2009 Manchester Road Race

Today, I finished an experiment that started 11 months ago. They say that getting rest the night before a big race is less important than getting rest two nights before the race. Well, I was tired after getting home late on Tuesday, so I figured I would make up for it by going to bed early on Wednesday. Well, the plan didn’t work out. You see, 11 months ago +/_ we conceived a little girl, who was born nine weeks ago. And, after giving us a good stretch of pretty restful nights, she decided to keep us up most of last night with a nasty little cough. Don’t worry, she should be fine. I gave it a go on adrenaline today and it wasn’t all bad.

Today was the 73rd annual Manchester Road Race in Manchester, Connecticut. What an event! The running conditions were perfect. It was cool and a bit damp, but no precipitation fell. The weather was so good that I think a record number of runners started the event. They announced more than 13,000 before we set out on the 4.748 mile course. The traffic and runner congestion felt like it was a big number year. There were rumors that they ran out of race numbers yesterday. If so, that would be something.

Debbie and I ran along with several other members of the family. We even had a walking clan. We were part of the 13,000 strong field. I’ve now done more than 15 of these in a row, and I don’t intend to stop. Debbie met her objective of breaking 35:00 and retaining her “Under 35 Minute Card” for next year. It is important to get a seeding card if you have any intention of running fast. If you get stuck in the crowd, you can’t move. She said that being three minutes slower than her normal time resulted in a lot more runners around her. This was her slowest Manchester yet, but she didn’t have a precedent for running two months after a birth. Her comeback has been a bit slower with this second child. Nevertheless, she gave her all and this is another step towards regaining her fitness.

Athletically, I have had a good year, so there is nothing to complain about. However, I like goals and I have kept a goal for many years: break 27:00 at Manchester. My personal best is 27:18, and that was set 10 years ago in 1999. I ran 27:34 last year, which is respectable. It is very hard to keep fitness in late November. This year, with juggling two kids, work, and the rest of life’s challenges; I shouldn’t have been so hard on myself. Still, I knew coming into the race that I might have a good one in me. Even with a bad night of sleep before the race…

Well, I came up short, but not by much. Unless there is some miracle, my time will be 27:02. That is what my GPS says, and that is what I saw on the clock when I crossed the finish line. I started right up front, so my “chip time” can’t be more than a second faster. Regardless, it is the official time that matters. The cruel part of this is that I’m replaying in my mind where I could have gained three seconds. It is by far, my fastest time, but there is some competitive force within me that prevents me from taking satisfaction in that. I think I’m nuts. If I had broken 27 (finally), I probably would set a new goal. That is what I do.

I lost it in the fourth mile. I was with a good group that included my friend, Brett Stoeffler. He had caught me after three miles and I knew that if I stuck with him, I would reach my goal. He has a history of breaking 27, and he is in good form. Of course, staying with him is easier said than done. He is a famously fast finisher and he also runs a very steady pace. I beat him on trails a few times this year, but I’ve never beaten him on the road. I went out hard, knowing that making up time early was my only shot. My first two miles were fast. I even ran the downhill on Porter Street quicker than ever.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t hold Brett’s pace and I dropped back. When I reached Main St., I knew I still had a remote chance because I had kept him in sight. However, I saw the clock from way back. When it read 26:44, I judged the gap and just ran as hard as I could. As the seconds ticked up, I realized I wasn’t going to make it. There was no way to make up the distance and that is that. The GPS says my heart rate maxed at the finish with a 197 beats. I haven’t seen it that high in a while and I’m happy to know that I was able to kick it into another gear.

When the final results are in, I’ll post again. The overall men’s and women’s winners were Haron Lagat of Kenya, and Alemtsehay Misganaw of Ethiopia.

I am still smiling! Goal setting is an imperfect science and the elusive goals are the best ones. They keep you focused, modest, and working hard. I’m already looking forward to next year. Maybe I will train a bit more in the future. Of course, “maybe’s” and “almost’s” can haunt you.

Race Results

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