I’m having a good couple three weeks. I ran my third race in a row today, and it went ok.
I’m in Anaheim, having arrived here yesterday. I felt I could best affirm my attention to detail and respect for my clients by trying to find a race to run the day after I arrived. It’s May! I’m in Orange County! What could be better?
I first found a 5k on a runway. I was pretty excited. At track on Tuesday, I spoke to my friends Bill and Bill about it, and the joy of a pancake flat course. I was really into it. But after checking their website, and thinking more about it, I wondered if perhaps I could find something a little more, er, established. I couldn’t find online results. Who knew if would be mostly walkers? Who knew anything? Also, a runway. Hot. Boring. Flat. But Hot. Boring.
Luckily, I found the Magic Shoe 5k, which turned out to be a blast. Since I’ve been running a fair amount, and it was a 5k, I thought I should push it hard to see if I could — heaven forbid — PR. My PR in a 5k is 19:25, which I realized was a 6:14 pace. I didn’t write it on my hand this time (which I’ve done in the past), but I realized I could keep 6:14 in my head.
I figured I’d push it hard — I mean the worst thing that could happen is that the race would be a disaster and I wouldn’t tell anyone about it. I had a pretty good 5k a couple of weeks ago, track has been fine, and other than wanting to lose 5 pounds, why not?
The website stated that the course was fast and flat — “one of the fastest 5ks in Orange County.” Who doesn’t like that? I got to the race early, and ran into a friend and client coming out of the portapotties. Small freaking world!
I’ve run a 5k in the LA before, and it was great — these folks know how to pull out all the stops. I should mention that the race was extreemly expensive ($35 plus) but it was very well run. There was a freaking expo. Plenty of parking. And the miles were well marked and I think there were two waterstops. OK, maybe one. But still.
I did a short warmup (on the track adjacent to the start – now that’s awesome!) and I could tell it was going to be a fast crowd. Lots of folks in team uniforms. High School track teams. Ug. I got to the start, realized I had to pee, remembered it was a 5k, lost interest in peeing. I heard the guy behind me saying “I’ll just be happy if I break nineteen minutes.” I encouraged him to stand in front of me. I started to talk the runners close by.
“Fast crowd, no?”
“Oh man, the competition is rough here. I’m 53. The guy that wins in my age group wins in like 16:30.”
Well, I wasn’t going to have to worry about hanging out for awards.
“I hear this course is flat, right?”
“Oh no, not flat. Not flat at all. The first mile is flat. There is a downhill in mile 2. But you come back up the same hill and it goes on forever, then there is a little bit of a hill at the end.”
“So, what’s a good strategy?”
“Kill yourself in the first mile.”
Perfect. Confidence shot.
But I figured nothing to lose, let’s push it.
Gun goes off and we are off. In any 5k race, I consistently get a feeling in the first few seconds where I am convinced my heart is going to fall out my butt. Seems to be unavoidable So far, heart has remained in chest.
Finished the first half mile, felt great. Thought to myself, self, open it up. The guys said it was going to be hilly, let’s have a good first mile. For a fleeting second I thought I may be able to get the mile under 6 minutes. I came in at 6:03. Thrilled.
The second mile was a long out and back. Downhill on the out. Uphill on the back. And man did I freaking suffer. I think I want to design a running watch with another button. You press “start/stop” when you start the race, “lap/reset” at each mile, and my third button “Fucking give up” you hit whenever you think about quitting running during a race. It wouldn’t do anything. You’d keep running. But then when you downloaded the race off your watch, you’d get maybe a little brown line where you felt like quitting on the map.
I would have hit that button on the hill. I don’t know if it’s because I pushed it too hard in mile 1, but I was feeling like I had freaking nothing left. Eventually the hill ended. Mile 2 was 6:20. And I felt totally exhausted. My stupid GPS program says there is only 45 feet of climb in that mile. Not true.
And then, for the love of pete, we passed the finish line. The course runs by the finish line and then around the first 1/2 mile of the course again. I wanted to quit then. Bad. It should be against the law to see the finish line in the middle of a race. Then around the corner and I remembered it was a great course and running was fun. Then I though I should be seeing the mile 3 mile marker soon, no? No! Maybe they didn’t mark it. Felt like quitting then too.
I knew I was off my 6:14 average pace for a PR. Gotta push it or quit running. didn’t want to leave anything out there. Finished with a 19:30, five seconds off, but still I know I gave it all I had.
I do wish I had held back a little bit in the first mile, maybe done that in a 6:30 to see how much more I had to give at the end. My friend Bill suggested that last week. But with my new found buddies at the starting line, I felt like I should push it and see what happened. Because it was “only” a 5k, or rather because it was a race I hadn’t been planning on, I was happy with what I did without being as deeply disappointed as I might have been.
All in all, I’ve loved racing 3 weekends in a row. Racing marks the days, the anxierty leading up to it and the inevitable relief after a race is welcome. Gotta keep doing it. Summer is coming and it’s going to get hot so I imagine racing will start to suck again but I gotta try.