So I am half-assing the USATF-NJ Long Distance Running Grand Prix Racing Series. I am sorry, but there is really no other way to describe my barely-there participation in this year long challenge. The series is incredibly well done and I don't know if other states do such a wonderful job getting racing to be a statewide competition. (In my defense, I am racing more marathons and ultras and trying to do well there, so I have a good reason... I think).
The way the series works is first you must join USATF and you are automatically entered in the competition. Every month throughout the state there are many options for races that are part of the series. Most races have 500 points, but only a few are championship races worth 700 points.
Races are divided into 3 categories. Shorter races I believe 4 miles and under. Middle distance under 15k through over 4 miles. Category 3 is 15k and up... (or something like that... what do you expect from me? I already admitted to half-assing this).
You get to count your best three races in each category. You can only count two 700 points races if you got 'em. There are not a lot of 700 points races, so they tend to be big and competitive. If you win a race you get the max points. Otherwise there is some convoluted algorithm that counts of the number of each gender in the race and then divides the point evenly through out the field, keeping in consideration that the points have a floor... you can't earn less that 100 points. Ok confused yet. It is really not that hard... you just race every weekend, show up at all the 700 points races you can, run all difference distances, spend like $1200 on race fees and you are bound to do well in your category and earn back that $125 prize money ;)... or something like that.
To cherry pick a good series race, you want to run towards the front of the biggest races you can find, so you get the most points despite your placement. A good plan is to have all you slower friends of the same gender as you show up and jog behind you ;) A HUGE race could spread out fractions of points per placement, so you can place, for example, 5th and still get near maximum points. A small race spread out the point in larger chunks, so a 5th place finish there will not be as valuable. I used to be a really good cherrypicker :) but now I am lucky if I show up at a race I need. Cherry picking is really an art and involves lots of research. And despite it seeming shady to some, racing a well picked race is still racing and when a prize money (equally a fraction of the cost of your actual race fees) is involved I am going to use my feet and my brain to get to the top of my category whenever I can. :) All is fair is love and Grand Prix Racing ;)
Today was the Jimmy D Master's Team Championship worth 700 points in Cat 1. I have three 500 points races in Category 1. I did well in them, but without two 700 points races, I might as well have jogged them in. I will never move up. I showed up today hoping that I get some points.
However yesterday I ran 20 miles at 8:56 pace on a very warm humid day. I lost a lot of weight and felt really odd after. I rehydrated and decided this morning to get out the door and race. One mile at a time was my plan and we will see how it goes.
Gun goes off and the race starts off heading pretty much down hill. Not a steep downhill, but enough to pick up some speed. I looked down and realized I was sub-6. I thought of John Phelan and our track practices ("Practice"- I got that right, right Jim O!?) and how we try to keep our intervals sub-6. However, this was not track practice and I had a ways to go. I settled down and tried to "rest" during this part by using gravity but not taking advantage too much. I hit M1 in 6:29.
I was ok with that. We were still headed downhill, on this long straight road. I could see the guys coming back towards me already. The turn around was at the bottom of the "hill" (a decline which did have some flat parts, but seem primarily a decline).
I knew I was going to hate the return trip.
The gradual UP was not very steep, but it was gradually up or flat the entire way back. I hit M2 in 6:49, and could feel a female runner making a move on my shoulder. She passed me. I sat. I was not thrilled with the idea of racing the last 1.1 mile up the inclined road drenched in sweat and overheating. My asthma was killing me. I was Whooping to clear my lungs, which just happens to help, but makes me sound like I am REALLY REALLY HAPPY to be racing a 5k! People Whoop back at me often. I tried to give them a fist pump when they do that. OMG, WTF and LOL all at the same time (Right, Jimbo Plant? ;) )
The runner made a great effort, but it was tough. I keep pushing and crested one of the little peaks of up hill rollers and make a push on a flat ... to the best of my ability... which was really most like slow motion racing in a swamp of dampness. I managed to move past her and wondered if she was sitting on me now? How long now until she blasts on by.
I was hurting by the time I had half mile to go. My legs were dead and I had no kick. My lungs were on fire. I was all Whooped out. What can I expect after a LR yesterday. Truly, I was surprised I held it together this long!
Not too bad. 20:54 for the day. One of my better 5k's. I do NOT claim to be a good 5k runner. I wish I could find more speed. I keep looking, but I just can't find it. I was a 61-64 second 400 meter runner in high school. That suggests I might have more fast twitcher hiding somewhere, but they have rebelled, moved on, retired? who knows? Maybe they have been beaten down by my slow twitches. This leaves me standing at the start of every 5k more terrified than lining up for a 50k. Maybe someday I will be less afraid and then I will run faster ... maybe not.
So the Stats:
87 Overall of 747 runners
10th Female of 315 runners
1 AG of 44 total (one being ahead of me in the top 3)