Over the weekend, Sally and I did the 2012 edition of Big Boy’s Harvest Hustle 10K down at Short Beach in Stratford, CT. The race was originally scheduled for November 4th, but thankfully it was postponed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which meant that although the weather was much colder and windier than it would have been on the original date, the upside was that I actually got a chance to run it.
When Sally and I signed up for the race, we’d meant for it to be our last real race of the year, and given that my training year had already been cut short once because of The Crisis at work, I was planning to try to really focus on this race and take it seriously. Events, however, did not cooperate. The last full week in October was a previously scheduled Rest Week for me, and at the time, I’d been doing a lot of interval work and felt like I badly needed the rest. What I didn't know at the time, however, was that our second hurricane in two years would strike immediately after my Rest Week and keep me out for another two full weeks of would-be training. So by the time the actual race week rolled around, I was coming off an unplanned three-week training hiatus. Moreover, Sally and I had always planned to do a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day, and neither of us wanted to cancel that, especially for a race in which, honestly, I had no expectation of running well.
This is not to say that I wasn't looking forward to the race. I definitely was. What it meant was that there was no pressure. I was committed to running easy and just having fun with it. And with that in mind, Sally and I both trained straight through the week, making absolutely no allowance for the fact that the week was gonna end in a 10K for time.
As I've noted on this blog before, I was heavily involved in post-Sandy clean-up, working double-shifts straight through until Monday, November 12th. I then took Tuesday the 13th off, but I didn't actually do anything that day besides drink beer and work on my favorite current writing project, The Sorcerer’s Tale. After that, I worked my regular (desk) job for the rest of that week, and I rode my regular commute ride on my foldie those last three days, too. Then I was off for previously scheduled vacation time for Thanksgiving Week, but I didn't actually make it out for a run until Sunday, November 18th—almost exactly three weeks after my last previous run.
That first run was a short, rough experience, but at least I got out there. Then Sally and I went together to the Trumbull Trail for a five-miler on Monday, and I don’t mind telling you that she cleaned my clock with ease. The next day we went to the gym together, and then I think we might've taken Wednesday off. Thursday was Thanksgiving, and we did a very small neighborhood 5K—the Chickadee Lane Turkey Trot, and once again, Sally cleaned my clock. I was ahead for the first mile and a half or so—while Sally was running with one of her friends and chatting about whatever it is that women chat about when they run. But then she dropped her friend at around Mile 2 and put the hammer down, beating me by something like thirty seconds overall and probably 90-seconds on just that last mile by itself. As it happens, Sally won that little race outright and took home the homemade trophy—a Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboy dressed up as a turkey.
We used it as our centerpiece at dinner that night.
Anyway, I went out on my bike Friday and put in an easy twenty-miler. I wound up averaging just over 17 mph and wasn't too sore afterwards. All things considered, that was a big victory all by itself, especially since I headed into the hills north of Main Street for the back half of the ride. Then Sally and I went back to the gym on Saturday where we worked our lats and core. Then Sunday came the race, and we weren't exhausted, but as I mentioned, we weren't what you’d call focused, either.
It wasn't a particularly bad weather week last week, but it got colder as the week progressed, and when we woke up on Sunday, it was windy, too. Hannah was still at a sleepover, so I took only Emma over to our neighbors’ house and dropped her off. I assume they played Wii, but I’m not sure, and now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t think I even asked. In any event, Sally and I drove the two miles down to Short Beach and got there around 9:00 am—just in time to find some miserable-looking volunteers setting up their base camp in what had to have been twenty miles per hour of wind coming in straight off of Long Island Sound.
Sally: Why the Heck are we here so early?
Me: We have a lot to do. We need to stretch, warm up, check in…
Sally: We could have done all that at home. It’s freezing out here.
Me: Yeah. I suppose we probably could have. Sorry about that. I’m not used to the races being so close to the house.
Needless to say, I checked us in. Then I put on a heavier sweatshirt, set up my yoga mat, and started warming up—to the general amazement of everyone, not least of all my wife.
Sally: It’s freezing out here. How can you stand it?
Me: I went to West Point, Sally. And graduated. You might not believe this, but I am actually tough when I have to be.
Truth was, I kind of loved how much the weather sucked during warm ups. Yeah, it was 37-degrees and windy, but I struggle in heat, not the cold, and it motivated me to see everyone else shivering. By the time I was done warming up, I felt good. I decided to wear the heavier sweatshirt, but other than that, I didn't see any reason why we couldn't have a good day of racing.
We lined up just before at 10:00 am, and the race started right on time. There were maybe two hundred people entered in total in both the 5K and the 10K races, and we started in a single heat. The 5K course was an out-and-back affair—straight out from Short Beach, turn left and go around the golf course, wind through the neighborhood there in Lordship, and then turn right and run along Russian Beach for maybe a half-mile. Then turn around and head back. The 10K course was just the 5K course times two, and with this course being so close to our house, I guess that Sally and I have probably run it a hundred times. Maybe more. Perhaps not that exact course, but one very like it for sure.
Anyway, I’ll spare you the mile-by-mile, but I will say that Sally’s new GPS watch reported afterwards that she ran her race at a very even 8:12 per mile pace. Personally, I started out easy and let myself range up to fifty or so yards behind her, but I closed the gap around the half way mark before falling off again around at around mile 4. Coming into the last turn, I counted the women ahead of us—the ones who had already made the turn—and I realized that Sally was the 11th woman overall, and that if she ran hard, she could maybe catch the lady ahead of her and finish 10th. Now, Sally is not the most competitive person that I've ever met, but she is competitive with me, so I decided to bury myself in an attempt to drag her into position. At that point, Sally was maybe twenty yards ahead of me, so I had to shout when I told her, “You’re the eleventh woman, Sally! Come on, let’s see if you can catch Number 10!”
And with that, I dropped the hammer heading into the last turn. It took me maybe a quarter-mile to catch up to Sally, but unfortunately, she didn't have the acceleration to follow my move, and it was a good while before I realized that she hadn't been able to follow me. I finished hard while behind me, Sally fell off her pace a bit and wound up finishing 12th overall among the ladies. Neither of us got anywhere near catching whomever it was that was the target of my late move.
2012 Harvest Hustle 10K
Dan—50:11 (8:06/mile). 7/10 Age Group; 26/64 Overall.
Sally—50:25 (8:08/mile). 1/6 Age Group; 28/64 Overall.
To say the least, I was happy with this performance. Heading into this race, I’d just wanted to finish and feel good doing it. In the event, I wound up about a minute off my best (recent) time and felt better than I had any right to feel. Sally, however, was bummed. She’d gotten passed at the last minute by a woman whom she’d been racing back and forth since the start of the race, and given the way that we’d finished, she was not happy to have been beaten to the line. She cheered considerably when she realized that she’d won her age group—and that the woman who beat her at the end there was nearly twenty years her junior—but it was a while before all that really sank in. In the immediacy of the event, she was crushed.
Still, this is the second time this year that Sally has won her age group in a race, and I think she likes it. That can only bode well going forward.
Now our season is well and truly over. I don’t think we’re racing again until the Stratford Sweetheart 4-Miler in February, and right now, that feels like a long way away.
Speaking personally, I’m about ready to get back in the water. I’m wondering if there’s not a relatively flat Olympic triathlon somewhere within easy driving distance that I could circle on my calendar as an early target race for 2013. If you know of one, please drop a comment below.
Happy racing! We’ll see you next year!