Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Taken Down by Klaus at the Santa Claus Half

I’ve averaged about 37 miles a week since the marathon in June, have missed a lot of days, and just got back from 16 days on the North Slope where I had to run—actually it was more of a slog—back and forth on a soggy gravel airstrip. No speedwork, no tempos, no marathon pace runs for two months. I’ve just been running when I can, so I went into the Santa Claus Half in North Pole, AK not feeling that sharp (but otherwise healthy).

They had to change the course because of all the rain. Typically, most of the race is on trails through a 40 year old flood diversion channel and its dikes. However, while not totally inundated this year, there were sections that were knee deep in water (not to mention 3 inches of mud no doubt), so they moved it to the roads. I went in hoping for 1:20 or 1:21, but not sure if I could hold that.

We lined up in the damp chill, and I surprised not to see many of the usual suspects. Things looked good for a third and a chance to move up in the race series. Boy was I in for a surprise.

The plan was for a 6:15 or so first mile and then to drop down to 6:05 or so and to hold that for as long as I could. Kevin took off like a rocket, probably 5:20-5:30 pace, and Chad was not to far ahead, but running with Chad was 6’4” Klaus (40ish). I’ve raced against Klaus many times and he's usually 15-30 seconds per mile slower. He’d come back I figured, as he and Chad crossed the mile in 5:49 compared to my 6:13.. Chad pulled away in pursuit of the fast starting Kevin, and Klaus kept motoring along. By 5 to 7 miles I figured he’d drop back, and I planned to make a push between 7 and 8 in case he was still ahead.

He seemed about 18 to 20 seconds up at 5 miles (30:24), and I ran the next two miles in 11:58, but at mile 7 he had 30-35 seconds on me. What the heck!? By then I knew he’d be tough to reel in. I ran has hard as I could the rest of the way and clicked off 6:03s to 6:08s, and tried to at least look good for my wife who was cheering at the lap point, but Klaus kept going and going. At 10 (1:00:49), the gap was too big unless he decided to stop and tie his shoes and pick some raspberries, and so I refocused on trying to break 1:20.

Kept on pace, but did fall off in the 12th mile (6:20), and I knew the time would be down to the wire. Surged several times for 30 to 40 seconds in the last mile, saving for a big push with about 500 meters to go. Sprinted in, the last 150 m along the Alaska Pipeline, and crossed the line unofficially (my watch) in 1:19:58 (confusingly, the race clock said 1:19:25 or so).

Kevin went 1:15, Chad 1:16:44s, and Klaus was 1:19:14. He’ll be tough on skis this year, and definitely a challenge at the Equinox.