Drake Details

Drake Relays 2012 is in the books, there was obviously no “three-peat” in the cards as I was out-dueled by Lance Elliott.  It was a fun event as usual though, so although neither the result or the time was what I had hoped for, I’m glad I made the trek out there for the third consecutive year and unless something changes I’ll plan on going back again in 2013…

As for the day – at least it didn’t (really) rain.  The days started pretty early.  I got up at 4:55am, to the airport parking lot by 6:00, plane in the air at 7:30.  Got to Des Moines about 4.5 hours later, to the track with almost 2.5 hours to spare.  I warmed up in the field house and a little bit outside, getting a taste of the wind that would be one of the days challenges.  The phone weather app said 20mph, gusting to 28mph, which felt about right.  The good news was that it wasn’t straight down any long stretches of the track, more into the face of the first turn and a quartering headwind down the final straightaway.  It did add a dimension of strategy to the race though, because with a bunch of evenly matched guys all you wanted to do was be the one acting as the ‘barn door’ into the lovely midwestern breeze

Drake University weather observation:  windy

Standard drill getting marshaled and led to the track – Drake officials have always been very organized and very nice.  The whole Drake Relays experience is just like Penn Relays, only without the chaos.  Everything is half-scale, calm, and very Iowan – unlike the Franklin Field’s carnival, at Drake it just seems like you can stop and smell the proverbial roses if you wanted to.  At Penn that’ll get you tazed.  Part of that chaos is what makes the Penn Relays great, so having been to both on several occasions now I can see how each one is so revered in their own sort of way.  Anyway, I digress…

Got to the track then up to the line.  “Only” 24 runners this year, as opposed to 30+ last time out.  I only knew about a half-dozen of the guys from the circuit or past races, could tell there were a handful of guys who definitely looked like they were new to the age group (youngsters – 40 or so).  You never know which one(s) of these guys have been waiting to hit the magic age to come out and show off their young fresh legs.  I was wearing hip number 5, right next to the two guys who I knew would be threats – David Nash and Lance Elliott.

At the gun we took off right into the wind, so no advantage for anyone because nobody was crazy enough to try to do anything other than survive the flood of bodies that broke at the gun.  I stayed out in lanes 2 and 3 through the turn to avoid any trouble, eventually made my way to the rail down the backstretch in the number 2 position behind a young looking guy who started just inside me.  I was more than willing to let him take it out, through the 200 in about 30 seconds according to the scoreboard clock.  Right about then  Nash passed me on the outside and closed the gap on the leader.  If I was willing to let the new guy go, it was even better in my mind to be sitting in third with an eye on one of the guys I was worried about.

We stayed 1-2-3 down the home straightaway, was nice to have some bodies between me and Hurricane Des Moines.  We went through the quarter at about 60 seconds, which was right where I had hoped to be.  Nash passed the leader around this point, so I stayed with him through the brutal headwind turn.  I felt ok, and tried to relax down the backstretch as I could feel the lactic acid starting to build up.  When we got to the 600 mark (maybe 1:31.00?) I started running through all the possibilities how this was going to finish – when do I “go”?  Decisions, decisions.  I stayed on his shoulder in the outside of the lane through the turn, and could hear the PA announcer belting out who was in 3rd, 4th, 6th, etc – I could hear him announcing Elliott’s position, but I had no idea if 3rd was right behind me or way behind me.  Too bad the jumbotron wasn’t fired up like last year and I could have seen Lance in my hip pocket – instead he was lurked, totally unbeknownst to me…

I moved outside and then past David Nash at the 100 meter to go mark.  I think I passed him fairly decisively, and felt like I was operating in space as I got to the midway point of the final straight.  I honestly thought that I was holding my pace, and that as long as I didn’t rig up I my finishing pace would be too much for someone else’s kick to overcome. Wrong-o.  With about 40 meters to go I had company – Lance Elliott moved into my periphery and then passed me.  30-20-10m to go, although I felt like I had “stopped the bleeding”, I couldn’t make up a single inch on his lead.  With a couple of meters to go I contemplated the desperation dive, but had a hard enough time even putting one foot in front of the other let alone launching myself like a middle-aged superhero through the air, past the race leader, and across the line.  That, plus the fact that my dad always said sliding into first base was stupid – the dive plan seemed to be the track equivalent.  I just couldn’t get past him, and even though we both leaned across the finish line almost simultaneously I could tell that he had me.  Sure enough he did, as the FAT scoreboard showed 2:01.88 to 2:01.95.

2012 Drake Relays Masters 800m Run

Not that I was rooting for him or anything, but if someone had to win other than me I was glad it was him.  I have become good friends with him over the last 15 months, and know that this meet has special meaning to him as he’d run (and won) here in high school and college, and he had a big gang of family and friends that came out to support him.  He ran a great race and deserved the win.  The masters track web site said that he “upset” me – he is “only” 41, and after running very well last year despite being injured, I think that like Mark Gomes last year he will be one of the new guys in the age group that will be heard from for a long time to come.  I don’t think that I have anything on him, so to say that I would be “favored” over him doesn’t give him the credit he deserves (and may be a little generous on my part).  If I am able to hang with him as he continues to get better and better I will consider myself lucky and in good company.  Hopefully we can get together at outdoor nationals or somewhere else down the road and get under the 2:00 mark like I know we can – we need to get David Nash under there too to keep his amazing streak of sub-2:00 years alive.  28?  29?  Unbelievable.  I am at 3 and counting….

Got home without much difficulty, have to admit it was a long day though.  45 minutes in the pool on Saturday, took Sunday off.  Had a fun evening watching the kids run in their spring kids XC series, then dinner with my parents.  My dad going out of commission tomorrow as he officially retires the most used and abused knee in the history of 1960’s football ACL surgeries – knee replacement surgery Monday afternoon so hopefully that will go well and he will regain some of those hops he used to have back in the day (waayyyy back).  I anticipate going long tomorrow, getting back on track and plotting out a plan for the next 4-8 weeks.  I don’t know where my season is going – track or roads, long or short.  Beautiful thing is that fact doesn’t bother me one bit – I’ve figured out over the last two meets (nationals and Drake) that my lack of focus is probably costing me a little bit, but I think my overall fitness is pretty decent so if I can target a couple dates and get more dedicated to the track workouts I think I can get myself fine-tuned pretty quick to hopefully drop the times and maybe move up a step on the award stand.  There’s only been one step between me and the top the last three races, but it’s the biggest one and I don’t think the guys that have been standing up there are in any hurry to invite me to take their spot….

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, Drake Relays, Hydrotherapy, HydroWorx Exercise Pool, Running, Track Sprints, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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