1:57.07 – 5th – disappointing.  Brought a knife to a gunfight, spent the last 80 meters feeling like a little old lady in the slow lane of I-95 looking through the steering wheel at all the Ferrari’s flying by.  Thought tonite might be “the night”, but it turned out to be Neil Fitzgerald’s instead.  Don’t know why I tied up, but can probably take some guesses…

I really thought I was ready for this race to go fast.  With the solid 1500m 2 weeks earlier, and some good workouts the past month, I thought that my 800m PR (1:56.06) would be the next to fall.  The trials had gone fine, with Saturday night’s semi-final ending comfortably in 1:58.  I was seeded right in the middle of things, with 2 full days of rest.  Seemed like the perfect time and place to bust one…

Sorry General, but next time I summon Salazar...

Slept good Sunday night, dorked around all day on Monday to include an afternoon catnap.  Ate exactly what and when I wanted, got to the track in plenty of time without forgetting anything like I usually do.  I had been back and forth about how I wanted to run this race – from the front, from the pack, hard out of the gate, sit and kick.  I couldn’t decide, but knew I did not want to be buried when the action began.  Eventually decided to try to position myself 2nd or 3rd, on the leader’s shoulder so when people started to go I could control my own destiny and not have to hope someone in front of me would provide a lane.  Probably not a bad plan, but where I started down the wrong path was probably when I changed course while recalling some General George Patton memorable quotes – #1:
“Take calculated risks.”  #2: “In case of doubt, attack.”  And the kicker, #3: “As I walk through the valley of death I fear no one, for I am the meanest mother (you know what-er) in the valley!”  Seemed like a good idea at the time, last time I take middle-distance advice from a dead armor general though….

I honestly decided that if I ran my best, I was as good as anyone in the field.  I was not going to be reactive and risk missing the boat while running someone else’s race.  I obviously failed to recall the countless times (Hartshorne, Eugene, etc) that I doubted my tactic of driving matters until I died and handing the lead to the eventual winner.  So if nothing else I toed the line with the confidence that I had what it took to run what needed to be run to win.  I still think that, which makes re-running the race in my mind over and over again quite depressing.

I was in lane 4 for the start, and at the gun made a concerted effort to be towards the front at the merge.  I ended up on Brian Sax’s shoulder when everything settled in, went through the 200m in under 27 seconds.  Uh oh.  I stayed there for the duration of the time with the wind at our back, then at the 300m mark “Old Blood and Guts” grabbed his pearl-handled revolvers and, yep, you guessed it, to the lead.  “Hey everybody, free ride into the wind, All-Aboard!”  I saw 56 as we were going through the 400m mark, didn’t feel bad but knew that the first two splits were faster than I had planned.  I continued to lead until probably around 550m (coincidentally right where the headwind ended) when Mark Gomes passed me.  I tucked in behind him with the sole mission of hanging on.  I followed Mark for around 150 meters and onto the home stretch, where I called down to the engine room and demanded full power.  They all must have been on break down there because there was no other gear.  He was 3-5 meters ahead of me and there was nothing I could do about it, which is a crappy feeling.  At around the 50m to go mark the gang of smart studs roared by, the only positive at this point was that I had a pretty good seat for the exciting finish, had I been able to see out of my greying out eyeballs.  I dead-legged it across the finish line in 5th, 1:57.07.  Mission not accomplished.

Out too fast?  Probably.  Trials take their toll?  Possibly.  Taking the lead a bad tactic?  You could argue that.  Just a bad day?  Time didn’t stink, but if you would have told me ahead of time that I could take a 1:57 or roll the dice, I wouldn’t have hesitated for a second to have chosen the latter.  I don’t know what happened, probably never will.  Just like Eugene, the lost opportunity hurts more than getting smoked – I will never see a masters field of this quality ever again, let alone on the biggest masters stage.  If there was ever a time to throw down the race for the ages this was it, but I didn’t make it happen.  In an unofficial poll, 1 out of 1 people surveyed said that it is much funner to run well and win than spit the bit and come in 5th…

All this doom and gloom being said, however, life goes on.  Neil Fitzgerald (age 43 – tough!) ended up winning the race in the fastest masters performance I have ever seen.  He grabbed the bull by the horns and deserved to win.  The other three guys that beat me are all 40 years old, and all ran fantastic races themselves – Rich Tremain (Canada) and Brian Sax both broke 1:56.00, and Mark Gomes barely missed (1:56.20).  Hats off to these guys, will have to “get ‘em next time” I guess….

2011 M40 800m run results

The season is not over, the final two legs of the summer series have yet to be contested so I am hoping to finish on a positive note.  A week from today is the fun event, the Harrisburg Mile down Front Street of our state capital, or at least the capital of Pennsylvania until they decide to move it to a solvent urban center.  Then in another week and some change is the USATF Outdoor National meet in Berea, OH (Cleveland) – a little out of order being contested after the world championships, but it should still be a chance to race against some good competition and hopefully get a performance or two that I can take off into the sunset.

Don’t know how hard I am going to hit it between now and then, starting to feel the effects of the past couple months in some of my joints.  I know this week will be spent almost exclusively in the pool – going to allow the legs to get fresh and hopefully address a little of the soreness, all while still maintain my fitness as I give it a couple more shots.  Hopefully I can hammer out a couple tactical things – however if you see me breaking to the lead next week wearing an armored helmet with 4 stars on it you will know that you just can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

“The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.”   – General George S. Patton


About Nick Berra

I am a 45 year old masters runner from Central Pennsylvania. I have been participating primarily in track events since turning 40 in 2009. This season has produced marks that I have not run in several years, I believe primarily due to starting a strength and flexibility program here at Elite Athletic Performance - I've felt stronger and faster than I have in a long time. That, coupled with lots of underwater running, has kept me healthy and fit - at this age those are things I no longer take for granted... I run USATF events with a team out of Philadelphia, the Greater Philadelphia Track Club. They are a great group who have played a big part in making the sport enjoyable for me again. I also run local races for HydroWorx Track Club, supported by HydroWorx here in Harrisburg PA. Their underwater treadmills and training center has proved to be a crucial part of my training, rehabilitation, and recovery programs. I set personal records in the 800m (1:56.06) in 2010 and in the 1500m (4:02:63) and mile (4:23.48) in 2011. Despite the fact that I am not getting any younger, I nearly PR'ed recently and set the M45 indoor world record in the 800 meters at the New Balance Armory in New York City. I ran 1:56.10, besting the 9 year old record by less than a second. I feel like there are still more big things to come... I am married and have two daughters. I am an assistant XC coach at my alma mater, Cumberland Valley High School here in Mechanicsburg PA. I am also a 1991 graduate of the US Naval Academy, currently working as a pilot for FedEx after serving 10 years on active duty flying in the Navy. Beat Army! Beat Army!
This entry was posted in Aquatic Fitness, Competitive Races, Harrisburg Mile, Masters Running, Masters Track, Outdoor World Championships, USATF Outdoor Nationals and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to *$&^@^$!!!!

  1. Solid time and effort, so it can’t be too disappointing. Looking forward to the full writeup.

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