|Ya, little nervous|
A 50 minute drive to the race start (the GPS said it was a 90 minute drive…but who has time for that?!) and I was registered and ready to run. Even though the sun was out it was still chilly so I dressed a little warmer than usual and pinned on my number. J wanted to do a mile warm up, something that I never do but know I should, so we stepped off to stretch out legs and warm up on a chilly March morning. Warm up done, it was time to head to the start.
I've said it a million times before on my race recaps but I have a tendency to start too fast...going in the tank too early and spending the rest of race trying desperately to hold on. That problem is even more prevalent at the beginning of the season (reared its ugly head at the Celtic 5k which I just realized I still owe a recap for) when I'm filled with race jitters. So I figured I'd hang back in the front half of the group and try to start slower and work into negative splits. Great idea...until the gun went off. I quickly found myself with the lead group by the 1/2 mile mark and realized this was going to be a long day.
The lead pack was filled with high school track runners (you know, the skinny, fast, world hasn’t crushed their soul, running a 5:45 mile with a smile on their face is no problem kind of kids) and a few legit looking racers (of which I guess I can now include myself) as we approached the 1 mile mark. As we climbed up the first short hill (yes…first. The course was rolling hills...and yes I've been training on hills but I hate them in any shape form or fashion) the guy at the mile marker was calling out times. 5:48, 49, 50, 51...wait, did I hear that right?! Am I hitting the first mile of a 5 mile road race on a sub 6 min mile pace?! Even more incredible…I'm doing it and actually feeling good?! Ok, well I’m going to pay for this later I’m sure. No sooner did the thought to prepare myself for pain cross my mind did 2 of the guys in the lead pack break off to the side and start throwing up. Seems like I'm not the only one pushing hard here.
I hung with the lead group as we went into the second mile...11:56,57,58...holy crap are we running fast! I rarely look down at my Polar GPS for fear I would see the pace or heart rate and think it’s way too face and I should lay off. Rather, I just tried to focus on breathing, an upright body position, staying relaxed and keeping up with the lead group
As we hit the third mile...18:01, 02, 03...the track kids hit another gear and pulled away and I was starting to feel the effort. To be honest I was surprised at how good I felt up until this point. I was running at an effort just below red line and holding it. Harkening back to the conversation I had with Rinny a few days ago, if I could run through the pain I could end up with a good finish. It didn't feel great but it didn't feel like I was at the bottom of the tank either. I just focused on keeping the lead group in sight and running hard. Another runner of the lead group peeled off to throw up. Ha, at least it wasn't me. Seeing guys younger than me falling off and throwing up from the effort…priceless! The second half of the race seemed to be more windy and hilly course. Nothing I could do but dig in and run faster.
A deep breath, some Coke and I looked down at my watch to see that was indeed my finishing time. I ran almost the whole race at max effort to include a 200 beat per minute heart rate I held for the last 1/2 mile. Then is when the pain set in. I felt like I just got hit by a truck! But the pain was the best I’d felt in a while because I realized I just took 3 minutes of my 5 miler PR and I finished high overall. How high? Even better than I thought...17th overall with 3rd in my age group. I had a great effort, result, placing AND I got to take home a trophy. That was a good race day…especially considering I didn’t decide to even race until about 90 minutes before the race started! What does a grown man do with a trophy? I display the hell out of it…I earned it!