Shortly after arriving at the start of the Pineridge 4 Mile race, Kenny—who ran an astounding 15-minute five kilometer race in college—put everyone on notice.
“I have been training all summer for the Tortoise and Hare races,” he declared, “and I have a strategy.
“The last few months I have just been sitting on my butt so that today I’ll be nice and slow. Then, as the series progresses, I’ll naturally get much faster. I’m going for the series win!”
It may have been an unorthodox strategy as far as running races go, but it underscores how the Fort Collins Running Club’s Tortoise and Hare races work. In the T&H races, start times for runners are staggered by computer (or for new runners, human) predicted times, with the slowest runners starting first. Because of this head start, the fastest runners don’t necessarily “win.” Instead, the racers who beat their predicted times the most cross the finish line earlier and are awarded points according to their finishing place. Points from each race are tabulated for every runner, and the person with the most points at the end of the series is the series champ.
In essence, then, participants who improve the most over the series earn the most amount of points. Or so went Kenny’s strategy.
I, on the other hand, was certainly not thinking that long term. A couple weeks prior I had run one of the greatest races of my life but had not run since. Hence, I was merely thinking about putting in a good effort despite little training, brisk temperatures, and a dirty and sometimes rocky trail that was certainly not my forte. And not getting caught by the two runners starting after me, including Steve (two seconds behind) and Kenny.
The first half went well, as the trail looping around the north end of the Dixon Reservoir at Pineridge was as flat and smooth as an interstate highway. I started out at a pace that was probably too fast but put a bit of distance between myself and the chasing Steve. My legs, arms and lungs felt pretty fluid. Kind of like a bicycle chain that was 30 miles since its last lube—not too squeaky, but not butter-smooth.
If the first half was smooth sailing, the second half was like navigating through a sea of icebergs. There were rocks, logs, overgrown weeds, and steps. The last time I ran this section on a training run, other runners saw rattlesnakes. I tried not to think about those. But the knolls and dips that the trail followed were impossible to ignore, and at the significantly slower pace I was going I was fully expecting Steve and Kenny to blaze by me at any moment.
Surprisingly, they didn’t. My time for the 3.54 miles (the race should have been called the Pineridge 3.5 Mile Run) was 24:58—fast enough to be declared the Male Hare, or quickest dude in the race.
But in fact, I was the 11th person to cross the finish line. As only the top ten finishers received more than the default 5 points, I received the same amount of points as the 12th, 13th, 14th (etc.) runners—including Kenny, who finished 17th.
The difference was with my relatively quick time, my predicted time for future races would be skewed faster (and therefore harder to beat) after the race director enters data from the Pineridge race into the computer. Since I don’t see myself getting any faster during the winter while I am training less, it looks like I am on the path to a series points finish befitting of the Detroit Lions. That is, a losing one.
Perhaps I should have been taking notes from Kenny. It sounds like he has a winning strategy to me.
Distance: 3.54 miles
Total time: 24:58 (7:03/mile)