Friday, May 06, 2011

Missed it by *That* Much

Last night was one of the most important events on my calendar - the Maryland Twilight Meet, featuring the Alumni Mile.  Now in its 3rd year, the event began in 2009 as a last opportunity for the team to race, and as a way to reconnect the alumni to the program.  That first year I was super pumped to get out there and race a mile.  There was a good field and I was looking to run fast.  Well, that failed.  I ended up running a disappointing 5:13, getting beat by Laurel in the process.  At least they had Chick-Fil-A sandwiches for us, and got t-shirts and hats.

Year 2, last year, was a different story.  Just 6 weeks off my second knee surgery and I hadn't run at all, but there were only 3 starters on the line and they weren't going to hold the event with just 3.  So I sucked it up.  I finished in 4th, in 6:15, behind Denise this time.  Still, for not having run in a long time, I was psyched I could run that fast.

This year I tried to rally support for the event.  The trouble is, anyone who was a sprinter on the team didn't want to run a mile, and it's as if people just don't run anymore.  Everyone whines about how they're not in shape.  This is the worst excuse in the world.  If you ran for a Division 1 school, I'm pretty sure that, unless your legs have been amputated, you can make it through a mile.  As an aside, even if my legs were amputated, I would still do it.  Not being in shape is never an excuse.  It's not like you register for this event, pay for it, nor is it truly serious. 

In the end, there were a dozen of us on the line.  And, everyone was interested in running as fast as they could.  Conrad was the designated pacesetter, and took us through the first 409 meters in 75.6.  We had a pack of Conrad, Doug, Prada and Tom Stott.  The pace was comfortably hard, but I was disappointed to see a split over 75.  Not going to help me run under 5, that's for sure.  The 2nd lap was picked up, and we came through in 73.3 (2:28.9 at the half).  I was holding on, but it was getting difficult.  I was tightening up, and just trying to tick my legs over.

The third quarter was key, and I split 75.5.  If I was going to get under 5, it was going to be by the closest of margins. 

I was fortunate to have an unreal support crew out there.  Alyssa, Brennan, Melissa, Pat, Pete and Alex B had come down to spectate.  Cheese, Arjun, Tristram, Diane and Meg D were all finished with their race(s) so they were all over the track, and Wiggy was out there giving some encouragement at the 200 mark as well. 

No matter what I did on that last lap, it was going to be better than 2009, but I really had to get under 5.  Coming up the final straight, I could see the clock, and was charging as hard as I could.  As I crossed the line, I thought I had it.  I was spent.  My watch read 4:59.6.  Pat had .66.  Alyssa had .7.  Brad Jaeger had .9.  I felt as if I had certainly gotten under 5.  My last lap was 75.2.

Then the official results were posted and it was revealed that I ran a 5:00.11.  Bullshit!  No way on earth.  I was disappointed, because coming THAT close and missing by such a marginal amount is obviously frustrating, but I was really excited with the race.  It's the fastest mile (other than the downhill road mile) I've run since 2002 probably.  It was an even race, and it was a competitive race.  I felt good after the warmup, like I was actually ready to race.  I didn't give up during the race when it got hard.  Of course now I feel like a herb because two of the mile races I've run in the last 3 years have results in 5:00.99 (indoors) and 5:00.11 (outdoors). 

The good news is that I was in pretty good shape in 2008 when I ran that indoor race, so I feel like I can still run pretty quick.  My foot was killing me after the race, unfortunately.  But we did go on a sweet cooldown through North Campus, ran through a rave by North Woods (in the courtyard) and then saw the new Oakland Hall.  On the warmup, got to run down College Ave, up past the sororities and frats and Knox Rd.  I always love going back to CP.  And it was an especially surreal day to head down there as men's basketball coach Gary Williams had just announced his retirement after 22 years. 

The conditions had evolved into perfection by race time, too.  It had been windy all day, but the wind died and the temp was perfect at around 60.  You don't get many days like that to race a mile!  Also, Laurel didn't show up, so I didn't have to worry about getting beat by her.  I'll have some chances to run another mile this summer, probably at a BRRC meet, but I need to get under 5 again. 

This was a really good race for me with a great result.  My 4:50 at the Westminster Mile I figured would put me at 5:03 on the track, but I also didn't have any faith in running that quick as I felt like I've not done the work to warrant running that fast.  I realistically thought I would run a 5:08 or 5:09, so this was good. 


Andy said...


Michelle M said...

NICE time!

My world was turned upside down by William's announcement. My life has only known him at the coach of the Terps. I almost went to school there JUST so I could go to basketball games. I must find the strength to go on...

RM said...

What I loved about Gary was his intensity (obviously) and that he was never satisfied with any performance. While he never really got the "great" high school baller, for the 1999-2002 team he managed to get guys who played great together. But he didn't settle until he won the championship.

From there, it should have been easy street. Kids should have been busting down the walls to go to Maryland. But they didn't capitalize on the opportunity. The highlights after 2002 have been few and far between, a couple of wins over Duke do not a season make.

So, while I'm a Gary Williams fan through and through, I think it's time. Honestly, I would have left last year, or I would at least have waited until I made the Tournament again. The timing of this announcement seems curious to me.

But, with a new president of the school, a new AD, a new football coach, maybe it's time to just start fresh, let someone else build a new team. I hear they have their sights set on the Arizona coach, and he has put their program back on track following Lute Olsen's departure so I'd be cool with that!

Michelle M said...

I never did understand the inability of Maryland to recruit top athletes (while Duke and coach K had it down to a science. I guess history speaks volumes, but still...). But, like you said, Gary had the amazing ability to get the best out of his guys when it mattered, although they ended up being outmatched... often. It was so frustrating as a fan to watch them get so close, so often, but come up short. When they finally hit jackpot in 2002 I could not believe it was actually happening. I will never forget staying up way too late in my hotel room the night before a big track meet watching the Maryland-Kansas game that they won to get to the champsionships. Dixon, Blake, Baxter, WIlcox... such an awesome time for maryland basketball.

But anyway, Gary has been at it for over 20 years and the level of intensity that he placed into his job has got to have worn on him. I will definitely miss seeing his beat red face spitting god knows what at his players from the sidelines. Like I said, it's all I have known. It was equally as weird to deal with when Phelan retired from Mount St Mary's after being there for 49 years. Although, our team gave us a little less to be excited about except routine front row seats and those two NCAA appearances when we got SMASHED in the first round. But anyway, hopefully whoever MD ends up bringing in can fill Gary's mighty shoes...and then some.