Saturday, May 12, 2012

Marblehead Beach to Beach 5k

3 mile w/u + strides
Target: win, have fun
Actual: 17:17, 1st female

When Jordan and I found out that there was a 5k taking place in Marblehead this weekend--on the very streets we run almost every day, no less--it seemed only fitting that we both participate. For him, it would be a very relaxed, pressure-free way to ease back into racing after months of injury and resultant lack of fitness. For me, this would fulfill the requirement of one last hard tempo before next weekend's NB Twilight 10k. And, given that we'll be moving from this quaint oceanside hamlet in just a few weeks, neither of us could think of a more appropriate way to bookend our season here.

After an entire week of thoroughly craptastic weather, I was thrilled to awaken on Saturday to brilliant blue, cloudless skies and glorious sunshine. Jordan and his mom left the house early to meet Huub at Devereux Beach, the start and finish site for the race. We've run by this beach, which sits just on the mainland side of the causeway that leads to the Neck, easily a hundred times but have never stopped to hang out. Today we'd not only be racing, but also spending some quality time displaying the Karhu Originals Airstream and selling some product after the event. Around 8am, I departed on foot to take advantage of the race's proximity by getting a head start on the warmup. I was borderline giddy thanks to the gorgeous weather and the prospect of a such a fun beginning to the weekend, a mood that continued to blossom when I arrived to the beach and found the Karhu Airstream already buzzing with energy. At this point there was just enough time to pin on my number, jog a few more warmup minutes with Jordan, and avoid the lines by seeking out the secret construction site port-a-potty (an underrated benefit to having run this route so many times before). Lining up at the start with a few hundred other walkers and runners, it became apparent that this was a decidedly low-key event. Now don't get me wrong, Jordan and I fully realized--and appreciated--from the outset that there would be no fanfare, no extravagant prize purse, no expectant race photographers there to capture the moment. What we didn't expect, moments before the gun (read: woman shouting into a bullhorn) sounded, was for said woman to lean over to Jordan and say, "Hey, you look pretty fast. You're probably going to win. Do you know the course? Because everyone's going to be following you." And so that is why, had you been at the starting line at 8:59 and 32 seconds, you would've seen Jordan frantically studying a printed race map in a valiant attempt to commit the course to memory because, in her words, "everyone was counting on him."

Given that auspicious beginning, would it surprise you to learn that there were no mile markers? I didn't think so. Since I don't own a Garmin, I was pretty much running on feel from the gun, er, bullhorn. What with my generally lackadaisical approach to the morning's activities, I didn't really mind. The first mile was contained completely within the several block radius between Devereux Beach and the usually busy Atlantic Avenue (oh yeah, did I mention no road closures?), which meant we had to navigate about half a dozen 90-degree turns within the first five minutes. I found myself surprisingly close to Jordan and his small group of cohorts when we finally turned back onto Beach about a mile in. At this point, passing by the start and finish area as we crossed the causeway toward the Neck, I was feeling pretty super. And why wouldn't I? The sun was shining, the wind was at my back, my biggest fans (namely Huub, his girlfriend Anne and Suzanne) were cheering raucously for me, and the terrain was almost perfectly flat. I'd traced this path countless times before on morning runs, evening runs, fartleks and tempos, and I felt perfectly relaxed and at home. Admittedly I had no idea what pace I was running, but I knew I could maintain the same effort for another 10 minutes or so with no problem.

The Saturday morning view from Devereux Beach
Once we finally bridged the causeway and reached the Neck, I could sense a male runner coming back to me. Since I didn't really have any other tangible motivation to push the pace, I resolved to hunt him down. Shortly thereafter we took a sharp left and I silently rejoiced that we'd totally avoided all of the Neck's trademark hilly sections. That is, until about 50 yards later, when we took another left onto a neighborhood side street and immediately faced a sharp, steep incline. I was still gaining on my target, but I was also beginning to tire. Once the hill was conquered and we returned in the direction from which we'd come, I was immediately hit by the force of the Neck's other trademark: a stiff headwind. By now I've conditioned myself to ignore the seemingly incessant gusts that exist on this direction of the causeway, but apparently that's not possible when you're actually trying to run some semblance of a fast pace. My target was obviously struggling as well, and with about 800 meters to go I passed him definitively--or so I thought. Do you remember the 2007 Chicago Marathon, when Adriana Pirtea celebrated down the finishing straight while Berhane Adere swings wide and stealthily passes her? Well, I wasn't high-fiving but he was definitely trying to sneak by on the outside. Tragically, he mistimed his kick and went out with a whimper instead of a bang, sputtering to a near-stop less than 200 meters from the finish. Sorry, sucka. I crossed the line in 17:17, about 70 seconds after Jordan. A double Kinlo victory! Overall, we couldn't have asked for a better start to the weekend.