What Are The Chances?

Imagine my surprise when I picked up my race number for today’s Adam’s Heart Run and saw that it was the same number I had last weekend for the Marathon Bahamas Half Marathon. What are the chances of that? And surprise might not even be the right word considering how I am about numbers. I don’t think I’m technically superstitious about numbers – like I don’t worry about things like Friday the 13th – but I do feel better about some numbers than others and I sometimes think that numbers must be a sign of something. Typically I have no idea of what. One time I ran a 5k with my son and my number was my birthday and his was my phone extension at the company where I worked when he was born. Freaky, right? What did it mean? Not much except he kicked my ass. But the race was the NY Jets “Back to Football” 5k and the next day during the game they showed my ugly stiff form crossing the finish line on the jumbotron, which prompted my son to remind me that he had kicked my ass.
I wasn’t entirely happy with last week’s race because although I placed first in the old man group I felt my time was lackluster, especially on such a flat and fast course where people apparently PB all the time. So I looked at repeating the race number as perhaps a chance at redemption; an opportunity to reclaim some speed. Working against me was a course far hillier than the island shore I traversed a week ago.
Adam’s Heart Runs are actually a collection of races – 5k, 10k and 10 Mile – that begin at the same time and place in Oak Mountain State Park. It is part of a series of 4 races run by the Birmingham Track Club and the only one I have not yet run. I entered the 10 Mile run and I think it is the only race I’ve done at that distance.
Starting with the 5 and 10k runners put an interesting twist on this race for me since I typically try to gauge my pace by the runners around me, but usually they are running the same distance. Here the folks running the shorter distances were pretty zippy off the line and my natural inclination was to try and keep up. As a result I finished the first 2 miles @7:59 per and I knew that was waaayyyy too fast for me. I reminded myself that bank = bonk and I slowed myself down to 8:15 for miles 3 -5 which include going over a big hill, and then turning around and going up again. That return hill took some wind out of my sails but I still managed to stay below 9:00 for mile 6 and I got back below 8:00 for mile 7 on the way down. My pace for the final 3 miles was about 8:31 according to Garmin and I crossed the finish line sprinting – with plenty left in the tank!
I finished the race with an official time of 1:23:08, an 8:19 pace. That’s just 4 seconds per mile slower than my half marathon PB and I believed I could have run that fast for another 3 miles. That is if there weren’t any more hills.
Same number, vastly different races. What did it mean? I crushed last week’s pace by 38 seconds per mile and ran a double digit distance race about as fast as I can. So I naturally placed within the first 3 in the expanded old man group that included the next age group up, right? Actually, no. I was able to redeem myself speed-wise, which is more important to me than where I place. But although I have mostly been finishing in the top 3 of my age group my time today was only good for 4th place among just 7 (fast) old men. Oh and the 3 guys who finished ahead of me all beat my PB pace and would all have been in the next older age group in a bigger race. So i actually came in first in my usual old man group but was beaten by everyone in the next older group . What are the chances of that?