Sunday, March 15, 2009

From lyme to the finish line

Kristen and I caught four dear in this photo taken at Bradley Palmer State Park one week ago.

What a week. I found a tick entrenched in my leg on Tuesday evening. I pulled it out and imediately researched these freak'n things. There was so much information on ticks and Lyme disease. My head filled with the worst case scenarios. I was very concerned as I think that I picked up the little bugger on a nature walk with Kristen on Sunday evening at Bradley Palmer State Park along the Ipswich River. That would equate to 48 hours with the nasty critter in my blood stream.

Ice covered trails at Bradley Palmer State Park. Photo taken along the Ipswich River with the foot bridge to the far left beyond the trees.

The following morning, I shared my story with co-workers who thought it would be in my best interest to see the doctor. My anxiety grew throughout the day as I waited for my afternoon apointment with the nurse practioner. I was prescribed 2 IC Doxycycline pills (anti-biotic) and a blood test to search for any sign of Lyme. I was also advised to report any flu like symptoms over the next few weeks symptoms usually being to present themselves 5-7 days following the bite.

I received the anxiously awaited call from the nurse practitioner on Friday night that the blood test for Lyme was negative. I was relieved. I have another blood test in six months. The tick incident was a learning experience. Now you and I know that they can latch on to you at any time of the year and that they will find you even if your skin is protected with clothing from head to toe.

Look at this creep. Is he tick hunting?

As a result, I did not drive down to the New Bedford Half Marathon, USATF New England Championship, with a lot of confidence or any grand expectations this morning. I missed a few days of running and my legs were sore from yesterday. Kristen and I led the Bevery boy caravan, Ben Strain and Junyong Pak, down to New Bedford in good time. I had decided to take my own car as I had a VW Scirocco fender that I needed to drop off at Greyhound Express Shipping in Boston on my return trip from New Bedford. Ben kept pace with the Gti.

I toed the starting line four rows deep, right next to Mark Reeder and Joe O'Leary. I leaned over to Ben Strain and asked him what he was thinking - in terms of his approach for his race. He wanted to hit 5:40 pace for the day. My frame of mind was to race slower since I ran 5:46 pace at the Amherst 10 miler three weeks ago. In addition, the McMillan running calculator told me that I would be lucky to run 5:50's for the half marathon. At any rate, I was going to committ to no worse than 5:40 pace for the first three miles and see where that took me.

I rolled out to a 5:29 first mile with no anticipation of holding the pace for a 1:12 half marathon. I just kept moving along and the miles rolled and splits of low 5:30's followed until a 5:48 (turned out to be the slowest of the day) for the fourth mile which has a decent hill. The next three miles feel like they are down hill. I ran four consecutive sub 5:30's while at the end, middle, and sometimes in front of a pack that included Mark Reeder, Rich Smith, Mike Cooney, Jason Cakorous, and a few others. I used self control and patience to hang with the group.

Bombing down around mile 5 looking for a pack to run with.

When racing within a pack, it feels like a race within the race and that our pack really IS the lead pack of the entire race. I had to keep my emtions in check and remember that this was a half marathon or 13.1 miles for which I was slated to race no better than 5:50 pace according to my recent 10 mile result and the running calculator. I feared that my honest and quicker than expected race pace was going to haunt me as it has over the past few years after eight miles on this course. Regardless, I ran through 10 miles in 55:32, nearly 2 minutes quicker than my 10 mile time at Amherst (57:37). Still, my pack pulled ahead and lost me in this stretch along the water.

Over the next few miles and in reality, since mile seven, I fully expected a muscle to cramp up. I woke up on Saturday morning with a calf cramp in the right leg and I woke up Sunday morning to a cramp in the other calf. That coupled with not racing or training at 5:30 pace put me in a running scared mentality - something was going to go wrong and I would pull up lame in the heat of the battle. Thankfully, it never came to that.

I found myself in a unique three way battle with the other Beverly gents mentioned above as Junyong Pak and Ben Strain caught up to me in the last mile of the race. We had at least a half mile left and the last hill of mile 12 behind us when Junyong started wheeling for the downhill and toward the finish line. Ben was behind me and I was just trying not cramp up, fall down, and save some dignity into the home stretch. I was pleased to see 1:12:XX as I approached the finish line, guarenteeing a 1:13:XX which I was pumped for and exceeded my expectations by almost three minutes. Ben nipped me at the line. He ran a gutsy race by coming back after some tough middle miles and PR'd by 90 seconds.

Closing on the finish line. Those legs are going to feel it tomorrow.

To close, I am more than pumped with the 1:13:11 (5:35 per mile pace) today. The effort was my quickest half marathon in years since my 1:13:01 behind Joe Shairs and Sergio Ribeiro in 2005 at New Bedford. The weather for the day was perfect and the usual wind was not an issue today. I am not looking forward to the next few days. The muscle soreness is already settling in. I will benefit from a deep tissue massage set up with John Gillis next Saturday though.