Monday, March 15, 2010

RR - Live Oak, FL

Race Report
Sun, Mar 14/10
Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch Marathon
Live Oak, FL
Marathon #327
3:47:15 – 2nd OA

I didn’t have a race planned for mid- March since my hometown marathon got cancelled. I was actually planning to key on the Sarasota Marathon to regain my AG title but that plan vanished with the cancellation. I boycotted the Half-marathon because of the exorbitant fee ($75) and looked for another race. I found a small inaugural marathon being run in Live Oak, FL to support the Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch. We had driven by Live Oak many times but had never explored the area so we decided to make a weekend trip and run the new race.

It was a longer-than-expected 4-hr drive north to Live Oak. We explored the small town (6500 residents) and then found the Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch – a ranch for troubled and neglected boys. It is a large ranch located on the Suwannee River in the boonies of North Florida – only 15 miles from the Georgia State Line. I had been informed that there would be a small turnout for the race but I was surprised that only 25 runners had registered for the races – only 8 runners in the marathon! I had a quick look at the course – a 6.55 mile loop on paved roads through and around the Ranch. There were at least 8 short hills – ‘gentle’ rolling hills in the loop –but we had to run 4 loops so you can do the math for total number of hills in the marathon! None qualified as BAH (Bad Ass Hill) but on the fourth and final loop those ’gentle’ hills didn’t feel so gentle anymore?

The race start had been moved to 7:30 am because of Daylight Savings Time and there were no street lights on the Ranch. The race started at an arena/corral in a field so we had to run a wee bit of cross country on each loop – and be careful where we stepped!

Pasta dinner was a disappointment as was the town of Live Oak. The only Italian restaurant in town was a Pizza Hut? And there wasn’t much entertainment either so we got lots of sleep before the race.
It was a chilly 43 F at 7 am as I drove back to the ranch in the dark. However the sun rose just before the start and the temps warmed up to a pleasant 60F by the end of the race. The humidity was low with a light breeze – i.e. perfect weather for running!

As mentioned the course was a 6.55 mile loop that was actually a trio of loops. This configuration made the race more exciting and challenging because you saw the small number of runners/competitors more often and could gauge your position in the race. I started out with a lead group of 5 runners and by the time we completed the 1st loop I figured the pecking order/positions for the race had been established.
A male runner in his 40s took the lead from the start – followed by another male runner in his 50s- followed by a young male runner in his 20s – then Maddog followed by a female runner in her 30s. At the end of the 1st loop (56:21 split for me) those 5 runners were all within 1/2 mile of each other with the rest of the runners spread along the course. By mile 9 or half-way through the 2nd loop I had determined that the very young male runner about 200 ft in front of me was the leader in the Half and I was not concerned about him. I mistakenly assumed that the female runner about 200ft behind me was also in the Half but I kept wondering why she wasn’t pushing harder to catch the male leader and win the Half? I could have easily pushed harder and passed the young male leader to win the Half?
When I completed the 2nd loop and the Half in 1:52:26 our positions had not changed. By then the leader had a 1-mile lead on me and the 2nd place male had increased his lead to ½ mile and I was pretty sure that would be the finish order unless one of those runners crashed – or broke a leg? Nevertheless I decided to continue to push the pace though the 3rd loop to run at least a fast 20-mile tempo run and then hang on as necessary for the 4th loop?

However as I climbed a series of rolling hills near 16 miles I was surprised to see that the 2nd place male had started to fade and I had closed the lead to about ¼ mile. I was even more shocked when I made a turn- around at 16 M in 2:17:27 to find the young female runner still riding my ass and only about 800 ft behind me? Obviously she was running the marathon. I was shocked – Maddog was scared shitless!
Maddog now had a double dose of motivation:
1) He could smell blood and a 2nd place Overall if he could pass the male runner who was fading
2) There was a female chasing his ass and about to pass him.
Now most of my readers know that Maddog is an old relic – a male, chauvinistic pig! In the good old days he would never- ever- let a female runner pass him or beat him. In the good old days he could do something to prevent that. However in the past few years he has had to eat a lot of humble pie and accept the fact that good old days are gone as he watches pretty young ladies pass his ass often and he cannot respond. Oh SHIT! I knew what was coming and I knew I could not stop it!

Maddog took over the race. He was determined – No – OBSESSED – that Hell would freeze over and he would run my tired OLD ass six feet into the ground before he would let that female pass him! There was no point arguing with him – I decided it was best to just relax and go along for the ride. Maddog lowered the hammer and dropped the pace to 8:30s. We caught and passed the 2nd place male near Mile 19. He asked me how old I was – he was 57! I made another turn and noted that I had increased my lead on the female runner. I completed the 3rd loop and reached Mile 20 in 2:52:16. I had hoped to ease back on the pace at Mile 20 and cruise the final loop but that was no longer an option since I was no longer in control of the race! Maddog kept pushing the pace. When I climbed the series of short hills and made the turn near 22 miles I noted that the female runner had also passed the 2nd place male – and had closed the gap down to about 500 ft! Damn that woman! Was she trying to kill me?

For I knew what was going to happen! Maddog was possessed and dug deeper and demanded that my old bod find some energy reserves to push the pace harder. I just kept my mouth shut and tried to shut down my brain so it could block/ignore the pain and agony that was sure to follow! When I made the final turn-around and passed mile 25 in 3:36:32 I was happy to see that my lead over the woman had increased again to about 1000 ft. I figured that lead should be safe because it would be very difficult to make up that distance in the final mile. But not Maddog! He wasn’t willing to risk a dramatic/heroic last-minute challenge and have that woman pass his ass in the last mile so he dug even deeper and screamed at my old bod to give one more jolt of adrenaline and somehow/somewhere found a small reserve of energy to push the pace even harder! Only when I made a final turn near 26 miles and stole a peek over my shoulder to discover that she had not closed the lead did Maddog ease back a little and let me cruise across the finish line in 3:47:15 – and 2nd place Overall. The young lady (38 years old) finished 90 secs behind me. I congratulated her on a great race and thanked her for riding my ass for 26 miles and making me push the pace. I also talked to the winner who strangely/coincidentally happened to be a Canuck from London, Ont?

I was very happy with both my time and performance on that hilly course. It should be great training for my next race in Washington State in 2 weeks. The Yakima Marathon is a fast downhill course with rolling hills and a couple of BAHs so hopefully this was a good training marathon?
And Yakima will be the last marathon I key on this season. Yes – you read that right and I ask all my readers to remind me of that statement/pledge. Thanks to smarter training I have remained injury-free since recovering from those mystery back injuries and I have no intention of going down that path again. Thus I need to ease back on my training and racing after Yakima. I am finally going to follow the wise advice of my good friend and mentor Wally Herman and ‘run for fun’ during the summer race season.
Wally will be very happy to hear this news!

Stay tuned!

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