Sunday, April 17, 2011

Playing Queenmaker

AM: 61 mins. (8 miles)
PM: 3 mile w/u + strides
Target: Pacing Alana @81 per lap for 1.5 miles
Actual: 5:19 (mile)
Total: 4-4.5 miles

Earlier this week, I got a call from Jenna saying she was having a difficult time finding someone to rabbit Alana Hadley for the 5k at the High Point home track meet. Alana, a 14-year-old Charlotte eighth grader who also happens to be one of the fastest youth runners in the country, was hoping to lower her 17:09 PR to a mind-boggling sub-17. I'm pretty sure when I was in eighth grade I was stoked to run the mile in sub-6:30 at the Pittsburg Middle School track meet, but that's neither here nor there. When on Saturday afternoon Jenna still hadn't located a pacer, I sent her a text that read something like this:

1. I just raced 10k today; 2. My ITB is still screwy; 3. I'm on my second glass of wine. If you accept these preconditions and understand that I promise you nothing, I will gladly attempt to pace Alana for as long as physically possible tomorrow.

Given that auspicious pretense, I was pretty excited to discover that I didn't feel half bad when warming up along the HPU greenway before the 5k. Jordan and I made the trip up with our surrogate child Caitlin in tow, and in contrast to Saturday's monsoons there was nary a cloud in the sky on Sunday afternoon. The only fault to the afternoon's weather was a brisk headwind that made itself known on the backstretch and top of the first curve. I told Alana and her father Mark that I would run on pace for as long as I could but would step aside when I feared that I would cause the tempo to drag. They both seemed amenable to this plan, so we assembled near the starting line with about a dozen other girls and waited for our chance to toe the line. Wearing hip number one, Alana was situated in the corresponding lane. As a late addition to the field, I filed in on the far right of the starting line. Alana and Mark told me just before the start that she was planning to go out in 78-79 before settling into pace, so our positioning would work to my favor as I could allow her to dictate the tempo around the first turn before falling in front of her on the home straight.

From the gun, it was clear that no one wanted to go with us. Right on plan, I took my place in front of Alana about 150 meters into the race and led us through the first lap in 78. I could tell after this lap that the headwind on the home stretch would be more of a factor than I'd originally thought. Alana would benefit from having me to block her for a while, but I wouldn't be able to last very long. I could tell after the third lap that I wouldn't be able to maintain the current pace for much longer, so true to my word I stepped aside after successfully bringing her through mile one. In hindsight, I should've stuck around for a few more laps. I wouldn't have been able to maintain 80s, but I could've definitely still managed a few 82s and at least helped bear the brunt of the wind for a few more laps. Instead I switched into cheering mode and immediately began covering the infield to cheer for Alana at different points around the track. All alone for the duration, her splits began to lag through the middle section of the race before she put together a strong finishing kick and powered home in 17:06. The sub-17 clocking eluded her, but she still notched a PR and a definitive win in windy conditions. Oh, and for those of you who didn't catch it the first time, she's only in eighth grade. Amazing.

All in all, I was happy that I had a hand in helping Alana and even happier that I can apparently still run a sub-5:20 mile. After months of marathon training and less than groundbreaking workouts, I would estimate this is the fastest mile I've run since sometime last summer. Sad, yes, but I'll take the small victories where I can get them. More importantly, huge props go to Alana for her stellar race and to Jenna for hosting a flawlessly run meet.


Anonymous said...

Hey Meagan, just thought I'd check in on your website! Wow, that is ridiculously awesome for that girl! I second the whole "happy to run a 6:XX mile in middle school!"