Based on my recent run at Dublin, Mr. Mcmillan seemed to think I was in sub 22 shape, so 5:30s were the goal.
Got out for a three mile warm-up with Frank Antonelli and was back to the start area in time to play official photographer for Alistair's big race, which was a third of a mile from Oak & Mason, up to Mountain and then around to the finish on College.
We got to the start just as the gun went off, so Alistair (and Dana) had their work cut out for them from the get go. Undeterred, Alistair put in a strong run, munching up the competition as he went, finishing with a strong kick. We've been chatting with Alistair all week about the race, so he was pretty psyched to finally be running. He was a proud little chappy as he crossed the finish line, although I'm pretty sure he prefers trails.
Chatted with Steve Cathcart and Pete Stevenson at the start - about three deep - and got some form on the elite field. Nuta Olaru, Alisha Williams and Nicole Feest seemed like favorites in the women's field, while I can't say I recognized too many of the names Steve threw at me from the men's field. Turns out the speedsters were there in full force. In all, twelve guys would run sub-5:00 minute miles to finish under 20 minutes.
I was determined to go out at a sensible pace today as I have a terrible habit of gunning it from the start in shorter races, when the best strategy - for me - is to work up to my racing pace rather than working back to it. Far less stressful aerobically, and it so much better to be accelerating through the opening minutes than slowing through them.
Having learned at Dublin that elite women make good pacers, I settled in behind the lead pack of five ladies through the first mile (5:22), which felt pretty comfortable, and then coming to the turn into City Park just before the two mile I edged ahead of the lead ladies and settled into a good rhythm. I was running solo here with a large pack close behind and a sprinkling of guys within reach ahead. Second mile came in at 5:34, or 4 seconds up on the goal. I was still feeling good so kept the effort right there.
Soon after the start. I'm next to the kid in orange, already settled in behind two of the four women that would be in contention at the end. Alisha Williams foreground, Nicole Feest behind (412). Photo Sonja Wieck's father-in-law.
Coming down Mountain Ave. I could hear the pitter-patter of the women's race behind me, all the while getting updates from spectators as they cheered the lead action on. I picked up Frank pretty close to mile three, which split at 5:24 (16:22), and felt the girls getting closer. I knew they'd be kicking it in soon, as money was at stake, so I was debating internally if I wanted to be childish and try to out-kick them if it came down to it or take the more dignified approach and let them get on with it.
By Mason Road, maybe a quarter mile from the finish, Romanian Olympic marathoner Nuta Olaru made her move. It was pretty weak to be honest, but it was enough to get by me and also to string out the other two girls with five meters between first and third. Rounding the last turn onto College, I decided to accept my second chicking of the year and cruised to the finish. While I probably wouldn't have beaten the winner across the line anyway, I did have the fourth place woman sprint by me in the last ten meters. Doh.
How it shook out in the women's race, with me third white shirt back. Adriana Nelson (fka Pirtea), Nuta Olaru (2nd), Nicole Feest (4th) behind me, and Alisha Williams (3rd) on the fence. Photo Sonja Wieck's father-in-law.
My last mile was a 5:42, but the general consensus among GPS-carrying runners after the race was that mile three was slightly short and mile four slightly long, so those splits were probably more like 5:30 and 5:36, which means I ran a very evenly paced race.
It was definitely fun to get the pole position on the women's race, which was an absolute barn-burner. Adriana Nelson caught and out-kicked Olaru for the win, Olaru and Alisha Williams finished one second behind the winner in a photo finish and Nicole Feest was a second behind them. Phew! The winning time in the men's race was 18:52 by a guy from Alamosa called Aucencio Martinez - fast.
I finished two seconds over my goal in 22:02, which last year would have been good enough for pie, but with far more runners this year I had a feeling when I crossed the line that pie might be eluding me once again. I got to Old Chicago just at they were sticking the preliminary results on the window.
Second, 35-39! Ah, yes, the pie was mine.