Sunday, November 03, 2013

When a 5k is more than a 5k...

I raced yesterday, a total of 3.1 miles. Oooh! Hardly a noteworthy achievement, right? I mean it was only 46.9 miles less than my beginning of the year goal. That's pretty close though. But if I told you I was genuinely concerned going into the race, would you believe me? The night before I still considered not running. Leanna would have none of it though. "You need to do it." So I did.

I run the trails used for the Aquidneck Land Trust "Race for Open Spaces" literally every week. I know every step cold. So what's the big deal. The deal is that I hadn't raced since July 2012, and I hadn't finished a race since June 2012. I've been through a string of injuries since then and am still not 100%. And 5ks hurt. Jam your heart up into your throat for approx 19-20min hurt. And I was afraid. Yup, there I said it. I was afraid that on my home course with my athletic background I'd get my ass handed to me by any number of people. I worried about the wheels falling off and a steady stream of people coming by me as I limped in to the finish.

It's a very deceptive course. Almost 1/2 of it wraps around a cornfield/cow pasture. It's gradual up and gradual down. If you've never run on soft pasture land, even the semi packed edges, it's a frustrating experience. You push so hard into the ground and get so little in return. And the slope of the hill is gradual enough that you need to try and maintain a regular flat land stride as opposed to shifting into a hill climbing gear. It all makes for a really difficult effort on something that looks really easy...and that is a mindblow.

I was really wound up pretty tight before the start, but finally relaxed when droves of kids jammed to the front of the starting area. And I mean kids, 7-15 yrs old. It was funny and helped put things back into perspective. This was fun.

From that point on the race unfolded like a script. I executed as well as I've done any race in a number of years. The adults (and a couple of kids!) around me were legit runners, if not all sub 17min speedsters. Solid runners who would pass me if I screwed up. The start was chaos as everyone sprinted across a field and towards a gate only two people wide. I made the gate in 8th, passed a couple of people during the next .25miles, and then settled in behind "the race" as we hit the pasture. The cows were mooing at us in an angry, agitated way. Again, pretty funny. At the one mile point I eased past the 5th place runner (*note: his 15yr old son would take 2nd, pretty awesome), tried to get my breathing under control going back down the hill, which again is a lot more work than you'd think a downhill would be thanks to the soft, rutty ground. Just before the woods at almost 2miles I made the next pass. The woods are windy, rooty, there are 3 bridges, and it's hard to go superfast. The guy stuck on me and I wasn't feeling super strong. On the final bridge, a .25mile boardwalk actually, he was literally right on my heels and I expected him to repass. I didn't push knowing we had a long gradual uphill slog coming and I figured I could pull away there as I had climbed the pasture better than he. Sure enough I started opening the gap. From there it was keep some tempo until the final straight and them push hard enough that nobody was coming around me. I did hold on, though with far more grunting than I've ever done in my life. Not sure what was up with that!

So the story of the day was not that I am in some amazing condition, but that my mind is my worst enemy or my best friend, whichever I choose. I can still execute. Much to my satisfaction my competitors didn't wilt. I was pushed the whole way and had I eased off, my nightmare would have been realized.

Though 47, I can still get it done.

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