Marathons are not enough. Now we need ULTRA Marathons. It isn’t enough to have sports. TV viewers now demand EXTREME Sports. And for the first time, the Tour de Pain isn’t adequate. First Place Sports had to take it up to the EXTREME with the Tour de Pain Extreme. Three starting lines in 24 hours; 10K, 5K and Half Marathon. 22.4 miles of racing.
I fully acknowledge that from a training perspective for a goal oriented runner, this is not an event to do. You don’t want to PR in any of the races. Either you’ll blow your shot at the last race or save too much and leave precious time on the table in the early races. That’s exactly the intrigue. How hard should you run in the first two races? If you sit back, how much time can you really make up in the half marathon?
The intrigue sucked me in and that’s how I ended up driving to Jacksonville at 4:30 AM on Saturday morning. I had a long drive to think about my plan. Even my committee of trusted advisors came to a split decision. Two said, run hard (but not too hard) the first two, maybe just :05 – :10 slower per mile than 100% effort. Then count on guts, strength and marathon training to pull through the half marathon. Then there were the conservative minds telling me to take it really easy for the first two races and blast the half marathon. One wanted to split the difference and said to go easy on the 10K, then “Who cares about a 5K? Just hammer it! And finish up with a blood and guts effort in the half marathon.” My decision was to run mostly by effort and just try to stay with the other runners. “You gotta be in it to win it!” was a slogan popular with my college coach. So I’d run as easy as I could, while still staying in the hunt. No hanging back like the conservative advisors recommended, unless the other runners dictated that.
Starting Line #1
A half mile into the 10K, the lines were pretty clear. Sammy Palmer, who beat me at the Tom Walker Half Marathon and Trail of Payne 10K, shot out to a lead. The chase pack was Orinthal Striggles, Paul McRae, a few other runners and me. Orinthal and Paul took control of the group and I slid in behind them. By the 5K point, I was the only one in the group with Paul and Orinthal. Paul worked the late hills to put a small gap on us and Orinthal sat on my shoulder. With the finish line in sight, Paul surged to a sprint and Orinthal blasted a 200 meter kick like he was in an 800M race. I cruised in to 36:15 with a smile. 4th place.
I crossed the line, and gave a high five to the guys in front of me, then ran straight to my truck and chugged down some chocolate milk with a hardboiled egg. Recovery food was going to be important. I jogged a mile and then ate some more. No beer after this one, although it was available. I loaded into my truck and drove to Hanna Park on the beach, checked into my camp site and went straight to the beach. Wading into the 70 degree water was a little uncomfortable but the cool healing of the ocean was needed to set the legs back to full strength and settle the mind to focus on the next race.
Starting Line #2
Heavy Rain left Jacksonville humid and warm. More storms were on the way and Doug Alred advised the runners, “If it starts to lightning a lot, we advise you to seek shelter and stop running. We will however keep the finish line open…”
There were new faces on the line for the 5K so they were not part of the series but they served the purpose that inexperienced, young runners serve at every 5K in America: They took the pace out fast. A line formed single file behind the strongest rabbit down the street in front of The Landing: Orinthal, Paul, Sam, and me. After the mile mark, Orinthal made a strong move and Sam went with him. I hung back with Paul and a fading rabbit. By the end, Orinthal was a minute ahead of me, the rabbit blew by me in the last 100M and Paul again finished strong, looking comfortable just :06 in front of me. 17:44, 5th place (4th of the runners doing the series)
Gatorade, bananas, a hardboiled egg and a beer seemed like good recovery food. I scarfed it down, not really eating or drinking, just consuming. A short cool down to holler at some fellow Gainesvillian runners and I was ready to get back to my cozy tent at Hanna Park. Steak sandwich, more eggs, apples, a pear and lots of water for dinner.
Starting Line #3
Everyone in the front pack had reviewed the standings going into the last race. We all knew where we were and what it would take to catch or be caught. I knew I had a guy named Gerry :55 behind me but I wasn’t worried about him. Paul had :18 on me and Orinthal had 1:06 on me. I thought I could catch Paul, although he looked strong.
1. Sammy Palmer 52:15
2. Orinthal Striggles 52:53
3. Paul McRae 53:41
4. Dan Clark 53:59
5. Gerry Glynn 54:53
Orinthal and Paul took control of the pace and pulled away to a 10 and then 20m lead. In the pack Sam and I discussed the fact that Paul and Orinthal were reactive in their racing so we didn’t want to catch them and send the pace even faster. Sit back and wait. We discussed the standings as we ran and a voice piped in from behind us. Gerry asked when I entered the Master’s Division. I said, “January! It’s good to race with the Masters and not worry about the young guys like Sam!”
“Ha! Good for YOU.” Gerry joked. Then he added, “I’ll turn 50 soon, so I’ll be in a new age group too.”
By Mile 4, Paul had dropped back to our pack and Orinthal chugged on. “Do ya think he’s coming back to us the second half?” asked Sam.
“Sam,” I said, “I’ve seen what you can do the second half of a half marathon. You can get him.” Back in November, Sam torched the second half of the Tom Walker Half Marathon in Gainesville to beat me by a large margin. My bet was still on Sammy blasting off and catching him.
Gerry surprised us by being the one to push the pace. He surged a little and was up by 10m and then quickly by 15. Exiting the Evergreen Cemetery, I decided I couldn’t let him gap me. I knew he just had to beat me by a minute to beat me in the series, so I wanted to keep close. I picked up the pace and surprisingly, I wasn’t reeling him in very fast. I got within 5m at the 7 mile mark and looked at my split: 5:42. Ouch. Enough of that. I set my legs back on cruise control for a more reasonable pace. Gerry’s move and my subsequent chase stretched out the pack. Sam soon passed me but the rest of the pack, including Paul, fell back.
The rest of the run became a test of mental toughness and trying to maintain pace. I held onto just over 6:00 miles until the last 2 miles where we encountered the only real hills on the course. Just after the overpass hill at mile 11, I caught and passed Sam. On the Riverwalk ramp, less than a mile from the finish, the run felt much more like a marathon than a half. Gerry had found some wings and soared into a 1:18:02. He clearly had the race of the day! Orinthal cruised in at 1:17:37 for the win. I was 3rd in the Half Marathon in 1:21:05 and glad to be done with it!
Final Standings- full results click here
1. Orinthal Striggles 2:10:29
2. Gerry Glynn 2:12:53
3. Sammy Palmer 2:14:33
4. Dan Clark 2:15:02
5. Kim Pawelek 2:17:03
6. Paul McRae 2:17:07
The races tested body and mind. The runners I talked to after the event were already considering what their new strategy for next year should be. My strategy? This year was pretty good. My total time for the 10K + 5K was about equal to my 15K time at River Run. Looking at the % scores used for age grading my 3 races were 80%, 78% and 79%. Consistent effort level and I was tapped out at the end of the Half Marathon. The only question is: Could I make up more time in the half marathon if I had gone easier for the first two races? Maybe…. Gerry certainly ran his best race last and made up a lot of time (85%, 82%, 88%). Kim, the women’s winner did the same. She was well behind me in the first two races but closing fast on me in the half marathon. But the mental aspect of being “in the race” headed into the last event has value too, right? The overall winner went 78%, 80%, 80%. The intrigue remains so I guess I’ll have to go back next year.