The question to how the new addition to our family would impact my racing has been a more difficult question to answer simply because I haven't raced much. In my one attempt, a half marathon in May, things went exceptionally well. However, one instance doesn't make a trend. So heading into the Sebago Lake Olympic I wasn't exactly sure how I would hold up to the demands of racing. My training indicated that I was ready for a fantastic season, but transforming that into actual race results is a difficult task.
My biggest concern about racing with Kellan in tow was simply getting out the door on time. This race, in particular, caused some stress in that regard. We needed to depart by 4:15am which was a potentially tricky situation given that 12 week olds aren't always thrilled to be woken in the middle of the night (despite their willingness to wake others...). Fortunately, things worked out and we were in the car by 4:20. The hardest part of the day was over and the race didn't even begin for three hours.
Once at the race I started to get a bit nervous as I could not get myself warmed up. I felt sluggish and out of sync. My legs were unresponsive and I tried every trick in my book to change that, but nothing seemed to get me on track. It's not the first time this has happened so I wasn't panicked, but I was certainly aware of what was happening. I was fairly confident that when the gun sounded I would be fine, but it's always an unnerving feeling when this happens.
When the cannon sounded to signal the start of the race my concerns were not immediately eliminated. I quickly made my way into the second spot and began to pull away from the chase pack, but I was still not feeling as sharp as I'd hoped. I didn't feel bad, I just didn't feel quite right. Fortunately, I got glimpses of that elusive feeling throughout the swim so I knew it was there beneath the surface and I just had to access it. Despite my ongoing inner battle, I was putting big time into most of the field and exited the water in second place. By the time we'd made our way though transition I was within a few seconds of the leader.
|Exiting the swim with the lead in sight|
During the first two miles I made my way to the front of the race where I would stay for the duration of the 24.3 mile ride. The course at Sebago is one of the trickiest around. There's absolutely no way to get into a rhythm due to the topography. It's impossible to get comfortable or to establish any sort of consistency. This didn't bode well for me given that I was already feeling out of sorts. But I did my best to remain composed and set myself up for a solid run as it became apparent by the second half of the ride that this was going to be a two man foot race for the win.
|Riding my Parlee TTiR in the lead|
|The pieces started to fall into place in the late stages of the bike|
While I wasn't feeling amazing in the early and middle stages of the race I was feeling something more important: in control. I was both in control of myself and everyone else in the race. I was in charge. As if I was playing chess, I had the board set up to my liking and was ready to attack when the moment was right.
Exiting transition I had a gap of 15 seconds to second place. The gap beyond that was measured in minutes, though there were some very talented athletes in that group. I was a bit surprised to have broken the race so wide open on the swim and bike, but I was happy to be in that position.
Following with the theme set earlier in the day, I felt so-so during mile one of the run. But I wasn't concerned. I still turned in a sub 6:10 mile and was just cruising along. I did have company by that point, though. Second place, who I had an idea was a slightly slower runner than I, had caught me at around the half mile point, but he didn't make a pass. Again, I knew I was in control.
|This view didn't change for four miles|
We ticked off another mile at 6:10 but nothing eventful happened. It was too early to start messing around. We had reached the first turnaround by that point and knew we had approximately 3:30-4 minutes on third place meaning the winner would come from our little duo. The sharpness I was seeking early in the race had finally arrived and I was sure I was going to win. My legs were responsive and I had plenty of gas in the tank to make a decisive move later in the race.
|With 5k to go it was time to race|
We went through mile 3 in 6:03, though a portion was downhill. As we hit the turnaround to start lap two of the 2-loop out-and-back course I knew it was time to start racing.
We plodded along to a 6:20 partially uphill fourth mile, but this time it was eventful. Every time the road tilted upward I increased the pace slightly. Not much, just enough to do two things: first, I established control. I was making the moves. People generally break down mentally long before their body gives out and that was my desired outcome. I wanted him to know that I had him beat long before we ever saw the finishing chute. Establishing control did that for me. I also got to see just how responsive my running mate was. Should this thing come down to a sprint finish I wanted to know just how long it might take him to respond to any move. The result of these mini surges - if you can even call them surges - was exactly what I'd hoped for. I'd open a small gap with 10 strides and then settle back into our 6:10-6:15 baseline pace. Slowly he'd reel his way back to me. About the time he reestablished contact I would take 10 or so more strides at a pace closer to 5:40 than 6:10. Each time I pried the gap open a bit more. But I didn't put a final nail in the coffin right away. When I made that final move I wanted it to be decisive. I wanted his mind to know the race was over even if his body still had something to give.
|Opening a small gap a few minutes before making one final move|
That final move came at the aid station around the 4 mile marker. Aid stations are a personal favorite in terms of launching points for attacks. People are generally off guard and less likely to respond to moves at aid stations and I like to take advantage of that. So I grabbed a cup, but I didn't actually drink from it. Rather, I increased the tempo and dropped the drink on the road. At the same time I heard my running mate call out for water. This time the move wasn't 10 strides, it was 2 minutes. I didn't do anything crazy, but I did drop the pace to about 6:00/mile. All it took was that slight shift in pace to change the landscape or the race. Suddenly, I was alone and back to running those 6:10s I started the day with. I cruised through mile 5 feeling fantastic. The gap was large now - about 20 seconds - and continuing to grow. Mile 6 also felt good as I continued to put one foot in front of the other, extending my lead with every stride. Soon, with nobody in sight, I turned the the final corner, trading pavement for the beach.
As I neared the finish line I looked desperately for Eileen and Kellan. Since learning Eileen was pregnant I've wanted to win a race with my son in my arms and now I had the opportunity. Fortunately, they were at the start of the finishing chute and I had plenty of time to stop and make the handoff. I quickly found that running with a baby in my arms is more difficult that I'd imagined. So my celebratory stroll to the finish was more of a walk than a run. But I didn't care. The time on the clock didn't matter. I'd crossed first and I'd done so with my little buddy in my arms.
|The slowest, but sweetest finish line crossing of my career|
|Finally got him to his preferred spot on my shoulder|