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 mile..so 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 training..so 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!!

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