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Gerardo-CongressAveMile

It was a good morning for a race. The humidity was low. The only improvement we could have asked for would have been for less wind coming from the southeast. I showed up at the starting area of the Congress Avenue Mile about 7:00 AM, an hour and ten minutes before the start of my race. It looks like most everyone parked near the finish line and walked/jog to the start area. I had never competed in this event before so I was intrigued by the entire process. Plus it was a new course. It now started on 11th street, just to the left of the capitol, headed down about 100 meters before making a right turn down Congress straight to the finish.

Warming up, I was still concerned about my strained calf and was fully prepared to drop out of the race at the first sign of trouble. I saw a tall guy (Ross Hill) warming up and I knew he would be a contender. I didn’t know any of these guys personally, but you can often look at someone and determine that they look fit. Sometimes it is good not to know who your competition is so that you don’t psyche yourself out. About 10 minutes before the start there were now several guys who appeared to be fit, but how fast are they? We’ll soon find out. Governor Perry was there with the microphone enjoying himself and trying to liven up the “party”. He must’ve jumped on a car because he was waiting for us at the finish line. J

The gun (horn) goes off and there is a FAST pace to get to the turn up ahead in good position. I must’ve arrived at the turn in about fourth position or so with a big pack clustered together. I know we’re running fast but hard to gauge as always on a road race, plus the first 1/4 mile is the most dramatic decline of the race. I'm feeling comfortable and decide to slowly climb into the lead as we approach the 1/4 mile mark – a 62 second split. Can that be correct? Wow. At this point I’m second guessing myself as I’ve never been a front runner in a mile race – I usually like to sit behind the leaders and try to outkick them at the end of the race. Hence, I ease off the throttle some and a couple of guys come by me. Still … as we come through the half in about 2:18, I'm sitting in about third position, but there must be about eight of us all within striking distance of the lead. I thought for sure that between the half and the 3/4 mile mark we would start to see some separation between the field. No such luck. We reach the 3/4 mile mark around 3:32 and the pack is still big – I’m guessing about 8 runners (including the Russian, Sergey Karasev) all within striking distance of winning. Since I was hurting, and had confidence in my kick, I was not going to force the issue. But … there is almost always someone in the race who is, and on this day it was Sebastian Villalva. The real race had begun at the 3/4 mile mark.

Sebastian decided to go for it as he surged and quickly opened up a big gap on the pack. I thought that, if I had any chance, I needed to pick it up and try to stay close so I did, but I wasn’t alone. Hank Cantu, Barry Coffman, and Ross Hill all decided to surge as well. Now, with about 220 yards to go I find myself in a tie for fourth place, with Sebastian WAY out in front (20 yard lead) and second and third position only a few yards ahead of me. I tell myself that fifth place will be a huge disappointment especially since second place is within reach so I force myself to dig deep and start my kick. I am ALL out and pass the second and third place guys to put myself into 2nd position with about 150 meters to go and then I notice I’m GAINING on the leader. I’m thinking IF I keep the pedal to the medal the last 100 meters, I MIGHT COULD catch Sebastian. I had to try. And then I notice the leader looking over his shoulder and I KNOW he is in trouble as I’m closing fast. This only gets me even more pumped and I push and push and pass him with about 20 meters to go, but I wasn’t going to let up until I crossed the finish line. Sebastian tried to respond, but couldn’t. I won the masters race! Wow … was I thrilled. The clock read 4:42 as I went under it, but for some reason the results say 4:45.0. It didn’t matter – I was happy.

Jon Warren, Jerry Fuqua, and Carlos Rivas where at the finish line to congratulate me. I don't think anyone else that was there even knew who I was, as I rarely go out of town to race. Jon Warren spoke to me after the race and chuckled when I told him that Sebastian had come up to me after the race and asked me, “Who the hell are you?” Jon says, "I heard him. I’m sure he meant it as a compliment. He had a few other choice words as well." Later Sebastian and I spoke some at the awards presentation. We both agreed that he probably started his kick too soon. That is why it can sometimes be so exciting when you run up against people you don’t know as the mile can be won/lost with the proper combination of fitness and strategy. But if you don’t know who your competitors are, it can be hard to strategize, in which case luck does come in to play to some degree.

I couldn’t have been any more pleased with the result, especially since the calf never cried out to me the entire day (or for the last week for that matter).

Gerardo

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