Monday, September 27, 2010

Barn Again 5k, Berryville, VA - 9/25/10

I decided to test out my 5k speed at a local race. The last 5k I had run was in February so I was very out of practice. In fact, running a race shorter than a marathon was a rarity(the norm? one 100 miler, and 3 marathons besides the 15in15). This meant there were a lot of long and slow running and not much short and fast. Never-the-less, I showed up at the race sight, paid my $12 (skipped grabbing a recycled t-shirt from a race I didn't run) and decided to check out the competition. The usual subjects were there, so I already knew who would most likely win the race, and then I saw her - my nemesis. Her blonde hair framed her pixie face, and her 3 foot stature of poise and youthful exuberance was a frightful sight. Not only that, she brought her whole running team with her! A flock of bright blue shirts, laughing and skipping as they joyfully warmed up. I was doomed from the start.

After about a one mile warm up, I mingled around the starting area, and talked to a few people I knew. I let the 5 blue shirted speed demons line up in front of me as well as the soccer team kids. For some reason, I was a little nervous. I think I just didn't want to have something like a 3 minute personal worst race, and I knew that for me it was going to be a  bit like torture, sucking air while trying to maintain a respectable pace. Finally, we're off and away I go. The speedy guys and girls quickly pull away. The first 1/4 of a mile is downhill (which of course means the last 1/4 of a mile is uphill). I try not to constantly check my pace, but go with the flow. I like running downhill and pass a lot of people who I know will pass me as soon as it levels out. The young whipper snappers are pulling ahead so I just try to keep them in sight. We run down the street towards the railroad tracks, then make a left to run alongside the tracks. This is actually a pretty good course, but because it is a small town race, the roads are not blocked off to traffic. There are runners all over the road anyway and the cars seem to be respecting us.

At the first mile, I check my Garmin - 7:47. Not bad. The first part of the second mile is pretty good too, but I notice a general downhill slope to it. That means the third mile is going to be the hardest one. I pass the mom of the little blue shirted speed demon.

"The race director said you were supposed to stay close to the kids," I joke.
"I know, but I can't keep up," she pants.

So I adjust my goal - beat the mom! I've been trading leads with another young woman and finally, as we make the turn to go back I catch her on the hill. Mile 2 - I glance down and the watch still says 15 something or other. I'm trying to calculate what I need to run in the last 1.1 mile to get under 25 minutes. Now there's a 10 year old girl who's been ahead of me the whole race, but she's tiring on the hill. I'm merciless, I know, but I gleefully pass her. Up ahead is an older gentleman. He's pushing  pretty strong and I just can't seem to catch him.

"1/2 mile," I tell myself. "I can do anything for 1/2 mile."

We're at that last climb and then around the building to the finish. I'm afraid to look back to see if anyone is catching back up to me, but I know I've slowed terribly. I hang on the heels of the old guy, gasping for breath, and trying to hang on to the finish. Finally! Crossed the finish line and was glad I hadn't eaten anything yet. Missed my goal by 21 seconds, finishing in 25:21, avg. pace 8:11. I noticed that I was consistent in my slowing down, about 20 seconds with each mile.

Turns out the young girl I passed was running her first race, and hadn't really trained for it. Well, eat some more humble pie. I hung around for the awards ceremony anyway and was surprised by receiving the 1st Masters Woman.

I find the contrast between the shorter and longer races interesting. The 5ks and 10ks are harder in the sense that you are pushing your body up near the max the whole time. There is no conserving for the later stages of the race as in a half or full marathon (or longer). They are more of a gut race. If you are willing, you gut it out to the very end. The longer races wear you out bit by bit, they break you down until you want to cry, or sit down, or just quit. But in these, you have to dig deep into your reservoirs, rely on that inward spirit that propels you ever onward toward the finish line. I want guts! I want to push hard and fast all the way to the edge. And I want determination, that stubborn will to keep going no matter what. And so I race, and I run and maybe someday when I need it most in life, I'll really learn what it means to dig deep and I'll have the guts to see it through to the finish.

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