Post-Marathon Racing - Willis & Elmhurst

Racing shortly after a marathon is an odd experience.  You're so strong, yet so far from being sharp and are often fairly run-down.  In 2008, about a month after running 2:26 in the St. Louis Marathon, I nearly PR'ed in a road mile, running 4:18.  More recently, in the two weeks following the Grandma's Marathon, I did a 1500 meters in 4:05 (4:23 mile equivalent) and a 4 mile in 19:47.  The strength carried me through these races, but I find my legs feeling the way they usually do in the final stretches of a race before I even get to half way.  It's an odd way to race.  Nonetheless, I think I need to race more in general than I have been doing the last few years, so when a few opportunities presented themselves, I decided to partake.

First Annual Nick Willis Memorial 1500 Meters
The Old Town Track Club (my running club, which is slowly gaining legitimacy) hosted this race to honor the Kiwi Olympic Silver Medalist.  While "memorials" are typically in remembrance of the deceased, we felt that Willis should be remembered all the time, especially in the city that named a tower after him.  Anyway, this race had a whopping 4 participants.  Early reports indicated a possible field of 7 or more, but Ben Huffman had to work, Dan Walters got injured, and Justin Aronson probably never really planned on running.  That left me, Trent Hoerr, Jared Richardson, and Nick Brown, all U of I Track & Field alumni (though Nick was a jumper, not a distance guy). 

We met in the early evening on June 25, toeing a line in the south end of Lincoln Park for a measured 1500 meter "road" course that featured the mounted Ulysses S. Grant statue (and the accompanying "hill"), picturesque views from South Pond, and a finish line at an obelisk.  As things got underway, Trent and I quickly moved to the front and were actually running quite hard.  As this race was sort of just for fun, I didn't actually expect to race, but it was soon apparent that that's what we were going to do.  I somehow managed to put a small gap on Trent with about a quarter mile to go and hold that lead to the line.  I crossed in a 4:05 flat, Trent about a second and a half back.  Jared and Nick both accomplished their goals of breaking 5:00 and 6:00, respectively, so the night was a success.  All participants were treated to free ice cream at Fresh Choice, compliments of the OTTC.  

Elmhurst 4 on the 4th
I waffled several times on whether or not I would do this race.  With some prize money on the line, it's almost guaranteed to be competitive, and that's what really drew me in.  I mentioned above that I think I need to race more generally, but without competition, the racing experience doesn't mean much.  There is no chance to practice tactics, and it's difficult if not impossible to really push yourself to the maximum without someone else there. 

So off to Elmhurst I went on the morning of the 4th.  I somehow managed to mistake the starting time for 7:30 a.m. instead of the actual 7:15 a.m.  I had not yet done any strides when I heard the national anthem being sung, which alerted me of my mistake.  I managed to get one quick stride in post-anthem, and then we were off.  I hadn't even had time to eye up the competition or see who was in the race.  I found myself in the lead, more or less solo, for nearly the whole first two miles, but there was a chase pack with quite a few guys right on me.  These miles were run in 4:51 and 4:50 before turning around to retrace our steps.  Right before the turnaround, Kyle Brady and Mike Spain (fresh off his DIII 5k/10k double win), both formerly of North Central College, opened up a gap.  I was trying to hang on to Tyler Jermann, who I guess ran at Naperville North (my roommate, who also went to North back in the day, told me this) and just finished his freshman year at Iowa State.  We rolled through a slow third mile in about 5:05, before I was able to open up a 15 or 20 meter gap about a quarter mile later.  I was hurting pretty bad, but managed to close alright with a 5:00 last mile for a 19:47, a slight PR at the distance.  Spain and Brady went 1-2 (or tied) at 19:31. 

I was pretty happy with this race, considering where I'm at right now.  I felt absolutely horrible pre-race and know that a short race two weeks after a marathon PR is far from ideal.  But by racing tough to snag third, I made the trip worth my while, winning $75 and a free pair of Saucony shoes.  I look forward to racing Kyle and Mike again when I'm a little more ready for the race. 

Up next is the Race Judicata on July 21.  Trying to three-peat there.  Should be doable, though you never quite know who will show up at any given race.  As I'm still feeling pretty awful on most of my runs/workouts, I'll still be racing on faith. :)