The largest running event in Rockland County, every Thanksgiving morning, the Road Runners club here produces a five-mile road race at picturesque Rockland Lake. Offering runners a unique course with challenging hills in the first half and a pancake-flat second half, nearly 2000 folks line up at Rockland Lake's parking lot and run five miles before going home and stuffing themselves silly and sitting on the couch and watching football. It has become a tradition for many, and I've gotta say, it's a lot of fun.
Last year when I did this race, it was my first run after finishing the JFK 50-miler five days before. Any race where I average ten minutes per mile or better is good, and I did really well in 2008, finishing in about 49 minutes, much faster than I expected. My goal in 2009 is to meet or beat last year's time, and I honestly don't think it's going to be easy. Concentrating on long slow distances all year, I've found myself conditioned to slowly walk-run all day if necessary, but speed was gone - my ability to go fast had all but disappeared.
To compensate, for the last few weeks I've focused solely on faster, shorter workouts. Completely devoid of hill-work, I've been spending all of my time at the track or on a treadmill, hammering out sub-ten minute miles for as long as I can go or running 800-1200 meter intervals. Progress has been quick; I'm back to the point where I can maintain that pace for an hour, but that's on a treadmill at 0%. - there is a big difference between 6 miles on a treadmill and 5 miles at Rockland Lake.
Another factor, however, is the crowds. Apparently, most of the folks at this race are rather inexperienced - they simply don't know how to line up for a race. I lined up in 2008 as I always do, near the back of the pack with 10-minute per mile runners. I ended up running on the side of the road, in the grass, for the first half-mile as I passed hundreds of walkers and slower-than-me runners who lined up near the 8 and 9-minute per mile markers. I came in 1046th place out of 1726 finishers, but probably started in around 1700th place. It was really frustrating. In 2009, I will have to line up forward of where I normally go and hope I don't go forward too far. Based on the 2008 results, I guess I'll try to pick a spot with about 60% of the pack in front of me.
Have a great thanksgiving!
New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com