If There Were Only Such Thing As Moral Victories…

Well, in one sense I guess you could say mission accomplished (and then some).  In one sense it wasn’t.  It definitely wasn’t fun, and I can’t say I will be in any hurry to try this distance again anytime soon, but I survived and ran what I wanted to run.  I should have wished for 8:57.00 though.  8:58.03, was unable to grab the gold as I was outlasted by one of the “new guys” to my age group,  Jeff Scott.  My age-old unanswerable question/dilemma was revisited – would you rather run a good time or win?  As my daughter once said when asked if she wanted ice cream or a cookie – “I want bofe”.

A little travel drama getting to Bloomington, I ended up hitching a ride down from Indianapolis with Lance Elliot as my wife’s flight was delayed out of Harrisburg Friday morning.  I left the rental car for her at the airport and headed south with Lance around 1pm.  We got checked in at the hotel where we both were coincidentally staying, then eventually made our way over to the track.  The facility at Indiana University was nice – a banked, 6-lane mondo track with some decent space to warm up indoors, even though you didn’t really need it since it was probably 70 degrees outside.  The meet was already going when we got there, but had started to fall behind schedule early so we ended up going off almost an hour late.  No big deal, although the whole eating and warming up schedule was thrown off a bit.  I’m sure it was the same for everyone else in the field, so I can’t say that it really mattered in the grand scheme of things.  We were eventually led to the track around 7:15pm along with the M30-35 field as well as the M35-39 crew (as expected).  All together there were probably about 15-18 of us that finally toed the line.

I figured with a field this big there surely would be a couple of us planning on running around 9:00 pace or better.  At the gun one runner took an early commanding lead and I settled in for a 36 second lap in 4th place.  I remained here for another lap and a half, on pace, before moving into second and gradually catching up to and latching on to the early leader.  He and I (mostly he, since I wasn’t doing much of the work) started banging out the laps almost right on pace.  A tiny bit slow through the first 1000m (3:01.5) and about 3 seconds slow through the mile (4:51.0).  At this point each lap started to become more and more of a chore.  I was mentally searching for any way possible to make myself think that it was almost over, usually without much success.  15 laps is a truckload – I just recently come to terms with the 8 lap mile.  With a government education I have a hard time even counting to 15 without taking my shoes off.  Through 2000m in 6:02 as the laps started to pick up a little bit.  With 4 laps to go I started to consider how I was going to get from his back shoulder to his front one for the finish – even though the pace was definitely taking its toll on me, once or twice each lap I would almost break stride as I would run up on him a little bit.  I certainly didn’t have to hold myself back, I just think that the pace, even after 10+ laps, was slower than I am used to.  With 2 laps to go I was hanging on for dear life, could tell from the race clock that we were back on 9:00.00 pace…

The last lap brought back memories from the 2010 Hartshorne Mile where I made a dramatic, delirious finish, the only difference was this time there was no dramatic, delirious finish.  I would recount what happened over that final circuit if I had any memory of it – I think the legs and lungs were on cruise control as my brain shut down.  It was everything I could do to keep contact with the leader, who closed gallantly and never let me put any sort of run on him.  He ended up extending the lead a couple of meters to finish a little less than a second ahead of me.  Wanting to have my cake and eat it too, I was left with only the cake.  8:58.03 – goal time met, first loser medal in my pocket.

The aftermath was not pretty.  If I wrote a couple of months ago that a hard workout on the bike was the hardest thing I had ever done, I lied.  I don’t think I could see for about 5 minutes after this race was over, breathe for about 10 minutes, stand up for about 15 minutes, feel normal for probably an hour.  Ugh.  I know my dad will say he’s heard this before (2008 Harrisburg Half Marathon, a vow which I have since gone back on), but I will never do that again.  I have never run an 800 or mile where I have been so debilitated afterwards – it hurts to even write about it…

When all is said and done, I can’t complain.  I was not only beaten, but by the guy who did all the work – Jeff definitely earned it.  In hindsight (being 20-20 of course), maybe I should have taken the lead with 4-5 laps to go and maybe let myself run a little ‘free-er’.  At the time I thought that if I took the lead I wasn’t going to shake him, just allow him to ride me and set me up for his finish.  Oh well – I’m not worrying about it because it’s obviously water under the bridge.  Turns out that the time is a Greater Philly club record, so I have that going for me, which is nice…

I was going to wait until this afternoon to see how I felt for today’s mile, but seeing how I got exactly 0:00 hours of sleep last night the odds went from low to lowerest.  Will try for a mid-morning nap, but taking the day off then coming back tomorrow for the 800 may be the best plan.  Walking around this morning I didn’t actually feel too bad, so that’s a promising sign.  If I don’t race I’ll probably just go get in an easy warmup to try to keep the legs from tightening up, then get ready for tomorrow.  For now, I will wear my medal with pride (not really, I like it and all but it isn’t really my thing to wear medals), and be satisfied that I got my “been there, done that, broke 9 flat” performance.  Now if I could only go sub 4:00 in the 1500…

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 Competitive Races, Hartshorne Mile, Running, Tempo Run, Track Sprints, Training for Runs, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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