Sunday, August 29, 2010

Better than Perfect

This is familiar territory in more ways than one. I pass mile 9 in something just under 62 minutes. It is a minute or so faster than this point in the Perfect 10-Miler a couple weeks ago. At that race, I had very little left, and I finished with a fairly slow final mile. Do I have anything left this time? This time it’s the Crim 10-Miler, and I’m in familiar territory not only with the time and challenge of the final mile, but also because I’m back up in Michigan, running a race I’ve done many times with old friends.

Where were all those old friends this time? Perhaps it’s been too long. I had FaceBooked a couple folks who would be there, and I thought that I’d simply know just about everyone else, as seemed to be the case at all those previous Crim races in the 80’s and 90’s. This time out, I did see a couple familiar faces, but none of my closer friends, including Jim Karner, whom I’d FB’d. I nodded to some of the folks, but hardly said two words to anyone. Did I mention that there were over 10,000 runners? The sheer numbers may have been a factor in the ability to find folks.

The reason I’m back in Michigan is to attend the wedding of Erich Watry, son of old friends Mike and Linda Leinius. I’d spent the previous night visiting Greg and Dot Worley, who conveniently live closer to Flint than the location of the wedding reception in Livonia. I’m doing all this on my own, since Debbie is still in Connecticut, helping her daughter and new grandson.

It had been a cool night, with temperatures in the fifties and low humidity for a change. By the 8am start the sun was warming things up to around 70F, but the humidity was still low. These were the best race conditions I’d had in months. The start was as crowded as I’d expected. I was seeded into a corral with other sub-7 minute runners. Since I’m now just *barely* under that pace, I did place myself at the *end* of that corral. The first couple miles appeared very familiar to me; it was starting to seem like I’d never left.

Those early miles are fairly flat and indeed fast. I tried to keep them at just under 7-minute pace without working too hard. As the race unfolded, I couldn’t quite remember where the Bradley Hills were. I remembered that they were somewhere in the middle, but I was reminded of their location soon enough. Although the Crim is a fast course, those Bradley Hills do make it challenging. They turned out to be from about mile 4.25 to about 6.25, give or take. And once again, they did indeed slow me down some.

The Bradley’s are probably tougher than the hills I’d experienced at the Wooster Heart and Sole Half-Marathon the previous week. The hills at that race are more constant, but not as steep. I’d made the trip to Wooster with several MCRR friends, and we had a blast there as usual. My time for Wooster was 1:33 and change, including a strong finish. This was better than last year, but slower than the one before. The heat and humidity didn’t help at all.

The weather for the Crim was still comfortable as I came through that tough hilly section. The second half is quite scenic, as there are generally parks on one side of the road, and large old beautiful homes on the other. I did manage to get the mile split times back down to sub-7 after a couple slower miles through the hills. This is where the race truly begins.

After mile 9 I try to run faster. My legs are barely responding, but I suppose that I have indeed kicked it up a notch. Then with about a third of a mile to go, I turn onto Saginaw Street. I see and I remember that it truly is all downhill from here. Now I pick it up even more, passing a few runners as I go. One or two pass me as well, but I’m doing as well as can be expected. I get to the brick portion of Saginaw for the final couple blocks and pick it up once more, to ramming speed. I cross the line in 1:08:30 or so. I believe that the difference between the gun time and my chip time may be on the order of 15 seconds, so my chip time may be closer to 1:08:15. That final mile was a fast one. At sub-6:30, it was my fastest of the day.

This is indeed better than Perfect. I’d done 1:09:55 at the Perfect-10. Here I was better than that by a minute and a half or more. The low humidity probably made all the difference, as this is surely a tougher course.

After the race I continue to look for old friends, but only found a few familiar faces. Later on at the wedding, who should I see but Jim and Debbie Deren? It turns out that their daughter was in the wedding party, and is close friends with both Erich and Michelle. How ironic to finally run into an old running friend where he wasn’t at all expected. More ironic than that, Jim had done the Crim this day as well. You can’t make this stuff up.

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