure out what's up with that. It only shows up at Good Times right around the fire hydrant/sidewalk area! Is there an alien artifact buried under there or something? National Inquirer minds want to know!

Then it happened! My sight line was completely blocked by a lightpole, but I could tell that Titus pulled it off based on the gasps and "oh shits" that I heard from the people around me. The bastard pulled it off! Titus went down, hard, right after the sidewalk section. He popped back up immediately and continued on his merry 5 minute pace. Holy Jebus!

I, on the other hand, was trying to figure out what I wanted from this race. I wasn't able to pick up much speed on the first quarter mile since it's mainly down hill (a "flaw" that I had already come to grips with on the Five Fingers). Was I going to run with the pack and see how the FF's felt? Did I want to even try for a PR?

I knew exactly what I wanted the second I hit the first wooden bridge. The FF's took over and I felt like I was in a time warp. My legs sprang to life and I bolted right past Eric as we headed into the long straightaway.

The first water stop was a nice oasis on such a warm night. I typically don't take any water on this course, but tonight I used the water stops to cool myself off. I didn't feel dehydrated, so most of the water ended up on my head/hat. I kept up my 5:51 pace through the first mile, and the only other runner that I could see in front of me was Jonathan. I think I passed Jonathan at some point between Mile 1 and the University Ave bridge. I can't remember! I'm starting to really lose it.

I came up onto the University Ave bridge alone, but had peeked back after turning the corner, and could see that Kara was right on my tail. Joe M. was already rounding the first bend in the VFW downhill portion as I came off of the bridge.

All of a sudden, my legs went dead on me. Once again, the FF's downhill weakness reared its ugly five toes. The extra pounding that can't be absorbed by the thin FF soles went straight into my quads like jackhammers, and this forced me to give back some of my speed.

I went through Mile 2 in 6:08. Looking back on my past performances on this stretch of the course, tonight was one of the slowest so far this season, and I would have to admit that the FF's are partly to blame.

Thankfully, it was a little after Mile 2 that Kara finally caught me. I first noticed the silouette shadow of her signature pony tail bobbing in the evening sun, and then her effortless stride as she passed me. She only had one thing to say to me to finally wake me up,  "Let's help each other out." Awesome.

(Wonder Woman saves my race - Thanks!)

That short sentence shot a surge of energy into me and we both tackled the VFW "hill" together. It's one of those rare moments during a race where you're locked into the zone with another runner and everything else just fades away. We came onto the Aiken St bridge together, stride-for-stride.

When we got to the final water stop, I grabbed one and poured it onto myself to ease the throbbing heat. After I rounded the corner under the Aiken St bridge, I noticed that I was about 30 seconds behind Joe, who was currently comfortably settled into 3rd place. It looked like he was relaxing, as he had basically run the entire race by himself, which can sometimes be tougher than racing against someone.

50 yards later, and by the end of the last straightaway, I was about 2 seconds behind him! I made a move and finally passed him on the first section of the wooden bridges. All of a sudden, Joe just completely and utterly poured it on and flew past me! He parted ways with me with a quick, "Finish strong!"

It was a setup!

Joe had waited for me to catch up (giving himself a breather), knowing that it would take a lot out of me, and he would then crush my spirit with a final kick. It worked! 

I thought I had nothing left in me as we came around the final section of angled turns, leaving us with about less than a quarter of a mile to go to the finish line.

I have never lost a kick at the end of this race, but tonight was probably going to be the exception.

For whatever reason, I thought I still had a chance at passing him at the 3 mile mark (that final bench). GO GO GADGET FF's!

I shot myself down the final stretch, and inch-by-inch, I quickly closed the gap on Joe. I really couldn't believe what was happening! I actually could....beat...him...at...the...line!


I slammed my right foot (hard) onto the mat and heard the beeps:

(Look familiar?)

(How about now?)

It was now up to the chip system to decide the winner.

After I crossed, Dave C. made a comment that the decision in a typical race is based on the chest area crossing the line, hence the BIBs being worn in that area. Whoops.

The official end result was that I edged out Joe by about .2 seconds for 3rd overall! Unfrigginbelievable. 

It looks like my choice of wardrobe played a huge factor in that close victory. Because I had to wear my BIB chip on my shorts, it probably gave me the advantage of the chip being closer to the ground/timing mat, and by extending my leg at the final second, that probably also gave me a slight advantage over Joe.

What I thought was going to be an interesting race turned out to be an even more very interesting race.

Titus falling (and winning), trial run of the FF's, high temps, and crazy finish made for a very memorable Good Times.

Can't wait for next Tuesday.

Resluts of FF experiment: Inconclusive. I did, however, manage to add one point to the Pro column for the FF's. I was able to reach a max speed of 15.1 mph (a little under 4 minute pace) on the final tenth-of-a-mile mad dash (one of my fastest recorded times ever), so reaching top speed is not an issue in these things.

Will most likely return to Nike Lunars for next week's race to see if I can break my PR with "normal" footwear and under better weather conditions.

Interesting side-note: I recently read an article that stated that the current GPS system was getting a multi-billion dollar over-haul to improve its accuracy. Tonight's Garmin total distance readout for the race: 3.10. In about 25 races, this was the first time that it's ever been dead on. I'm just saying...

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