Yeah, hard to believe, but actually I haven’t raced since last August. Not for lack of opportunities, it was more lack of interest in putting on a number, challenging myself and all the other stuff that goes along with racing.
I have thought about racing again every so often this summer, but really didn’t do anything about it until I read The Happy Runner – the first time. It helped me put racing into a different perspective from how I used to see it. Now I am beginning to see racing as a checkpoint that tells me where I am now in my running, not where I have been or where I hope to be.
So how did the race go?
First of all I have a feeling that the time I ran, is probably pretty close to my new normal, than the times that I ran a couple of years ago.
Something happened over the last few months and the old body just doesn’t have that same pop that always used to be there. I am going to keep looking for it, but…well we will see.
I chose a pretty low-key Thursday night race, in a location that I probably wouldn’t see anyone or at least too many people that I might know (some familiar faces, but no one that I really know). The Landing YMCA Sunset 5K seemed like a perfect race for this. It is about 45 minutes away from the house, just far enough, but not too far and it wasn’t going to be a major deal or have big hills.
Plus I lived on the old Naval Base for 3 months as a geographic bachelor back in 1998, so I enjoy going back and seeing the changes that have taken place since then.
The thing that I tend to like about smaller races is that the race director sometimes has to get creative and make last minute adjustments. Tonight the people who were going to time the event and provide bib numbers didn’t show. So we got hand-written numbers on orange duct tape and hand timing.
Actually it was kind of nice, old school and really not that big a deal.
The start was about 15 minutes early, I had gone for my usual pre-race mile warm-up a half hour before start time and when I got back, everyone was heading to the start, which kind of threw me off. I expected a little bit of time to finish my warm-up and get my race belt on. Nope I just got to turn around and walk over to the start and within a few minutes the race had started.
I started out comfortably hard and watched the leader go off, in other years I would have gone with him for a bit longer, but something told me to just let him go. About half-way to the stop sign to the main drag, another guy passed me. Again I just let him go. I shouldn’t have, because once he passed me, no one else did and he finished with the time that I would have been very happy with.
Unfortunately, at that time it also seemed like I was having a hard time getting enough oxygen into the system during the first 3-5 minutes of the race and he just kept creeping away from me. Then I finally settled into being able to breath, which was nice, but too late.
Things were great until I got to the woods trail
At that point, my meechiness on trails was in full view as you can see by the big dip in pace. While the trail actually was fairly smooth, with the shadows/sun fields in there, combined with my trifocals, I slowed down significantly on the trail section.
I really didn’t need to, but I don’t have that daring-do that I used to have and trails at fast for me speeds are a bad combination. That usually ends up with me eating dirt and looking like I met a critter who took chunks out of my legs or hands. So yeah, I slowed down way too much in there.
My problem, not the course.
Once I got back on the roads, I looked back and didn’t see anyone behind me and with the 2nd place guy about 30 seconds ahead of me (I knew I wasn’t going to catch him), so I wasn’t motivated to get into the hurt locker and just cruised into the finish.
Which is not really what I had expected from myself, but without anyone to push the issue, I just didn’t have a lot of reason – other than getting a decent time to run any faster than I was.
I was surprised with a third place overall finish – to say the least, but you can only run against those that show up and sometimes showing up is a major part of a lot of things. When it comes to racing, showing up for me is often more important than the actual race.
My official race time was 23:15 and I sneaked a peek at my watch and saw it read only 3.04 at the finish line, so I kept running past the finish to get a full 3.1 and ended up with a 23:48 for 3.11. Which is the slowest road 5K I have raced since 2012, but I had a podium finish, so I cannot complain too much.
What did I learn tonight?
1. That I don’t need a full mile warm-up if the weather is warmish. Doing my pre-run routine and a quarter mile, with some strides thrown in is more than enough.
2. I didn’t have the confidence to go out with the two that beat me tonight. I wasn’t sure of my pacing and didn’t want to work too hard the first mile. Actually the 7:04 first mile split was 4 seconds off what I planned. So I paced that first mile correctly versus going out way too fast – like I usually.
3. Trails kill me. I have zero confidence on them to run faster.
4. Motivation is important to running faster, if I had been closer to the runners ahead of me or knew that runners were on my heels, I would have had more motivation to run faster. 🙂
5. I have to work harder at being uncomfortable, once I got off the trails, I stayed at a comfortably hard pace, versus pushing it on my own. I see some more harder track and tempo training runs in my future, especially since I felt as though I could have gone out and re-ran the course after I finished without any problem. That is not how I am supposed to feel after a race.
6. This felt more like a hard training session versus a race. Not a bad thing for my first race in just about a year, but not a habit I want to make of my racing. When I put on a bib, I should be pushing myself to do the best that I can on that day.
7. I didn’t have to fight myself to go to the race tonight and I really think that changing my perspective of what I want from my running and also my own expectations of myself during a race are changing to the point where I will enjoy them more, even if I am not running them as fast. Maybe some of the stuff I am reading in The Happy Runner is making a dent into some of the issues that have plagued me all these years. It will take more than a couple of weeks, but at least I did well tonight.
The reality is that
I am slowing down and yes, it is hard to for my ego to deal with that fact. However, aging does take away those times that I have become used to and there is no guarantee that I will ever get back to where I was again.
All I can do is tweak my training a little, focus on working harder during the race and keep showing up. If I can do those things, I might just surprise myself.
The race director and volunteers were all great and even though they were thrown a curveball, they did what they needed to do to get the race completed. It is a race I will go back for next year.
What are my short-term goals after this race?
- Break 22:30 in my next 5K
- Tweak the training a bit
- Keep running fun
- Finish re-reading The Happy Runner