I headed to Sheffield yesterday for the tenth running of the Huff ‘n Puff 15K race. It was truly a day of firsts. This is the first, and thankfully only race I never finished once started. It was probably 4-5 years ago. I remember starting the race and running through the 5k mark then just had a mental, “I tired and going home” moment.
I signed up since I didn’t run the Mercedes 1/2 this year, I wanted a longer distance race before the Winter was over. I am also intrigued by the distance. It’s more challenging that a 10k but a 1/3 shorter than a 1/2 marathon. It wasn’t promising to be a smoking run though, due to the elevation changes. More on that later.
I was on-call the night before. I got an OK amount of sleep. Got called around 1:00am on a patient of mine that I’d have to see before I headed to the race. You can imagine how happy I was about that. Anyway, I lost a little sleep time so I could get up earlier, pack my stuff, eat a little breakfast, drop by the hospital, then finally drive the 45mins to race. It was easier than I worried and got to packet pick-up about an hour before race start. The other reason I decided to do the race was that it started at 0900.
Yep, that’s the number they gave me. I’m not sure how that happened. I didn’t sign up insanely early and certainly didn’t win the race last year. Anyway, I thought it was kinda cool. It was a little extra incentive to run a good race.
I put on the number and laced up my Newtons. I still had 50 mins before race start so I drove the course to scope out the hillier parts. It looked like miles 1, 4, 6, 8+ were going to be slower. I ran about 10mins for a warm-up including part of the first mile and reviewed my race plan. I made a mental note to back off a little on those steeper sections and use gravity on the downhills. There was a stiff south wind that may hurt on mile 6.
Here’s what we got to look at and run for the first mile. Straight up for 1/4 mile then a couple of very sharp rollers. My quads are still sore from those downhills. I planned to run mile 1 around 7-7:30 pace just to warm-up. I figured it would be slow anyway with the up/downs. I felt I was running easy, breathing was calm, but we blazed through mile 1 in about 6:50. Josh Whitehead and 5 other guys blitzed out of the box and were way ahead already. I ran along with Sandy Lynch, a local fast runner-girl. I vaguely remember her running a 1:03 last year. I just needed to pace with her for a good race.
Miles 2 and 3 were at my A-goal pace of 6:45/mi. These miles had a few little rollers but otherwise flat. We had a long straight-away on mile 3 through the 5K mark. I had passed Sandy and another guy down this street. She seemed to be laboring and breathing hard. I figured she was running a little hot at that pace. My heart-rate settled down from the previous hilly sections and the legs felt good. I went through the 5k mark in about 20:43, so the last part of mile 3 was a little faster. Probably, why I lost my running partners. Mile 4 was mostly fast, flat, and down hill. I ran just a tad faster (6:30) this mile. I knew mile 5, which has a sharp 1/4 mile climb would be slow. It was at 7:00. Got to the top of the climb and popped a little roctane gel and downed some water. I really didn’t need the gel for an hour race, but I didn’t want to get sluggish later and couldn’t make myself leave it in the car.
The hillier sections really made my hamstring sore. I began feeling a little tightness behind the “ole-man knee” during mile 6. A few irritating thoughts of self-doubt crept in at that point. It didn’t help that I could feel that head-wind I dread. I ran behind a guy who I thought may be the first master runner. He was about ?50secs ahead. I wasn’t sure who was behind me but guessed I was running a min ahead.
I turned back downwind and was rewarded with a nice incline up to the 10k mark. I went through at 41:53. That was a PR, another first. I felt pretty wrecked at that point. Legs felt tired and I wasn’t looking forward to the next mile snaking up to the mile 7 aid station. Good thing about this section of switch-backs was I could finally see who was behind me and gauge distances. Fortunately, I didn’t see anyone. They must be 2-3 mins back. That little positive seemed to re-ignite me. I got to mile 7 and knew all the big climbs were over. I thought I was in 5th or 6th position. I kept the guy in front of me in my sights. He seemed to be running strong. It didn’t occur to me that I could catch him but by mile 8 his lead was down to 15 seconds. I just thought he was tiring. The last 1.3 miles is slightly up, a little roller, then back up around a couple corners to the finish line. I felt strong. I had my second wind and was moving well. It finally occurred to me that I could pass this dude and take the first masters money.
I didn’t know if the guy (I now know his name is Thomas)…if Thomas had a finishing kick. I decided to move up wide of him and stay just a little behind. However, I couldn’t slow and eased next to him. We still had about 1/2 mile to run. I thought I would jump on the next small climb and put a few seconds on him, then try to sprint the last 1/4 mile. I did move pass him on the hill and pulled 10 secs ahead. My heart rate hit close to max and I feared I started my kick too soon but I kept hammering. There’s a left-hand turn before running up to the finish line. I braved a look back and was relieved to see he was 20 secs back…I had it. Finished in 5th place overall and won $150 for being first male Masters.
One of my cooler moments. I ran 1:02:24 for a 6:42min/mi pace. Better than my A-goal of 1:03. When I looked my Garmin #s, I ran the last couple miles at 6:30/ pace. That’s why I passed Thomas. I took back 20-30secs in those miles I pulled him back. Later found out Thomas was only 31 so he wasn’t competition for the Masters. Ha Ha! Oh well, it was fun to really race that last mile and practice a little strategy.
I walked a little, stretched, took a shower then went into the gym for some grub. They did a great job with the post-race refreshments and listened to the live band. I didn’t catch their name but they had acoustic guitars and the female vocalist was good. Played a lot of classic rock–my preference.
I really enjoyed getting my first male Masters plaque and my check for $150. First cash prize I’ve won. If I cash this, I lose my amateur status right? No Olympics for me. Yeah, right. That money paid for dinner, Rosie’s baby!