Another Thanksgiving in Peoria means another chance to run the unique FOLEPI river trail classic. The four mile race takes place on a paved shared-use path where the final three miles are entirely gradually downhill. This makes for super-fast running. In my 3rd attempt I set a new PR, despite the very strong headwind nearly the entire length of the point-to-point course.
Interestingly, I executed the race more like a bike race than any foot race I’ve ever done before. Usually that’s probably not a great idea, but it somehow worked out well. I tried to start conservatively, which put me about 30-40 places back right from the gun (err, whistle). After a few hundred meters we turned into the wind and I hunkered down behind someone tall, hopping from one person to the next as speeds varied.
3/4 mile in I found myself in a bit of a conundrum in that I had moved past everyone in my group and there was a sizable gap up to the lead group… and they were also moving faster than I was. Rather than continue at my own pace I did what I wouldn’t hesitate for a single second to do in a bike race, though in a running race it was unthinkable–I burned a match. I put in a huge effort to accelerate and not only stop losing ground to the lead group, but also catch back up to them. The gap was probably only about 20-30 meters, which seems fairly small. But I’d say it took more than a minute running over 12mph to close the gap. I caught up right as we passed the first mile marker (the flat mile) in 5:18. It was a bit faster than I hoped, but I was in good position. Or so I thought.
Not a moment sooner than I joined the group did we hit the downhill where the group exploded. What had been 10 guys tightly bunched together blocking the wind for me quickly turned into singles spread out across the path. I stayed behind a young guy for the next mile or so just trying to recover from my earlier acceleration. But you can’t really recover running at that speed.
As we passed the 2nd mile marker inside of 11:00 another guy came up from behind and passed us. Not really thinking in my hypoxic state I latched on behind him and took off. This guy maintained a very steady pace, which was good. I stayed glued to him, as he was running exactly the pace I wanted to be going. In the final half mile he started to waiver a bit so I moved in front of him to return the favor for him blocking the wind. He seemed to recover a bit, as he passed me with a couple hundred meters to go.
I finished in 22:05 (5:31/mile), my fastest time yet at this race. This was reassuring at a time when I’ve been doing lots of long runs and very little speedwork. I was 10th overall and 2nd in my age group (behind the guy who I ran with most of the race).