Saturday, June 1, 2013

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?

Why, Spongebob Squarepants of course.

But more about the yellow, square absorbent one in a bit.

I really wanted my next post to be about the pace-bunny experience. It's pretty much written, and I'd love to share it with both of you.  However, I've just had a deeply unsatisfying morning that has left me more jaded with age-group sport and age-group athletes than I would care to admit.

La belle and I scored free entries to the Penguin Run at the RNS banquet last year, so we cashed them in. Except the ten miler was now a half-marathon; not an entirely popular decision I understand from listening to chat.  Oh well, it is what it is.

Overall, I like the new course. New race HQ is about a kilometre down the old course from the old one. Parking was easier. It's outside, so that'll make it tricky if it rains but with the mercury (technically ink-in-glass nowadays) hitting 28C, that wasn't a problem today.

A pretty traffic-free course, and by my Garmin, bang-on distance.  I heard some people complaining it was long, but I think they were running the tangents, not out on the left, hang a u-ey at the turnaround and come back on the left.  I saw a bit of that going on.  We (as in RNS) need to get that sorted.

Fortunately, the course was essentially traffic-free, which with runners using whichever side of the road they felt comfortable using, was a good thing. There was even a guerilla water-stop at 10km, which is always a sign that the local community is getting behind the event.

The course is really quite lumpy; not Cape Breton hilly, but grinding rollers. As you can see, not much elevation in any one hill, but they just came one after the other.

No flat to be found.

I got stuck in from the start; the first two kilometres were a bit fast, sucked along by the concomitant 5K but I tried to keep a lid on it.  I was aware of a presence on my shoulder after the 2.5km turnaround for the 5K, and could see three people up ahead; Bryan Hipson, Mike Vargo and some guy no-one knew, who turned out to be a ringer from Saskatoon. We think he found it somewhat hillier than he was used to. Oh well, come to Nova Scotia for the lobster and the hills!

My shadow became my problem. I wasn't able to elicit much information from him, apart from that his name was Patrick and he did the Bluenose half in 1:24 or something and was looking for a sub-90 performance today.  I don't know what he looked like, so I'm going with this.

I never saw his face, he never came through (not once), he never put his face in the wind. I was just aware of a figure on my shoulder. We were running pretty steady, between 4:05 and 4:15 per kilometer, nothing earth shattering.  It sounded like he was working. After a while I started to get a bit aggravated about the lack of coming through to do his share of the pacing. I made a couple of half-hearted swings across the road to gesture "your turn", but no, my heels were a good place to be.  I tried to be a good lead; pointed out the holes in the road (they were legion) and the water stops and tried to make sure we both had room at the table so we could run through unimpeded.

Still, no pacing help.  I was feeling like a pace-bunny all over again but no ears. Except there was no talking because Mr The Star was wearing an iPod, so all I got for conversation was the steady tschh, tschh, tschh of the beats. After an hour I got a bit too P.O.d by that and asked over my shoulder

"Could you turn that down or something?"

No reply

"Sorry, but could you turn that down or something?"


"Sorry, I had to turn my iPod off so I could hear you; what did you say?"



So I slowed down and made some wild course changes from the shoulder to the yellow line and back, trying to force him to to come through. Douchy I know.  We only had three miles to go. I think I nearly went at ninety degrees at one time, but my faithful shadow stayed glued.  I think I heard something along the lines of "wow, it's like you're trying to get rid of me".  I didn't hear the sounds of pennies dropping.

The penultimate kilomter is an uphill drag, noting crazy, but after the rollercoaster of the previous nineteen it was heavy on the legs.  I tried to slow up a little to save something for the flat finish but it was really to no avail as my bolts had been shot off on each hill, trying to wear him down.  Coming around the final corner I turned and said "I suppose you're going to outsprint me now". 

With 700m to go he became quite voluble.  He was quite chuffed. Didn't think he had it in him to run that fast in the heat, didn't think he'd be able to stay with me. He couldn't come through because he couldn't have lasted out front at that pace for long.

With 500 m to go however, the front suddenly became a tenable place to be and he smoothly accelerated away. Clearly the previous 20.7 km were not to his liking, but this stretch had him written all over it!  I think I slowed down. I hope I did, because I conceded fifteen seconds in 500m.  Chip-time was a loooong 1:26. Let's do the maths.  That's 5160". Five hundred metres at 4 minute/km pace is 2 minutes, 120". Or 2.3% of the race in front.  I spent the previous 97.7% or 5040" dragging his arse up hill and down dale.

I've had many stand-up, knock-down, drag-out fights in running races and triathlons and, win or lose, I've always been able to walk up to the guy (or gal), put out my hand and say "well done, great race". Regardless of the outcome.

Not today.

On the plus side, Mr The Star had a great race. He didn't think he had it in him but he did anyway. You can't fault that.  Tactically it was pretty astute; draft off the faster guy, come around at the end for the result (even if the result was a big 4th overall). Result! Tactically, I ran a bad race; too much time on the front, chasing my own demons (I've never run a half longer than 90  minutes and I wasn't prepared for today to be that day) and not paying enough attention to the guy behind.  Plus, I think I gave up as we rounded the last corner with 700 to go. I know my heart wasn't in it.

Still, I feel used and essentially douched out of the position (yeah, yeah, that big 4th). In purely impassionate terms, he had an excellent race, I had a sub-par one and the better guy won. I just don't have to feel that way.  From my perspective, it wasn't a classy move, even if it was the right one.

I didn't stay for the awards, I was too steamed. I still am if truth be known.  La belle picked up my prize.  I haven't opened it.  If you want it Patrick let me know. It's yours. You earned it, even if you didn't work for it.


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