Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Canal Diggers 5k...I was hoping for so much more

5k's used to be a staple in my racing diet but as I've gotten into longer distances and multisport events, I've not run many (only 2 thus far this year to be exact). Thus I needed to get one on the calendar. The Canal Diggers 5k is a local event put on as part of a local festival (and its one of a "triple crown" series) that has a good course and a pretty good turn out. Not to mention it has an 11 am start and is just 5 minutes from J's house (which equals a relaxed morning and no rush). I slept in, enjoyed easy race day rituals: eggs and pancake breakfast, OJ, few cups of good coffee and trips to the bathroom. I never cease to be amazed at how the nerves of racing are amplified by the nuclear bomb that is a caffeine in one's stomach that equal a non stop emptying of the bowel...(yes, a very nice way to say crap your head off. I am trying to be more refined). A quick throw on of race day clothes, my Polar RCX5G5 and off I went. Now I decided to not wear my usual Polar singlet for this event. I am always hesitant to wear sponsor gear at an event that will have serious/pro racers lest I be confused with a "real runner". There is nothing that chafes me more than seeing someone in branded gear at a race who looks like they shouldn't be in it or doesn't perform like they've earned it. Idiosyncrasy I know but this thought will rear its head later in this recap.

Luckily packet pick up was morning of, was smooth and easy, and it included a high visibility orange race tech tee. I LOVE when races do that! Last year they did neon green and it's so great to wear them while out on training runs because I know I can be seen from space. Putting on my number and looking around I saw all types of people: the competitors (to include the kid that won the series last year who averaged a 14 minute 5k and the Kenyans (yes you heard right...KENYANS), the 1st timers, the groups of friends running together for support, the crossfit-ters (can I just tell you how much I dislike them?! They don't need to wear crazy costumes or have funny saying shirts or wear backpacks at a race to make it "more interesting" or draw attention to themselves. Here's an idea, how about you just focus in running and show up on race day and try to PR like the rest of us! By the way, the fit guy who has muscles and is passing...you is me!).

We get told to head to the start where I see people holding up 5 and 6 minute mile corral signs and a guy on a bull horn saying that "unless you think you can win this race, you should keep walking back". I LOVE IT! Thank you so much that SOMEBODY finally said out loud what we all think. I have no delusions of winning a 5k but I know I run around a 6:30 paced race. If you outweigh me by 20 or 30 pounds and have a Camelback or fuel belt on...you have no business standing beside me or worse...in front of me...before a race. Unless you also have a rocket stuffed in that back pack or up your butt, I'll bet a paycheck that you will be nothing more than a speed bump in the field of runners. How about being self aware and respectful of others?! Look, before I get flamed about this, I KNOW if I stood at the front of the field at a marathon all the racers would wonder "who's the fat kid thinking he's gonna be up here with us"?! Not to mention too that race officials would come up and tell me to move. There's no reason why smaller races shouldn't do this. I know I'd be a hindrance to faster runners (and take NO OFFENSE by the way) why can't others do the same? Ok, off my soapbox and back to the recap.

Now I don't know about you but I pick out people in front of me that I'm going to target to pass once the race is on. I don't dislike these people or think poorly of them, they're just my motivation to get through a race. It's my mind game to keep me going when I'm in pain (which if you've read this blog...is most of my racing). So...when I saw the heavy set guy, in the head to toe Asics kit, with racing flats, standing in the 5 minute corral...I knew I had my first target. A quick rendition of the Star Spangled banner and we were off.

The first mile of the race is relatively flat and comes back by the start. I have to admit I felt good (good enough to flash a thumbs up to J as I went by) and seemed to be in one of the front packs. We come up on the 1 mile time clock (can I just tell you how awesome I think it is that they have time clocks at EACH mile of this race!) and glanced down at my watch to see that I hit the opening mile in 5:57. Ya, I guess I did feel good and while I briefly entertained the thought that I would smash my PR on this pace I knew I was gonna pay the price for it at some point. There's a slight uphill coming off the first mile and when I looked up I saw the Asics guy...target acquired. I caught him at the 1 1/4 mile mark. As I passed him, he sped up to sit on my shoulder. This was completely unacceptable to me so I just kept upping the pace until I burned him off. I heard him "pop" as I ran away. It was a great way to keep me occupied but that only got me to about the halfway point of the race! Now I was looking for anything to take my mind off my legs and the ridiculous wind that was blowing through downtown. I was actually trying my best cycling "echelon formation" to use people I was passing to block the wind. I hit the 2nd mile at 12:18 (I told ya I was gonna pay for that pace) and had that fleeting thought that I could still beat my PR but that was cancelled out by the screaming of my lungs. I just kept thinking to myself to take smooth, deep breaths and it would all be over soon (sounds like a bad date night). Then the internal dialogue kicked in. I don't know if "real runners" ever deal with this but I always seem to have the "why the hell am I doing this" conversation with myself during a race and ask questions like: why aren't I still in bed? Why am I trying to run this fast (since I'm not gonna win this thing)? Why can't I just enjoy being fat? And of course the "if there is a God and he/she let's me get through this, I'll never race again". I mean every one has to have those thoughts right...right?! The last 1.1 miles of the race are a relatively straight shot with a bend left down hill and then a hard right uphill to the finish. For the first time I let go and let the hill carry me down because I needed to catch my breath and I knew the finish was coming. Bottom of the hill, right turn and time to start pumping my arms uphill to the finish. I saw the finish clock was just under 20 minutes but knew it took me about 10 seconds to cross the start line after the gun went off so I had that glimmer of hope that at least I'd get another sub 20 minute 5k. Crossing the finish line I glanced down at my watch to see I finished in 20:10. Not bad, not what I was hoping for but good enough for 40th overall (out if 1061 runners), 8th in my age group but 7 seconds slower than last year's race. I had run a 20 minute flat 5k at the Timberman Sprint Triathlon two weeks ago and thought a sub-20 5k would've been easy...not the case...not the case at all.

A number of folks have weighed in on my performance (or lack thereof) with the insight that I wasn't warmed up for the stand alone 5k like I am after a swim and run as part of a Tri and that makes total sense. Most cyclists spend time on the trainer warming up before a time trial and I see all the "real runners" out doing laps and getting sweaty before the race. Not to mention, a 5k is flat out speed off the start so there's not time to "warm up" like you can in the early miles of a 10k, 10 miler or half marathon. All said and done, another race in the books and another lesson learned...but I'm really looking forward to the 5k run leg of next weekend's triathlon.


  1. Good job man...Love the play by play not to mention you calling out the D-bags at these races.

    1. Thanks man! I try to capture my thoughts on race day...even though they're all over the place