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race photo 1The 2013 Colder Bolder is hard to forget with its brutal conditions.  It set the record low with below zero temperatures.  This year’s race though will stand out for me as much more memorable.  I haven’t raced like this in decades.  This is what I remember.

I purposely maintain a slow pace the first half mile.  I accelerate to my normal pace after that, sans oxygen debt. I not only pass countless runners, I do so with strength.  I find myself in several short races as younger runners try to fend me off.  I get a little winded myself trying to hold off a CU Cross Country runner who passes me around the two mile point.  Either he started off crawling, or he launched in the wave 90 seconds behind mine.  I recover along Broadway and launch into a long half mile kick to the finish.  If you click on the photo below, you can see the fatigue in my face after yielding to the cross country runner.

recovery after racing CU XC runnerI begin my kick with a bold surge through the hairpin turn at Broadway and University Ave.  I hope runners behind me are taking notes.  Before the turn I swerve wide to the left.  I then launch into the right-hand turn at a smart angle enabling me to accelerate through the curve, while others lose their momentum.  This helps me to pass a handful of other runners as there is also a short hill just after this turn – heading toward Varsity Lake.  With a half mile remaining, optimizing this curve isn’t critical, but it gives me more than momentum.  Like jumping off the ledge, I’m both emotionally and physically committed now to accelerate to the finish line.

bridge over varsity lakeAfter the hairpin, the guy wearing the blue shirt in this photo, 19 year old Audi Li, matches my stride as I surge past him.  He even tries to retake me but I demonstrate my ability and willingness to run as fast as he wants.  Although quite frankly, I’m a bit surprised he is so eager to start sprinting this early.  I discover why as we cross the bridge over Varsity Lake.  He is positioning himself for the cameraman on the far side.  He doesn’t want me blocking his photo.  He doesn’t seem to mind blocking my photo though.  I maintain my lead over him out of spite.  He fades behind me after we pass the photo shoot.  My pace drops off very little and I keep passing runners along Pleasant St., next passing Alex Leslie in the orange shirt.

Pleasant StreetI don’t know it yet, but Alex never really fades away.  He stays right on my heels for an imminent showdown in the field house.  31 year old Katie Hoyt and 11 year old Griffin Beggar are racing each other in front of me, obviously on their kick.  My money is on the older lady to beat the boy.  I strategically, almost recklessly, pass them just before the turn into Balch Field House.  Nearly as sharp as the hairpin turn earlier, I need to pass them to obtain the angle required for this speed.  The volunteer road marshal manning this entrance nearly panics thinking I’m out-of-control and can’t make the turn.  I make the turn.

field house kickI’m happy taking this pace to the finish but am determined to hold off that girl and little boy if they come after me.  I imagine they might be upset with me cutting them off.  Instead, 19 year old Alex Leslie rockets past me like a screaming comet.  Prepared to fight off the other kids, my legs are primed to respond and I close the gap.  He immediately surges back ahead of me by a full stride.  I never intended to sprint this fast.  My mind considers the risk of injury but my heart is in this race and makes the call.  I pull even with Alex again.  Only momentarily though as he surges ahead to cross the finish line in front of me.  Little Griffin finishes two seconds behind me, likely fueled by his anger with me cutting him off before entering the field house.  Audi Li finishes another nine seconds behind Griffin.

field house kickI rarely kick.  I mostly run marathons and half marathons.  What’s the point?  In fact, sometimes I purposely slow down the final half mile to cool down.  But wow!  This entire kick from Broadway to the finish line was a total blast.  I feel like a kid after this.  Even though I actually lost at the end, I’m ecstatic from the experience.  Although it also helps to know from the race results that I beat Alex by one second chip time.  We’re the first anomaly in the results where my time is faster than the runner who places ahead of me.  I’m 49th and Alex finishes 48th out of 1556 runners in the open division.

kick 3I like this final shot because if you click on it, you’ll see we are both airborne.  I still won’t consider sprinting balls out like this in longer races, but I might add more 5Ks to my racing season.  The kick is an intense microcosm of racing.  A chance to relive my youth.  Sprinting to the finish line is throwing caution to the wind.  It’s a complete disregard for the doctor’s orders.  A mental lapse of my corporeal limits.  I’m not 52 years old when I run that fast.

Like Icarus, my hubris leaves me with a hamstring pull.  Which is fine, I already have a referral from my doctor to treat my injury with massages from Massage Envy – meaning my treatments (massages) will be covered by my insurance.  I know a thing or two about recovery.  I can’t wait to do this again.