Chase Corporate Fitness

I managed to pull off a win at the Chase Corporate Challenge last night, but only by one second.  My final time was 16:14 to Gian-Paul Ciacca's 16:15.  Todd Ptacek and Lars Juhl were third and fourth respectively, and both ran solid races.  I knew about Todd and Lars going into the race, but had no idea who Gian-Paul was.  He was clearly very fit though, and he ran a tough race.  He apparently runs (or ran) for the the New York Athletic Club and won the NYC Chase Corporate Challenge in 2010.  I'm not sure if he lives in Chicago now or what.  But he has some pretty quick PRs, including a 14:23 5,000 meters and 1:04:46 half marathon from a couple months ago.  I feel like my fitness is more or less on par with those times, even though I don't have the PRs to prove it yet (i.e. I haven't focused on running a fast 5,000 or half marathon in the last couple of years).  Overall I was quite happy with the race and it turned out to be a good night for racing, even if it was a little cold and windy. 

The race started off a touch slow as no one really wanted to lead while running north into the wind.  I was glad the wind didn't slow things down too much though, as I knew that the longer we ran hard, the better chance I would have.  Three weeks out from my marathon, my strength is my strength.  We ran through the "mile" in 4:29, but that was surely an inaccurate split.  We couldn't have been going much faster than 5:00 pace, and I actually commented on that to the lead pack of five at the time.  Gian-Paul agreed.  About 1.5 miles in, as we ran a slight uphill stretch into the wind, things bunched up behind Todd, more or less in single file.  As we turned the corner to head west on Lower Wacker, Gian-Paul started to press a little bit, but the pack remained.

Finally, as we turned south and began to run with the wind at our backs just past the two mile mark, Gian-Paul put on a strong move.  The pack instantly broke up as I was the only one to really cover the move.  He was pressing pretty hard, and I knew I probably couldn't maintain the pace we were running to the finish line, but wanted to hang around as long as I could.  My breathing wasn't actually all that heavy in this stretch, but my legs felt like they were all out.  Not the lactic-acid burning of the final sprint, but just this feeling of 'this is as fast as I can really run.'  Approaching Congress (where you take a sharp right and then make a U-turn), I began to think that maybe I had a chance at this thing.  Up to this point, Gian-Paul looked very good.  Just light and bouncy.  But I could hear his breathing starting to get heavier and I knew he was struggling as well.  As we looped back on Congress, he opened a small gap of a stride or two, and more or less held this lead for a bit as we turned south for the final time. 

We were inside a half mile to go now, and I knew that I had two gears left.  I didn't want to go too soon, because I couldn't pick it up for very long.  I crept back onto Gian-Paul's shoulder and with maybe a quarter mile to go, kicked it up to about 98%.  I opened up a few stride lead, maybe a touch more.  Gian-Paul seemed to be coming back on me though and with probably 150m to go, I gave it whatever I had left.  I just kept thinking, 'man, I wish I had done more 30 x 100m sessions for muscular endurance when running fast.'  Next time.  But it all worked out as I was able to hold my one second lead to the line to grab the win for Winston & Strawn.  This was one of the better duels I've had in some time, and it's always nice to come out on top in the homestretch like that.  I'm rounding into form quite nicely with just over three weeks to go until the Grandma's Marathon.

- Chase recap here
- Video highlight here (mid-video)