Of goals and dreams

When I was a kid I played a lot of sports, not very well but I played them.  Soccer, basketball, baseball, football, street hockey, wrestling, and of course track and cross country.  I even did road races before I started running on a team in high school.  Like most kids when I played sports I thought about being the great players in those sports.  Larry Bird knocking down the game winning 3 pointer, Don Mattingly hitting the game winning homer, Marcus Allen running 98 yards for the game winning touch down… you get the idea and can tell what years I was a day dreaming kid.  I never gave any real thought to playing any of those sports professionally and my childhood day dreams were about being those famous people doing great things not of being a famous doer of amazing sporting feats in my own right.

When it came to running I didn’t know any of the great distance runners, I only new Carl Lewis or Edwin Moses.  This had an interesting effect on my running day dreams.  When I thought of running triumphs it was always me accomplishing them.  I remember lying in bed before track meets going over splits for my world record breaking mile performance.  I can not once remember thinking about what splits I might actually run, this is probably because I didn’t find it very interesting to think about running 72 second 400’s.

Over the last 20 years a few interesting things have happened to my day dreams, most of which I have while running alone on my easy days.  As a quick aside my wife thinks I have a problem because even when I’m running I think about running.  If I day dream about baseball I don’t think about being Derek Jeter, I think about being the surprise 36 year old spring training invite who makes the team and has a season for the ages.  Today when I day dream about running, I dream about doing very mundane things like running 5:08, 5:12, 5:08, 31 to break 16 minutes for 5k and set a new PR.  It must be a sign of growing up that while you hold on to your dreams, you hold even tighter to your goals.

Ed Erichson 5 Miler LaGrange, NY

My last post was about meaningless numbers.  Today’s meaningless numbers are .39 and 2.  The .39 (seconds) is how much faster I need to run to break 27 minutes, 2 is the place I got at the 2011 Ed Erichson 5 miler.

I have not had the chance to run this race in years.  It is in my old hometown, about a mile down the road from my high school and just a few miles from where my older sister now lives.  My dauger, my 2 nieces, and 1 nephew all have March birthdays so we all went to my sisters house for a giant b-day party which meant I got to attend the race.  The Mid-Hudson Road Runners club uses the course for 2 races, this one, and another on the morning of the Superbowl.  For the later they run the course the opposite direction which might be slightly faster because of the nature of the uphills.  Either way it is a reasonably fast course without any really tight turns and the 1 hill while long isn’t all that steep.

Ed Erichson Course

In past years this has not been that competitive of a race, with 29 minutes often being the winning time.  I was hoping for a deeper field this year, and I got it.  2 xc/track teams showed up, a local college team SUNY New Paltz, and a local high school team Dover.  I had no idea what to expect from the college runners, but I knew there had to be a few fast runners amoung them.  One seemed to standout during warmups, as he was running by himself looking serious while the other college kids just kid of plodded along joking with each other.

The race went off at 9 a.m. it was a cool 38 degrees and slightly breezy with overcast skies.  I immediately jumped behind the seriously looking college kid to let him fight the wind.  I did step out for the picture below which was about 500 meters into the race.

Sliding out for a photo op

As you can see a group of 4 of us opened a nice gap in the first few minutes.  The first mile felt fast but very controlled, we went through what I thought was the first mile mark in 6:18.  I knew there was no way that was correct and found out after the race from another runner in our pack that we went through the actual mile in 5:12.  There is also a 10 mile race run on this same basic course and those mile markers were 1,2,3, etc ours were Roman numerals I II III etc.  I figured this out when we got to mile 2, but at the time I had no idea how fast we had run the first mile.  The guy in the Warrior Track Club singlet is a senior at New Paltz College and he must not have been happy with the first mile split because he began to seperate from our little pack.  By mile 2 he had opened up a 10 second lead and I was still running with just one other guy.  I came through mile 2 in 10:37 a tad faster than I would have liked but not dangerously so.

What I didn’t know is that I had run the second mile 13 seconds slower than the first, and as I began to pull away from the other runners I assumed i was still running at a good pace.  It turns out I really dogged mile 3 in 5:39.  I was still on pace to break 27 minutes but I had to start picking up the pace.  The lead runner was now out of sight on the windy hilly roads, and I hadn’t heard any foot steps behind me for awhile but I pushed on up and over the last of the hills as best I could.  I passed the 4 mile mark with a 5:29 split in 21:45 (a 4 mile PR, not that I run many or any 4 mile races) and new I had to really bust it if I wanted to break 27 minutes.  The last mile is dead flat and with the wind, a 5:14 mile wasn’t out of the question and i started thinking I had a good chance of hitting my goal.

800 meters to go

Part of the problem racing with no one to race against is ignoring your watch, or at least it is a problem for me.  I kept looking down at my watch the last mile for some unknown reason.  It isn’t like there were 100 meter splits on the road, I don’t know what I expect to learn from nowing I had 3:12 seconds left if I wanted to break 27 minutes.  If I’m locked in a race with other people the last thing I am thinking about is my watch, but with the lead runner out of sight and no foot steps looming behind my mind kept turning back to the time.  When I finally came in sight of the finish line clock it read 26:48 and I was at a dead sprint.  This is the one part of the race where I can honestly say I could not have run any faster.  I crossed the chip mats just as the clock rolled to 27:00 and I jogged a few meters before hitting stop on my watch.  I knew I had PR’d by 6-7 seconds but it wouldn’t be until I finished my cool down that I learned I missed my goal by .39 seconds.  I ran 27:00.38 seconds.  I wonder how much time I lost glancing down at my watch that last mile?  I’m hoping only .37 seconds.

It was a very good day for the Perks family.  My Dad who is in the best shape he’s been in years won his age group 60-69 and beat his goal by well over a minute running 33:37.

Dad coming to the finish

My wife also ran a great race finishing 2nd in your age group 30-39 and running 38:50.  Which I think is remarkable considering she runs between 10-15 mpw.

Lisa coming to the finish

It was also of course wonderful to see all the aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, moms and dads, brothers and sisters for the birthday party.  I hope someday we can have 3 generations of Perks running in this race.  Full Results Here.

Meaningless Numbers

This Sunday I’m running the Ed Erichson 5 miler in my old home town of Poughkeepsie, NY.  Back in November I ran my 5 mile PR of 27:06 at in that same town, and I hope to better it by 7 seconds this weekend to run 26:59.  All I have to do is run this race 1.4 seconds per mile faster and presto a PR.  My training has been going well and I feel like I am in much better shape now than I was 3 months ago so this should be a slam dunk right?  Of course not.  So many things have to go right on race day, many of which such as weather and competition are completely out of your control. 

My current 5 mile PR was run on a 45 degree day in November with no wind, and I had someone to battle with for first place the whole race.  The weather should be fairly benign and the course is as flat as any 5 mile course in Dutchess County can be, so the main uncontrolable will be who else is in the race.  The key too good competition is to face runners just slightly better than you who on a really good day you can just squeek out a win over.  If they are too fast they either leave you in the dust from the start, or you blow up your racing trying to stay with them early on.  If they are too slow you may end up with a win, which is always nice, but it is hard to run your best time when you don’t really have to.  I know there are a few Poughkeepsie runners who can run just north or south of 27 minutes for 5 miles, the question is will any of them show up at this particular race?

All this writing about PR’s got me thinking about the nature of our running goals.  where do these times come from?  It always seems like we want to get just faster than the nearest even number for me that comes out to 4:29 for the mile, 15:59 for 5k, 26:59 for 5 mile, 33:59 for 10k 1:17:59 for half marathon, luckly I’ve already run just under 3 hours for a marathon so I can leave that one be for now.  Is it because we want to say “Yeah I’m a 15 minute 5k runner” or “Oh the mile? I run sub 4:30 for the mile.”  Never mind that we ran a 15:59… it is in the 15’s and that is good enough for us, who cares if we are putting ourselves in the same boat as guys who run 15:04 and are just hoping to shave those last 5 seconds so they can tell people they are 14 minute 5k runners.

When it comes right down to it, our PR’s are really only important to us (although our wives, or girlfriends may amuse us by faining interest).  We could just as easily pick times that corresond with signifigant numbers in our lives.  I could set my 10k pr at 32:54 because I was born in 1974 and 1974 seconds in 32:54.  As I look at my racing time goals for the year taped up on the all of my cubical at work I wonder if I shouldn’t change all those 9’s at the end to 4’s or 6’s just to mix things up a bit.

A Mighty Wind

Spring has yet to arrive in Rochester, and even though it wasn’t snowing during todays workout it was only about 25 degrees and the wind was at a steady 20 mph with gusts well over 30 mph out of the wnw.  Mike and I had a 4×1 mile workout planned on a 1 mile stretch of the Erie Canal trail which just happens to run east-west.  We knew from doing our warm up strides into the wind that it was going to be rough, but we had no idea how rough it was going to be.

We ran the first one with the wind and were flying along nicely until the final 100 meters when we hit a pack of ice and snow that had blown onto the trail forcing us onto a small rocky patch along the canal that had some traction.  Despite that little set back we managed a fairly easy 5:14 which we both agreed was really a 5:12 because of the slow down on the snow.  Our return trip took 30 seconds longer and that was with us switching every 400 meters to share the burden of breaking the wind.  I was not surprised by the slow time, but I was surprised at how hard it felt.

The next rep we really got moving and ran a 5:06 with the wind pushing us along.  You know it is windy when you are running 5 minute pace and you can feel the wind still shoving you along.  Even though we were just taking 90 seconds rest I was feeling pretty good as we turned to face the wind one last time.  The first 800 meters went nicely in 2:50 but then things took a horrible turn for the worst.  The next 3 minutes the wind was howling the kind of wind that just stands you straight up.  I felt like was I at a dead sprint the last 400 meters and we ran it in over 1:40.  When we finally finished I felt like I just ran up 100 flights of stairs.  I am certain had we run that hard with no wind it would have been well under 5 minute pace.

All this has left me dreaming of a warm calm day in May when I can get on a track!