I woke up to the faint sound of a motor running and rhythmic footsteps pounding lightly on the treadmill in the room below. Lauren was well into her run and I wanted to sleep in after a long week of work. A dull pain went through my spine as I gingerly rolled out of bed. I had tweaked my back helping Lauren move the past weekend and it was still a little sore. I stretched and lightly massaged it, applying a thin layer of tiger balm to my sore muscles. The pain subsided. I was worried how it would feel after the car ride to Long Island, but the thought passed as I still had to pack, go for short run, and eat before the Raulli's came to pick us up.
After a short run and some strides, I showered and made a huge breakfast fritatta for Lauren and I that consisted of sweet potatoes, mushrooms, spinach, onion, parmesan, and eggs with a couple slices of toasted Ezekial bread on the side. I washed it down with some tart cherry juice and water and had about 10minutes to get my things ready before we planned to leave. I made sure I had my singlet, shorts, shoes, socks and gels, then I shoved whatever I felt I could use during the weekend into my backpack. It was now stuffed and almost bursting open with way too many things for an overnight trip. I feel like I can never pack too many things, because you never know when you're going to be stranded somewhere. It's never happened to me before, but it could happen. I was just finishing up when the Raulli's showed up. It was noon o'clock, right on the dot, and right on schedule.
Chris drove his red speed demon and we made it to NYC in record time. It was another hour until we got to the hotel in Hicksville, but we were about an hour and a half ahead of what I was expecting. I got out of the car and my back felt pretty good. Bonus! Things were looking up. We met a few people for a nice dinner somewhere in Long Island, then went back to our very classy Days Inn where we watched some house hunters, then went to bed.
I slept fairly well until about 5am when I couldn't sleep anymore, so I decided to eat my breakfast quietly in the bathroom so I wouldn't disturb anyone. I took in about 350calories and then I went back and laid in bed to about seven. I decided on what I was going to race in and again I found myself shoving things into my seemingly shrunken backpack as we left for the race. CFred and Xu stayed at the same hotel and followed behind us.
We got to Caumsett State Park and it was a really nice venue. There were horse stables, mansions, fit trails, etc. We got out of the car and it seemed very chilly. It was in the 30Fs and was predicted to get to the low 40Fs, with very little wind. You really couldn't ask for a better day in March, but something just made me feel chilled when we were walking to the tent for our bibs.
After putting on our numbers and going to the bathroom, we made our way to the start. There was a slight delay at the start to get the timing all set and I forgot to get my location on my gps so I decided to just use the chronograph and estimate my splits to see if I was going to be in range. After a false horn and a few more seconds we were off!
The defending champion Zach Ornelas took off immediately at the start, his goal was to go after the American Record (2:47) or a top three time at the distance, and it was now a race for second. My plan was to go out at 5:45/mile pace through 16-17miles and then see how I felt with about 10-15k to go and see if I could pick it up. CFred, Chris, and I ran together and hit 17:55s consistently through 20k when I felt like it was a perfect day to run fast so I decided that I wouldn't squander an opportunity so I dropped down the pace to around 5:35. The course is ten, 5k loops where there is a turn around point that you can see roughly a mile ahead. Zach was no where in sight. It's incredibly inspiring to see someone have both the courage and the humility to go after a record. There's a certain vulnerability when a man (or woman) goes against time to pursue a goal or dream in such a pure way.
At this point in the race I was all by myself and I was trying to stay comfortable. I was hitting 5:30-5:35s and I thought I was having a great day. With about 10k to go, I caught my first sighting of Zach since the 2nd lap and wasn't sure if he was just going to cruise it in or if he was hurting. At this point, I wasn't sure if I was going to make it, but I still thought I might have a chance at the win. I had slowed significantly to about six flats and tried to get back to hitting at least 5:50s. I went through the marathon in 2:27-2:28 and thought I could be in big trouble.
My stomach started to cramp and my breathing had tightened up. My thoughts wandered to this past January. My grandfather had been in the hospital and his health had declined very quickly. I had gotten a call from my mom letting me know that he looked like he was going to pass within a couple days. That night my sister and I went to visit him. I can remember everything from that night so vividly. The smell, the way he looked. About an hour after my sister and I left, he passed away. All I can remember is the pain that he must have been in and how he must have been holding it all in until we left.
My pain, my experience, was nothing compared to his life. He was a paratrooper during WWII. He flew behind enemy lines before D-Day with 50lbs of TNT strapped to his ankles. He almost drowned in the purposely flooded fields. I could hold on for another 4 miles. I saw Zach again at the turn around, this time he was even closer. Could I catch him? Maybe. I could see a hard charging Fred who was gaining on me. Could he catch me? Maybe.
With one lap to go, I could see Zach up ahead, then with 2miles to go, I saw him start to walk. As I went passed him, I shouted "Fred's two minutes behind" trying to get him motivated to start running again. I kept running 5:50-6:00 and started to believe that I could win, and that if I could just make it to the turn around I would be ok.
I finally made it to the turn around and could see that Fred was more than a minute behind me and knew I had it! I made my way to the finish and it didn't even feel real when I crossed the line. I had won. I waited for Fred to see if he'd make it under 3:00 and he did by 40 seconds. I had trained with Fred for a few years and know he is one of the hardest workers out there. It was great seeing him run so well and know we could both possibly make the world team.
My other teammate, Chris ran a great race as well. He came in sixth in 3:08. It's so rewarding when people you've trained with do well. It's rare when we all run well on the same day. There have been many times when we haven't. I've learned to appreciate these times and soak it in because you never know when anything can happen.
This was a great race, put on by the nicest people. Everyone was so warm and welcoming and I really enjoyed the course. It had some good variety to break up the monotony of doing 10 laps. I don't know what my plans are going to be for next year, but I will definitely will be back again.