‘Twas the week of Thanksgiving 2013 and we made our way up to San Jose to visit our friends A and A (or Asquared).
Susan and I are in the midst of preparing for the Carlsbad Half Marathon which will take place in January 2014 and we scheduled an easy week for this week. We came into this week with very tired legs but fortnuatenly no injuries. We were glad to be taking it easy. We decided to do 2 runs when here, one on Thanksgiving and the other on Saturday. As I surfed the WWW, I found out there was a very popular 10km (6.21 mile) Turkey Trot in San Jose. Very popular = my number was 20131 i.e. participant 20131!!! A and A graciously agreed to babysit our kids on Thanksgiving while Susan & I would run the race.
Susan and my target paces for the Carlsbad Half Marathon are 8.30/mile and 6.15/miles respectively and we decided to use this race to test our race pace. Susan’s pace is based on what she’d need to run to break 2 hours and mine is based on the time (1hr22min) a good friend, Andy, run a half at a few years ago. For some reference, I ran the Carlsbad 2013 at a 6.45 pace (~1hr28min). I was 100th out of 7,000 people. Improving to 1hr22min feels pretty serious. Susan’s fastest half is 2.05 at the Staten Island half marathon back in 2006 so she felt nervous about running an 8.30. So to get there we’re taking the training “serious” this year and we’re on a 5 month training program.
The San Jose turkey trot is in downtown San Jose about a mile from A and A’s condo. It started at 7.50am. Given the 45f temperatures, we decided to jog to the start and get there about 10 minutes before the gun went off.
Well attended races/runs like this are broken into waves based on pace. There were 3 waves for this one. The 6min to 7min pace group. The 7min to 9min pace group and the rest. We went to our respective groups and I started chatting to folks. Of the 4 people I spoke to, everyone was polite but brief, like they didnt want to talk :). The only guy who was responsive was a 65 year old man who was targeting a 6.45 pace. He was very nice and said he comes down to Carlsbad for the Carlsbad 5,000 every year. Hopefully I will see him at it with him next year. I also chatted briefly with a cross-country highschool kid who said he was targeting a 6.20 pace..
When the gun went off, the usual happened. Everyone just took off @ a brisk 5.30 pace. I’ve seen the results and I know my pace and I kept to it. I felt comfortably at my 6.15 pace but I was a little worried about keeping the pace for the next 6 miles. I judiciously kept to my pace as people pulled away. I remember 2 kids who caught me and went by me. I asked them how old they were and they said 14. That made me feel better because they werent 9! Surprisingly after about a quarter of a mile they couldnt hold their speed. I caught them and I didnt see them again.
Then I saw the mile 2 sign which was a relief.
I also passed a fit looking woman, the only one I saw ahead of me between mile 2 and 3. Around mile 3, I passed the lone other black guy I’d seen. I remember he had yellow Nike tights, and nice hair (Labeja = envious bald guy) and looked more like a quarterback than a runner. At this point I had started a trend that would continue for the rest of the race – passing people.
Around mile 3.5, my pace dropped to 6.35 briefly and I went thru a brief panic thinking maybe I’m done. Fortuntately I got my pace back up, and I was good.
I also saw multiple groups of highschool cheerleaders. When I ran by a group of predominantly black girls, they yelled extra loud for me and I felt a surge of energy.
When I saw the mile 4 sign, I felt some relief. I knew I could maintain the 6.15 pace for the remaining 2 miles. The 6.15 pace is a discomfort that is difficult to describe. I was able to speak although not conversationaly like I could at 6.45 to 7.00. I was doing what I refer to as focused breathing, I have a pattern I like to maintain when under stress. My legs felt good although I could feel my left hamstring was a little sore, and it’s been a problem for me in the past.
I was encouraging everyone I passed at this point, telling them 2 miles to go, 2 miles to go. Unfortunately they didnt have any legs left to stay with me after they’d run the prior 4 miles faster than me.
At mile 5, I told the guys I passed, 1 mile to go, time for some pain! My target was to run the last mile at 6 min or faster.
I caught the cross-country kid I saw at the beginning around mile 5.5. He told me I was looking strong and he reminded me that there was less than a mile to go. Those were encouraging words. I ran mile 5 to 6 at ~5.55/min.
As I passed the 6 mile sign I heard a heavy breather on my left. It was a kid I didnt recognize, who I probably passed earlier. He was in final sprint mode. Bro, thought Labeja, lets go. I went into beast mode and sprint we did. I held him off and about 200 meters from the finish I looked back and he was about 20 steps back. My body relaxed a little bit and I slowed a little. And then bam! He blew by me with about 50 meters to go. I was really impressed by this young guy who got dropped, dug deep, and sprinted by in complete and utter PAIN. He got to the finish maybe 5 seconds ahead of me and bent over double. I went and congratulated him. He ran awesome!
I then walked back to look for Susan. She was tough to find in the crowds as she was wearing the event t-shirt. Fortunately she saw me and yelled, Labeja! I ran with her for the last 0.2 of a mile with some pain in my butt. She looked comfortable and even said she was ok. At the end she told me she ran at a 8.07/mile pace which is awesome as that puts her on track for a sub 1.50!
I ran at a 6.12 which was great. I set PRs for my 1 mile, 2 mile, 5k and 10k speeds. Hopefully we can make the turkey trot a Labeja family tradition!!!