Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Wake Up Call (a.k.a. - A serving of Humble Pie)

"The Legend", a.k.a. Rich Fargo, had asked me a few weeks ago if I was interested in doing a weekend run with him as he is training for the Hartford Marathon and wanted to get a few 20 milers in on the roads. I said, yes, as I always enjoy running with people, and he's a really strong runner. In fact, he's more than strong - he's "The Legend". I affectionately call him the Legend because he is truly a legend in the community of trail running. He's won the famed Escarpment Trail race 8 times (recently equalled by Ben Nephew), and has more wins on the trail running circuit than most people have run races. Rich has also been running to and from work everyday for the past 20 years. He carries his clothes, shoes, and 2 cans of Coke in his L.L. Bean backpack, and flies like the wind. I've tried this a few times (minus the cans of Coke), and it's not as crazy as it sounds. In fact, it feels great to walk into work having just put in 5 miles or so. The run home is a challenge sometimes, but always feels good nontheless.

Anyway, Rich and I both ran the Northern Nipmuck trail race in April and I ran with him for a good portion of the race. I managed to finish a couple minutes ahead of him and really felt good about my fitness level. I think I woke a sleeping tiger though as Rich has been on a tear ever since...

Anyway, I was a bit apprehensive about today's run since I haven't done much since the Vermont 100. The handful of runs I have done have been at a slow pace. In fact, I haven't done a fast training run since early July. "It's OK", I thought, "He's going to do 20 miles and I'm along for 13 or so. No problem. We'll probably be doing 7:45-8:00 pace, and I can do that for 13 on the roads." Famous last words...

I arrived at Rich's house with my bottle of Heed and was ready to roll. Rich was not running with any fluids. Gulp! I took a few swallows and left my bottle. I was running on his terms. How could I carry a bottle for 13 if he was running 20 without anything? Damn, this guy is hardcore.

I asked about pace and he said 7:30-8:00. Then, he took off like a bat out of hell. Yikes!
I hung on for the first 3 miles thinking this pace is insane. My Garmin said we were running around 7:25 miles. We chatted and I started feeling more comfortable. The route was hilly, but the uphills were quite runnable compared to the trails I had run all year. We pushed eachother and I noted that we were doing about 7:15 pace at one point. Damn!

At appr0x. 6 miles we started looping back and Rich said we would split a little before the 9 mile mark. We ran a long gradual uphill which are usually my favorites. I ran it well, but the lack of training and water started catching up to me. I knew I didn't have much left in the tank. Rich, on the other hand, started to put the hammer down. I hung on for dear life, and began to understood how some others may feel running with me at times. I told him to go on ahead if he wanted. It was my way of saying, "Uncle". He eased up slightly, so we could stay together. He was talking about the apple pie his father-in-law was planning to make, and I thought, "I just got served some humble pie".

On the last downhill together Rich asked our pace. The Garmin said 7:17...not bad, but we were flying. I kept re-checking every 100 feet or so and it didn't change. I finally realized that I was looking at "Average pace". Holy shniikees, Batman! We ran 9 hilly miles at 7:17 pace! No wonder I feel like death. I haven't run more than 10 times in the past 7 weeks, and now this! OK, I don't feel so bad now.

We parted ways at the next turn and I slowed the pace quite a bit. I chugged up the hills slowly, but still manged to finish the 13.6 miles at 7:25 pace. Not great, but not bad for not having done much in the past 7 weeks.

As for the Legend, he's primed and ready for Hartford. I think he has a chance to break 3 hours if the weather cooperates. At age 50, he's an inspiration.

It was another great adventure today...running provides so many. I guess it's high time that I get my butt back in gear, and maybe start running to work again.

This Friday the Red Eye Runners will participate in our 4th Reach the Beach Relay in NH. Dawn and the Goat will join the team this year, so I'm excited to see how they enjoy it. It's a great time...stay tuned next week for the race report.

Happy trails!