Wednesday, June 17, 2009

suffolk county community college 50k: race report

after a nice sunny day on saturday - and no clue about the impending weather change, i woke up sunday morning to the awful sound of rain outside my window! the prospect of running the suffolk county community college 50k in these conditions was demoralizing! the drive down to selden, where the race would finish on the campus of suffolk community college (one of its three locations), was equally dispiriting. emmy and i drove through pocket after pocket of rain showers, and arrived just as it quieted to a light drizzle.

there was still plenty of time for the rain to "go away" since a yellow school bus ride to the riverhead campus of the college was up next. on that final leg of the trip, to the start in riverhead, the rain eventually stopped (and was replaced humidity). despite the dreary grey skies, humidity and wet conditions, i was pretty upbeat. i love point to point courses and, if the weather held out, it looked to be a great event. there was a relatively large field for the event, just about 80 participants! my only time goal was a sub-4:30 finish.

i started off wearing my windbreaker (which i had taken with me for the bus ride), and wore a water belt (which would remain unused), and packed my ipod. within a half mile of the start, my windbreaker was wrapped around my waist. i ran with about half a dozen runners that included phil, byron and the eventual woman's winner. up ahead, and quickly pulling away was rudy, and behind him was a pair of college kids. by mile 3, byron took off to catch rudy. by mile 5, after we had turned off the long stretch of route 51, i fell off the pace and lost most of the pack.

there were no mile markers on the course, but since most aid stations were roughly 3 miles apart, i gauged my pace roughly aid station by aid station. the more important factor, however, was the course direction arrows marked on the ground. they were plentiful during the first half. but, unfortunately, during the last third of the course, they became scarce. luckily, the few out there were always present at critical junctions - namely most major road crossings.

at the 4th aid station, just after 9 miles - and before the first major road crossing (route 111: captain daniel roe highway) - it began to rain again! after i crossed the highway, i stopped to put on my windbreaker and ran the next mile or so in that flash rain squall. after the second major highway crossing (the long island expressway), i took off the windbreaker and would no longer need it. the upside of this rain was that it took away the humidity! the next few miles were perfect, weather-wise.

i reached the 6th aid station (which was just past mile 15; according to a runner w/a gps it was 15.3 miles) in just over 2 hours (2:01:54). that pace (at practically the half-way mark) would bring me in well under my goal of 4 and a half hours. during the preceding hour i had passed one runner and caught up to another. just after that aid station i fished out my ipod and started listening to phil lesh and friends (jones beach, summer 2007). i started with "sugar magnolia" and headed for the next aid station, somewhere in mile 18.

it took 28:14 for me to reach it, running at what was probably a sub 8:30 pace for the 3+ miles. the next stretch, to aid station 8 at just past the 21st mile, included some dramatics - both mental and physical. on the physical side, i ignored the flashing red lights, stopped traffic - and barriers - to rush across a set of train tracks. the train was far enough away that it didn't worry me - but definitely don't try that stunt at home (i'm a professional)! on the mental side, i had entered into the land of sparsely populated course markings. this one little thing would gnaw at me for the remainder to the race!

i reached the 8th aid station at 21 miles in 24:46:43 - i had dropped my pace down to the low 8's for that stretch. at this station a runner was on his cell phone asking a friend to pick him up. i was glad that the race had now shorten to just 10 miles. my pacing was thrown off a bit when the next aid station arrived at mile 23 (instead of the expected 24). it only took 19:54 to reach it (well short of 3 miles). it also ushered in the biggest climb of the race, tucked away in mile 24. that stretch was one of the low points of my race!

i needed a solid 30:06 to reach the next aid station (#10), which was also marathon mark (26.2 miles). my 3:44:55 marathon split worked out to an 8:35 pace. i had 45 minutes to run the final 5 (4.9 actually) miles and finish under 4:30 - very doable. to increase that likelihood, i switched from phil lesh and friends to a slightly more driving sound - green day! and, little did i know it, but there was just one more bit of drama lurking on this final stretch of the course!

as i made the right turn on to horseblock road, a bunch of teenagers on bikes were taking power aid bottles from the unmanned aid station! off came the headphones and i started lecturing (hectoring, better word choice given my anger) them about stealing stuff. they were hardly moved, and just rode (slinked) away on their bikes. the unintended consequence of that little tet a tet was an unplanned adrenaline rush. coupled with green day's "know your enemy" blasting on my ipod, i practically sprinted to the finish line!

i ran that last 4.9 mile stretch in 39:20 - an 8:02 pace. i finished in 4:24:15, an 8:30 pace, seventh place overall. after chit-chatting w/rudy for a while (he came in second, behind byron, and phil was third) i changed into dry clothes and took pictures of my friends finishing - and at the bbq! the grey, wet skies that had started off the day had been replaced by sunshine! a great end to the race!

here are my race photos.

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