Back In The Saddle Again!!!

Well, what can I say? Our races went amazingly awesome! Thomas Hicks, Rob Hunter and myself drove to Richmond for the USATF Virginia Association Championships this past Saturday. Thomas just wanted to get in a decent race on the track before his upcoming surgery..he asked that Rob and I join him and we couldn’t refuse!

We are middle distance guys, it’s in our blood. Of course we do half marathons, marathons, the occasional ultra or trail race..but, deep down, the track is where we are most comfortable. None of the 3 of us have ran a race on the track in years (12+ for me), (19 for Rob) and (20+ for Thomas). We had some sort of idea where we might be in terms of fitness for the 1500m and 800m..but, I think we all totally shocked ourselves today.

To put things into perspective, Thomas, Rob and I own 4:12, 4:13 and 4:17 miles, repectively. Granted, none of us are near those times right now and in fact, we have been away from the track for A LONG time and would never have guessed we would even be in the ballpark of these times ever again.

But, just like an old race horse, you can take a miler off the track, but you can’t take the track out of a miler! No matter how long you get away from it, it comes back to you just like a long lost friend. Those 200 meter increments are burned into you psyche and your mind forever. Once you put those spikes back on, all bets are off…..I would even go as far as to say that the track and a good pair of spikes actually hold a bit of magic in them!

The last time I actually ran a competitive race on the track, I was 19, in the Navy and was running a 10k in Trieste, Italy, competing in the Warloard Olympics, a meet between all four military branches.

Since then, and only over the past two years, I have been doing marathons, half marathons, 5k’s, 10k’s, etc. I haven’t worn a pair of racing spikes since that summer day in Trieste, back in 2000.

I have recently ran some pretty big races (Boston, Shamrock, etc). Although I loved those races and although I was a bit nervous going into them, I never had that “butterfly”, “lump in the throat” feeling like I had today. At the starting line, I was so nervous and jittery, I thought I might have to run around the corner and puke before the gun went off.

First race on the agenda was the 1500m (a tad shy of a full mile). After a few strides and a few handshakes and “good lucks” at the starting line, the line judge brought us up to the line, fired his pistol, and we were off and running.

Not only did I not know who my competition would be (aside from Rob and Thomas), I had no earthly idea how fast I could actually run right now. Another runner took the early lead and I fell in right on his outside shoulder. For this race, I did not plan to race for time, I just planned to hang with the leaders and see what happened..If I fell apart, then so be it!

Though I use one for my training and longer races, I never once looked at my Garmin (I was wearing one) to check my pace or anything. I didn’t want any distractions or to let the pace on my Garmin dictate how I ran.

We came through the first 400m at 71 seconds, with the leader just slightly in front of me. In the back of my mind, I was hoping to be on pace for just under a 5:00 that first 71 seconds might be a bit too fast. But, as we went into the second lap, I was feeling really good and felt confident that I could hold pace.

I decided to sit on the leader until the 800m mark just to be cautious. Coming through 800, we were at 2:22. From this point, I realized I had plenty left in the tank and decided to just go for it and see what happened..I opened up a lead and just kept up the pace all the way until the finish. I was waiting for that too familiar lactic buildup to hit my legs, but it never happened. I felt relaxed and comfortable the entire time and in hindsight, I feel like I could have taken off a few more seconds from my finishing time. Finish time for the 1500 was 4:30 (equivalent to a 4:48 or so for the mile). Thomas put in a nice kick at the end to take 2nd and finish in 4:40, with Rob coming in 4th at 4:54..So HRR went 1st, 2nd, 4th in the 1500!! Nice work boys!

After the 1500, we got about a 20 minute rest. Originally, I hadn’t signed up for the 800m because I didn’t think I would recover in enough time to run it..But, the legs felt good and Thomas and Rob kinda guilted me into running it (glad as hell that they did, now).

Again, toeing the line, I had no clue what kind of pace I should run for the 800. But, considering we went through the first 800 of the 1500 at 2:22, I thought I could probably run a 2:15. After a brief set of instructions by the starting judge, we were called to the line and were off and running at the sound of the gun.

For the 800, I took a different approach..I figured I would just go out hard from the gun and see what happened. For this race, we had David Mick on site, calling out our 400m split (which he says was 61). The first 400m felt super easy, in spite of it being so fast…Personally, I really thought that I ran my second 400m faster than the first, but if David got the splits corrrect, I was 61 for lap one and then 66 for lap two to finish in 2:07. Regardless of the split accuracy, I was SUPER pleased with my finishing time…I had thought 2:12-2:15 was a BEST CASE scenario at this point in my to go sub 2:10, I was ecstatic..especially considering that I led from start to finish without any sort of push..Had I known I was running a 2:07 pace, I believe I may have been able to go 2:02 with someone setting the pace…But, I was pumped with my time and was really happy to see both Rob and Thomas go sub 2:20 (2:18 and 2:19 respectively). For the 800m, HRR went 1st, 2nd, 3rd!!!

So, in summary, some old milers got an opportunity to return to the track again to see what they were made of…None of us were close to our PR’s..but, we did surprise the hell out of ourselves and we did make a bit of a statement. We now have a good understanding of where we are fitness wise and we now know what we are capable of. With some speed specific training and some good workouts, we just may be encroaching on those old PR’s by the end of the year!

I can’t say enough how proud I am of Rob Hunter and Thomas Hicks! Despite all of Thomas’s setbacks, he became the Virginia state record holder for the 1500m in the 40-44 age group.

On a side note, I would like to share a funny story!

After our races, some guy (Reamus as it turns out), who finished just behind Thomas in the 1500, came up to us and told Thomas that “If I didn’t have a sprained ankle, I would have beaten you”…He actually said this about 5 times before Thomas turned to him and said, matter of factly “If I didn’t have a tumor in my lung, or MS, I would have ran faster too!!”…Gotta love that Ole Thomas Hicks!! LOL!

This return to the track got us all thinking again…It rekindled that old flame and we all have our hearts, minds, souls and bodies focused on chasing down some old ghosts, just to see what we still have left in the tank…Can we get those old PR’s?? Perhaps, perhaps not!! But, either way, we are going to put in the work and lay it all on the line…What will we do to achieve these goals? WHATEVER IT TAKES!!

La Vida Buena!

La Vida Buena (The Good Life)!

Yesterday was just one of those days, one of those AWESOME kind of days!! Crystle was out of town and in Rhode Island this weekend for her bridal shower…yep, yesterday marked exactly 2 months until our wedding. In 8 weeks, we will be heading to Rhode Island to get married in front of our family and friends. We have been together for going on 6 years now and this summer we will finally become husband and wife…it’s going to be an amazing day and she is certainly my best friend and biggest supporter.

So, with the oppurtunity to live the single life this weekend, what kind of fun and trouble was I going to get myself into? Well, it turns out that fun and trouble were in the forms of running and hanging with friends.

Got up early (5:00am) to start getting ready for the CHKD 8k at Waterside in Norfolk. It had been about 7 months since I last ran an 8k and this one was going to be with Team Hoyt. I hadn’t ran a race with Team Hoyt since the Boston marathon in April and I was really excited to be back doing what I love and being around our amazing riders and Team Hoyt family.

For this race, I got the opportunity to push Miss Bella, one of our amazingly beautiful (and sometimes sassy) rider athletes.

Going to the starting line of this race, I really had no idea what to expect in terms of pacing. I have been doing a lot of speedwork and short distance training and I had just done a hard workout on Thursday. But, as always when I push for Team Hoyt, I get a huge sense of motivation from the aura that our rider athletes emit. I won’t necessarily lay it all on the line for my own races, but when I get behind that chair, something comes over me and I am willing to bury myself to keep my rider smiling and having fun…Bella said she wanted to go fast and if that meant running until I fell apart, then so be it. I hold nothing back when I run for Team Hoyt and that wasn’t going to change today.

Normally, Team Hoyt runners/rider athletes get a “head start” on the rest of the race field. By getting a head start, it gives us a bit of time to get clear of the field and not have a massive pile up and traffic jam near the start line.

But, for this race, I wanted to start WITH the field so that I could help pace and run with some of my HRR buds. I spoke to Greg from J&A racing (the race director and timer) and asked him if I could start with the field instead of going out with Team Hoyt. He said it would not be a problem, so that is what Bella and I did.

So, at 7:30 am and 1 minute after the Team Hoyt start, Bella, myself and the rest of the field were off and running.

Initially, the plan was to go out around 6:10-6:15 pace, with a finishing goal time of  31-32 minutes. I was hoping to help pace several of the HRR boys who wanted to be in that window of time and I was hoping I could hang on the entire time and finish with them. Well, that plan dissolved pretty quickly..LOL!

From the gun, I felt really good and went out pretty quickly. After a really fast first half mile, Bella and I finally settled in behind Renee High, Steve Speirs and and William Tallent. The first mile we were at 5:48 pace! Much faster than the original plan, but, I decided to just hold pace and see what happened. Somewhere between miles 1 and 2, Steve and William started pulling away a bit, so I just ran along with Renee for a mile or so. Mile 2 was 5:48!

At this point, I was still feeling really good and was hoping to go top 10 overall. Looking ahead, I could see the runners I knew and the ones I knew I couldn’t catch. Clearly, I wasn’t about to catch Ryan, Caleb, Justin or Steve, but there were several other runners who I thought I might be able to pick off to get within that top 10 spot.

Mile 3 came pretty quickly and looking at the splits, we came through the 5k right at 18 minutes. It was right around this point that we finally reeled in the number 10 and number 9 runners (if I had counted correctly). Turning to look over my shoulder, it didn’t appear that anyone else was moving up on us and at this point I figured that if we could just maintain pace and hold steady, we would finish in our current position.

Mile 4 was kinda a blur. We weren’t passing or getting passed, so we were more or less in solitude since there isn’t much crowd support in the areas between miles 3 and 4. Now, with just under a mile to go, we were turning and transversing our way through the streets of downtown Norfolk. Up ahead I could see Steve Speirs and two other runners. Steve and one other guy were too far ahead to worry about, but runner # 3 looked like he was fading a bit, so with a half mile to go, I tried to run him down, but ended up running out of real estate..Closing with a fast half mile, Bella and I crossed the finish in 29:30, was 9th overall and 1st in the age group!

I was really happy with this race and with the time that we finished at. Normally, my shoulders and upper body get really tired from pushing…but, with all of the swimming, core and strength training that I have been doing, the upper body fatigue was never a problem this time. This has been something I have been working on for awhile I am very please with that.

So, aside from what Bella and I accomplished, there were also many great races ran by my fellow training partners and Team Hoyters’. Several PR’s were set and there were several top 3 finishes and AG awards won.

Just to name a few, HRR put 6 guys in the top 25, with 4 of them going sub 31:00. Congrats to William Tallent (2nd in AG), Logan Johnson (3rd in AG), Kevin Kemp and David Mick (5th and 6th in age group) and Thomas Hicks (1st in AG). Also great job to our top HRR female, Ruth Almeida (1st in AG)

Also a shout out to some of my other frequent trainer partners and friends, Renee High (1st overall female), Kris Lawrence (2nd Overall female), Ryan Carroll (1st overall male) and Steve Speirs (5th overall and 1st place Masters).

Another JOB WELL DONE goes to Marc Leber and his mother Andrea Leber! They both recently become members of Team Hoyt and they pushed together in their first race and did AMAZING!! Great job Leber family!

So, with some good racing behind us, what else was I to do with my day? I know, how about a BEACH BASH!! Later in the day would be the annual HRR Beach Bash.

This annual event always proves to be fun and full of laughs. With many new members having joined since last year’s bash, we had 115 runners RSVP’d. With some great leg work and organizing done by Thomas Hicks, David Phillips and Aric Martinez, we had a DJ, lots of good food and drinks and a great, great time!!

For 4 hours from 2-6pm, there was laughing, swimming, good times and even a Hoola-Hooping contest, which I think I won, even though there was no official award presentation 😉

So, with the weekend coming to a close, I am just sitting here, waiting to go and pick up Crystle from the airport. Though I wish she could have been here to share this great weekend, I had a lot of fun thanks to great friends, great racing and great times.

Sometimes I don’t think my life could get any more perfect (unless I won the lottery of course)! Take a look at the photo gallery to get an idea of this fun filled Saturday!

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