Goodman’s Bay Walk Run “5 Miler”
Cable Beach, Nassau, the Bahamas
Saturday, March 20, 2010
5.52 miles (aka “5 Miles”)
31:xx (somewhere between 31:30 and 31:59)
5:42-5:47 (based on 31:30 to 31:59 finish time)
4th place Overall of ~200
1st place Masters (Age 35+)
“You can take a boy out of his race environment but you can’t take the race out of the boy.”
With rum from several Bahama Mama’s still tickling my brain from an extended, relaxing lunch, my eyes locked on a sign across the street in this busy downtown port haven of Nassau, the Bahamas. Before my mind could process what it was seeing, Heather came to my assistance. “Look at that,” she said pointing to the sign, “a road race… tomorrow… at Goodman’s Bay… I think that’s the bay near our hotel.”
“Let me check,” I said as I flipped open a colorful tourist map of the island. She was right. Goodman’s Bay, it turned out, was a mile jog down the road from our resort at Cable Beach.
Sponsored by Subway, the popular sandwich shop, the “walk run” had no stated distance. All it offered was that you had to pre-register at a local Subway.
Hours later we finally made our way to the Subway back across town, nearer to our hotel, to check things out. Sitting in a yellow booth inside the tiny shop was a lady with a collection of t-shirts on the table. After introductions, I launched into questions.
“Is this a race?”
Uh-huh. You can walk or run.
“What is the distance?”
“Is this a real race? Like will there be a starting line and a finish line?”
Uh-huh. You can walk or run. Warm up starts promptly at 5:45.
“This a race, like the first runner to cross the line wins, right?”
Yeah, baby. There will be trophies to the winners.
Trophies to the winners. Sounded like a real race to me. That’s all I needed to hear!
After Heather and I agreed with each other to commit to waking up early enough the next morning for the 6 a.m. start, I extracted $30 US dollars, enough to register both of us, and before we knew we were walking back to the hotel, each with a t-shirt, Subway water bottle, and race number.
Here we were, on vacation, and there, before us, only a mile down the road, was a “5 mile” road race. This would be fun! But it would also be dark. Because the sun didn’t rise until 7:30 a.m.
Dark it was.
At promptly 5:45 the next morning warm-ups started in true international flair, with a lady in a sweat suit leading a collection of 200 or more walkers and runners with gentle stretches as music pumped participants awake.
Although Heather and I stuck out in the pre-dawn morning like two moons drifting across a dark sky, we never felt out of place. The locals were friendly, warm, and engaging, always asking questions. “Where are you from? We have good weather for you. Have you been to the Fish Fry yet? No? Ya mon, you must go.”
A few minutes until the start we were ushered into the street. I asked the race director where the course went and what the distance was. He said it would be an out and back on the main drag. Distance was 5 miles, maybe more. After finding Heather and letting her know these details, I got back into the group and wiggled my way to the front of the pack. Seconds later, a man yelled “Go!”
The race had started with 15 runners in the first hundred yards sharing the lead. A yard later it was 10. A yard after that it was 5. Like a snap of the finger. The pretenders were now out of the way, one even walking on the side of the road. I hung in aggressively but under control. Breathing wasn’t labored yet. But I was moving as fast as I could and felt as if I was still accelerating. Having not had a chance to warm up, I knew it would be a mile or two before I hit top speed.
The leader, having shot ahead of the pack, was now way out in front. He seemed to be in a category unto himself, but no matter, in the darkness of the morning, I kept my eye on him and made an attempt to keep him at a level distance. It was faster than I wanted to go at that time, but I was hoping this fast-start/quick-to-fail mentality would befall him as it had the others.
Within the first half mile, I had worked by a few more guys and now sat squarely in second place, with the guy in first still at level distance ahead. During this time I heard a voice very close behind me, as if coaching another runner. By what I estimate to be just shy of a mile, two guys, one coaching the other, made their pass. I was now in 4th place. The pass was strong. I tried for several strides to hang on, but the pace was too hard for the distance remaining. Just then the guy doing the talking pulled to the side of the road. He chased his buddy with words of advice: “Hold that pace. Hold that pace. It’s good.” I was now in 3rd place, with the guy in 1st now pushing the level a bit too much where I had to strain in the darkness to see him.
Just when I thought I was alone, a kid looking as if he could be a collegiate runner came up behind me and settled in for a chat. “These guys start fast” observed my running mate, who I would later find out was from Nebraska, a few years out of college, and in the Bahamas on a work vacation.
This kid looked fast. We were moving along at mile one at roughly 5:40 pace and he was talking quite easily. So I offered, “The leader isn’t far… He’s about 25 seconds up. And then the guy who just went by me.”
“I saw that… I think he had a pacer. The guy pulled to the side of the road. Just stopped running.”
“Go get ‘em, man,” and with that the young buck, the eventual winner, set out for the chase.
My goal from there on in was to keep this kid within sight, which in the darkness meant that I couldn’t let him get more than 25 seconds up.
To the out and back turnaround I went, running hard but also extremely comfortably. I still felt as if I were accelerating, not just pacing, but rather moving forward harder and faster. The speed work I had done on the treadmill over the winter was really shining on this flatter than flat course. No matter how hard I ran, my breathing got harder, but I was still able to keep up with it. Not only was I accelerating, or so I felt, but I was bouncing along the pavement, strong and fast, feeling better than I had ever before in any race. Maybe it was the rum drinks. Those Bahama Mama’s and Monkey Punches were good. But would they be at this point, a few days into my vacation, a little too good? Apparently not. Not for the speed work invested over the last months.
After roughly the three mile mark, I realized that there would be no water on the course. It was very hot for this northern boy coming out of winter weather; my throat was parched. No matter, I felt electric as I continued to accelerate over the miles. I didn’t need water. I only wanted it.
With only two miles left, or so I guessed, I played a mental game to get me to run even faster. I wanted to catch at least one more guy. Pretending I was holding onto a top-end speed interval on the treadmill by getting up on top of my feet and staying compact, I ran even faster. I could feel elation, speed, and the warm Bahama air in my face, as I created my own wind. I decided to give it my all to see if I could hold this aggressiveness to the end.
Little by little, I chipped away at the lead of those in front. I got to the point where I could see them not just most of the time but all of the time in the darkness of the morning. As a light colored shirt, and then another, got closer and closer, I got more energized.
At what I estimated to be mile 4, I saw all three guys in front of me. The guy who led the race to that point was caught by the guy who had a pacer in that first mile. Those two ran stride for stride until this point, when my friend from Nebraska pushed by both for the lead, one he would never relinquish.
From there to the end, a GPS determined 5.52 miles by a few others, I closed the gap to positions two and three, who both seemed to be slowing due to the fast start. As I drew them nearer, I finally ran out of room. Half a mile more and second place was mine. First was secured by Nebraska boy. But a half mile more and second was mine. Only the course was not a half mile more.
After crossing the finish line in 4th place overall and 1st Masters of age over 35, I realized that I had forgotten to start my watch. The guy in first place and third had 5.52 miles on their GPS. First place guy finished in low 31 minutes while the next three spots, including me, trailed in. I guessed I was 20 to 30 seconds back of the winner and only 15 of second and third. If these numbers are correct, that would give me, slowest case, 31:59, good for a 5:49 pace over 5.52 miles. That would be an all-time PR. Although the course was as flat as they come, I felt extraordinarily good.
Turned out runners 1 through 3 were former collegiate runners by a few years. Felt good to mix it up near them. Next time they’re mine!