Friday, November 13, 2015

Jack 15 (2015)

Jack 15 (2015)
The Jack 15 will mark only the second race I have ever repeated (to this point, the SF Marathon was excellent, as was the Dizzy Goat 12H). The other one has been the Brookings Marathon that I have run a few times by now.
The Jack 15 stands out as a race for its’ long history (50+ years), as well as the story behind it. It stretches from the center of town in White, SD and runs 15.2 miles to The Campanile on the SDSU campus in Brookings, SD. I like these type of point to point races. It’s an actual journey. Once you hit the middle point, you may as well keep going, because quitting and going back is equal distance.
The race course is pretty straightforward. Well, you take a total of two (yes, two, tough to get lost!) turns. First a right (after about 5 miles), then a left (after another 5 miles) and you’re on the home stretch (you guessed it, just about another 5 miles). It starts on paved roads and switches onto gravel before going back on pavement. It crosses an interstate (over a bridge, you don’t have to play Frogger, which is a plus if you think about it) and is constantly exposed to the potentially high winds and cold temps that this time of year are very common in Eastern South Dakota.
This year, it was pretty mild though. If memory serves me well it was a cool/mild morning with low winds and lots of sunshine. Everything was setting the scene for a beautiful race.
I parked my car just off the starting line and went on a warm-up jog around White, SD. During this 1-2 mile, I hit both ends of town and was reminded of how wholesome the experience is to run on roads in a small Midwestern town, where you don’t have to worry about traffic and were other early-risers greet you on their way down the driveway to pick up their morning paper.
At the starting line realizing how stacked the field is!
I chatted with a couple of guys that I’ve raced against a few times (Tim & Brian) and almost always lost to (no suspense here, they both beat me today too). Tim had actually won this race before and I think Brian had gotten 2nd place the year before some other high placing like it. I asked them about the time targets and placing goals. They surprised me by being very modest and not going for the podium today. I thought of false modesty at first, but they pointed out a few other runners that were warming up (several former college runners and a couple of runners that have previously won the Sioux Falls marathon, including the winner from two weeks ago). This was a stacked field to say the least!
Starting line in White, SD
As we stood at the starting line, I thought about the previous years’ beginning and remembered that I had started out too conservatively in the first 3-4 miles and was never able to make up the time in the later miles. The gun went off and so did we. I was in the 3rd row or so and didn’t want to get sucked in the typical runners’ fashion of sprinting the first mile and suffering from it at the later stages of the race. So to recap, don’t start off too slow or too fast. Within 2-3 minutes it was clear that the first few guys were going to not be heard of again until the race is over. They took off fast and I could clearly see the top two guys ahead of everyone else. It was astonishing how effortless they looked despite their pace.
[The Sioux Falls marathon was still fresh in my legs and I didn’t want to risk injury by racing hard without proper rest. The two weeks in between were mostly spent at easy pace. Being aware of the potential risk for injury, I still wanted to use my current level of fitness and speed from the marathon and get a decent result. I just had to be smart and if I were to feel even the tiniest niggle, I would have to ease off and jog the remainder.  Therefore I decided to race.]

I counted the runners and settled into 16th position. As usual, I took inventory of my body and gear to make sure everything was in working order. Everything was. I decided to run on the right side of the road, while everyone else was on the other side. It wasn’t very windy, so I didn’t need the wind cover of other runners and I preferred clear sight ahead. After a couple of miles I noticed why everyone was on the left side. The right side was to be used by cars of people that were cheering on or part of a relay team and heading to the first exchange point. I felt a bit like a dumbass when I noticed several cars right behind me crawling along at snail paceJ.
By the time the first turn came, I had moved up a couple of spots and had zeroed in on the next two. I made small talk with the eventual female champion, who is in her 50s or 60s, and was moving along at an unyielding pace and her stride was extremely smooth. I hope I can run as efficient at the same age some time down the road as well.
A buddy from high school times was waiting at every mile marker (which, patriotically were signified by American Flags) to cheer on a friend of his. He recognized me and high fived me at mile intervals, as he was scooting ahead in his scooter (see what I did there? Clever word pun!). He took a video of their day on his GoPro, which I thought was cool, so I share it here -->
At this point, I got confused about what place I may or may not be in, as I wasn’t sure if the people ahead of me were in relay teams or not, but I could make out another runner, who always races the local Brookings races and always delivers impressive performances. He also is in his 50s or 60s and I saw him as I crested the last hill (at least 15 feet!!) before the second and final turn. I waited until he hit the turn and I looked at my watch in order to record the time between him taking the turn and me getting to the same point. This way I could estimate his lead on me and see what speed I would need to run in order to catch up on remaining 5 miles or so.
As I was on a downhill, heading towards the turn, I decided to open my gait and run faster than I had anticipated pre-race. I also fumbled around with my head-phones clicking on the little button to keep skipping songs until I landed on one that had the right bpm ratio that would help me keep my goal pace going forward.
I was behind around 46 seconds. On 5 miles, that makes…ummm…uhhh…9.2 seconds per mile that I need to be faster than him….ummm…uhhh…by the time my delirious brain (when redlining during a run, the brain function appears to be quite diminished at times! Who would’ve thought?)
By the time I was getting close to figuring out the mathematics, I was already in motion to pass him and subsequently the next guy as well who was only 50 feet or so ahead of him. Both looked like they were hurting. With the campanile (which represented the finish line) drawing closer, I pulled out some racing strategies that proved well in the past. Despite feeling the lactic acid in my legs and the pain ever so slightly increasing I need to speed up even further to ensure that they would not try to stay with me. Luckily, this only lasted a brief moment and I didn’t have to test my utmost limits at this time. I approached the half marathon mark (13.1mi/21km) and at this point I was racing the clock. My goal of 1:50:00 was approaching and I needed to be diligent about not letting up. Shortly after, I crossed the highway 14 bypass and looked back and saw no one close to me. To me that meant to go for broke. If I cramped up, I could still hobble in at my current place, but if I didn’t I would get in under my goal.
Finish at the Campanile (not my time on the clock)
The devious little incline from the highway to the campanile, which funny enough you only notice when you race the Jack 15, gave me a little trouble and I actually looked back yet another time, as I felt like I was almost standing still (I wrote before that only scared runners look back and I felt scared to be taken over so close to the finish). No other runner was in sight and I felt the runners’ high coming on. I saw the approaching finish line and pushed one last time and got in at 1:47:47 (7:05min/mi pace). I am very happy with the outcome and the fact that I snagged 10th place overall also made me happy. I ran ~10 minutes faster than the previous year and improved by only one spot. The 1:47:47 would’ve placed me second last year! That shows how incredible the runners were this year. I had a lot of fun and was happy to embrace Christina and Leiana at the finish line. After the SF marathon and the Jack 15 I am now looking forward for 2-3 weeks of rest before picking up racing again in the IceBox 480 Ultramarathon.

No comments:

Post a Comment