My Best Damn Race – Part 2

What an amazing day at this year’s Best Damn Race Safety Harbor!


As mentioned at the end of Part 1, I went on my pre-race warm up and my quads didn’t feel great. “Did I burn them up on my pre-race run yesterday going to fast?” Quickly, I mentally referenced Olaniyi Sobomehin, Chris Hauth, and Matt Fitzgerald. It’s game day, deal with it! Out of my head it went.

As I was the third race of the morning I was able to consult with a few teammates on wind conditions as they were quite heavy and would be an impact on mile one and part of mile two. Great intel – plan to tuck behind someone a bit faster than I going into the wind to start the race. To finish at 18:59 or under I would have to average a 6:06 pace per mile.

Mile One

I had a goal pace for mile one with two alternates in my head based on how much impact the wind would have. The plan started out well as I tucked behind super fast runner, founder and CEO of The Best Damn Race, Nick Zivolich. That lasted for about .6 miles and then I had a decision to make. Try to keep up with him protecting myself from the wind and potentially blowing me up or drop to my pace and deal with the wind. It was an easy decision and I fell back.

The wind took its toll however and I didn’t hit my first (5:58) or second pace (6:00) plan and instead finished mile one directly on my third hopeful option of 6:02, four seconds faster than the average I needed for 3.1 miles however. I knew going into the race mile two was the make it or break it mile, typically where the pace drops from a faster start and a push at the end.

Mile Two

Welcome to the hills. This is where I knew I had to keep the mile two pace close enough to give me a shot in mile three. The hills, nothing like a run on the bridges here or in a more elevated terrain, but still significant enough to be an impact on effort. The mental fight now was ramping up as the quads and breathing were more strained. My pace was slipping, from 6:02 in mile one to 6:09, 6:15, and 6:19 as I would glance down a few times. Based on the 6:02 pace of mile one, I knew I wanted to be somewhere in the 6:15 range for mile two to give me a shot in mile three.

I was slipping. I consciously thought of the techniques in the book from Matt Fitzgerald and every time I felt or saw the slip, I would quicken my cadence. This didn’t feel good, but I expected that and knew it would “suck.” All I kept saying to myself  was, “keep spinning” (fast leg cadence) to give myself a chance in mile three. “Just deal with it and give me a chance” I continued to say over and over in my head. I got the pace back to 6:14 to end mile two. I was doing the calculations in my head. I was four seconds under the average pace in mile one needed and eight seconds over in mile two. I needed to make up four seconds in mile three, meaning I would need to run a 6:02 and then finish the .1 mile stretch faster than that.

Mile Three

Wind at my back now and some hills in my favor as well. As I glanced down to my watch, I was running between 6:08 and 6:10 for the first quarter mile. I began to hurt really bad in the quads and my heart and lungs were pumping faster and faster. “Why am I not running faster?!?!” I was thinking. “Could this be the beginning of the end?”

One thing I have learned in racing is to keep motoring and fight as long as you can to simply give yourself a chance at the end. So per a technique via Matt Fitzgerald, every time I felt the pain rise or a potential slip in pace, I picked up the cadence, knowing the legs wouldn’t give out, only the mind. So I did just that and the pain continued to rise but all I was thinking was, “give me a chance….” I never looked at my watch again. It was what it was – focus 100% on efficiency, the road, and effort.

With about 600 meters left, who was there waiting for me? It was Michael McDonald who had just finished winning the entire Half Marathon race. He just finished winning a half marathon and there he was waiting for me. What does that tell you about this guy? He started running with me and in classic Michael style, points down with his left finger to his left leg meaning, “I want you right there!” I am not speaking of course as every bit of energy is simply on spinning the legs as fast as I could and thinking, “f#$%^&@ this pain.”

From about 400 to 200 meters left in the race, he repeats over and over, “you are too close to this, you need to turn it on NOW!” He was being 100% honest and accurate and his tone and volume increased, “you are too close to this, you need to turn it on NOW!” I’m now 200 meters out and honestly I thought I was about four to six seconds off pace.

I made the last turn with about 150 meters left and finally I glanced up to the race time clock and in astonishment, I thought to myself, “I’M GETTING THIS!!!” I sprinted through the finish line, veered to the right rail and fell to all fours for about a minute wanting to puke. For the benefit of all I did not.

I got outside the finish area and this was not fist bump time. The biggest hugs for Brian McManus, Elia Luti, and of course, Michael McDonald were coming! Elia recorded video of the final 100 meters. I honestly had tears in my eyes watching it simply by hearing their (Brian and Elia) excitement for me…..true friends. I am so lucky to have these guys and the entire race team as friends.

So it ended up that I ran splits of 6:02, 6:14, and 6:02 for the first three miles meaning I was dead on 18:59 pace with 160 meters left. What did that mean? A 5:05 pace for the final 160 led to a PR of 18:49.

Goal for run season complete!

Not on my own!

  • Thank you Dan Berguson for your guidance early on about learning how to run!
  • Thank you Alex Smolka for recommending the book, How Bad Do You Want It?
  • Thank you Keith Crouse for opening the doors for me on nutrition – would not have come close without fueling the body right. And the introduction to Rich Roll!
  • Thank you Brian McManus – my run racing brother and support for each other is fantastic!
  • Thank you Elia Luti – genuine support and friendship growing!
  • Thank you RunVie Racing Team – what an incredible group of people. All wanting the best for each other!
  • Thank you Michael McDonald – wow, can’t say enough about your guidance and friendship! I will never forget, “”you are too close to this, you need to turn it on NOW!” The final extra 200 interval at the end of a track workout to simulate a race finish 100% played out in this race.
  • Thank you Morgan Graff – my #1 inspiration. She keeps setting records forcing me to run faster.

– Add Health to Your Life


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