It’s always fun to line up for the Louisville Triple Crown series — a 5k, 10k and 10 miler each two weeks apart. While we have lots of races throughout the year, the Triple Crown is when everybody turns up. It’s a big reunion!
This weekend was the Anthem 5k and I was feeling good going into it. I ran a 4 mile race a few weeks ago (two weeks before the 5k) and was happy with my effort and the results. Coach gave me a pretty easy week — a mini-taper from Wednesday-Friday — and I was feeling fit and ready.
The weather, though … I mean, it’s February. The chances of the weather being bad are very high. Normally, it’s just cold. This year, it was not cold … but we’re having the second-wettest February on record and it just won’t stop raining.
So the forecast was holding at 45º and rainy and windy. Awesome.
Friday I did a quick and easy packet pickup before having tacos and a margarita for lunch (national margarita day, what can you do?). For dinner I … had Mexican and another margarita. A bean enchilada and a quesadilla this time, though, because, balance.
I packed my bag with lots of options. Even though I certainly don’t consider myself elite, I was able to get elite entry for this race which more than anything includes a truck to drop your stuff in that meets you at the finish. On cold and/or rainy days, this is clutch. And Camille Estes, who runs the elite program, let us know she would have garbage bags to keep our stuff dry and that there would be an indoor space at the finish where we could also drop stuff.
But when I woke up Saturday, the weather was looking better! I had fully prepared myself for a chilly torrential downpour.
I headed down pretty early so I could get my favorite parking spot, about .75 from the start and finish and most importantly, next to a coffee shop (that also will let you use their bathrooms).
It started raining while I was sitting in my car which was actually great because it kept me from starting my warmup too early. I hit the bathroom and packed my racing flats, socks and an ear warmer in a plastic bag and headed to the start. I dropped that bag and met my friend Stephanie and we finished a 3 mile warm up with 3×45 second pickups.
Back to the start, swap shoes and socks. Drop jacket, thermal and pants. Do a few strides. Give some hugs and high fives. Listen to the anthem. One more stride.
This is always a fast race and always goes out fast. I guess all short races go out fast — but this one always seems super fast. I line up near the front knowing people are going to stream past me.
The gun goes off. I let people go past. I settle in. The first mile is for finding a rhythm and not getting into too much of a deficit. A young girl goes past me and I’m reminded of the-race-I-wish-to-forget in which I got out-kicked by an 8-year-old at the line. I let her go.
I always manually split my watch when racing (and you should too!). Clicked mile 1 in 6 flat. Perhaps a smidge fast but I’m okay. It’s a good place to be. My HR is high, though, and I’m starting to catch people so I tell myself to back off a bit. My HR stays high, floating around 177, so I just stay put. This is the part of the course with several turns — miles 1 and 3 are pretty straight — and I’m trying to surge into every turn but it is hard. I go through the water stop at halfway and I’m suddenly like, why are these so longggggg?
I backed off too much. I hit mile 2 in 6:22. YIKES. Okay. Pull it together.
If you are a person who looks at your watch a lot while racing, this is the point where I tell you not to. What your watch says matters less than how you feel. Now, being able to associate how you feel with more concrete metrics (pace, HR) is useful, but how you feel is really what is determining your race.
So I dropped a crappy mile 2. I can’t change that. All I can do is run the best I can in mile 3. I have zeroed in on reeling in the next woman ahead of me, who turns out to be Jen. I saw Jen and her family Friday night … at the Mexican restaurant, and literally thought, they must not be running otherwise they wouldn’t be out for tacos right now. I say an abbreviated version of this and she says, “It was national margarita day!” Also it was great to see her because she’s been out for a bit and while I don’t miss getting my butt kicked by her for years, I missed having her out there.
We make the last turn and hit the long straightaway. I see another woman. Try to reel her in. I know her. This is April. (Remember when I told you this is when everybody comes out to race???) My HR is still high but:
“A runner is a miser, spending the pennies of his energy with great stinginess, constantly wanting to know how much he has spent and how much longer he will be expected to pay. He wants to be broke at precisely the moment he no longer needs his coin.”
I like to think one of my stronger qualities is a clear understanding of where I am at in a race relative to how much I am hurting and — maybe more importantly — how much more I am willing to hurt.
I run next to April for a little bit. Another friend suddenly surges up to us, a small group of 5 or 6 runners. I pull ahead.
I briefly think I have miscalculated. That I have surged too soon and I am going to pay dearly for my mistake.
But no. I can manage this.
We crest the small hill at which I told Coach I would start to really kick. To empty the tank. Give it whatever is left. What is left? This is a good question.
One of the things Coach Matt and I discussed on Friday was determining an appropriate amount of hurt for what gain. It’s an ROI evaluation, basically. Sometimes, hurting more doesn’t yield a valuable return. You can hurt slightly less (and recover sooner) for about the same results.
I am pressing down the home stretch. I’m not sure what my time will be. It won’t be a PR, not after that mile 2. Maybe under 19? If I keep fighting? Is that fight worth it — today, in this moment?
There’s another girl ahead and we are in the last 400m. I am maintaining but not making up ground. I am willing to accept that I will finish behind her and I am okay with that today.
I am. I am catching her. I don’t know this girl, but she runs for one of the local running stores.
We’re within the last 200m.
How much do I have left to spend? How much am I willing to hurt for this fight?
More.I have more to spend. I am willing to hurt more.
These are fleeting thoughts but processed quickly — my body, my heart, my mind all doing a quick blink of an assessment.
There is not much road left but if I want this I must make my move at the right time and commit to it. And I am boxed in.
I start to press harder, harder still, and angle left so I can get by this girl and another guy (maybe 2?) next to her. Commit. Commit now.
I kick as hard as I’ve ever kicked — asking my legs to do things they don’t want to do — cross-country style, as if this one place is between me and my team’s national title. It moves me into 13th by 1 second, as it turns out.
I double over and dry-heave, always the truest sign I’ve done all I can in the moment. Honestly, I haven’t dry-heaved in a while. Not in workouts or races. Marathons don’t normally necessitate that type of effort at the end, nor can your legs normally even give it to you if it is needed.
My friend Stephanie comes over and says something then asks me my time. I say, “YAK” (two OAR references in this report, you’re welcome).
I walk over to the fence and lean. Dry-heave. Finally get it together and tell her low-19-something. I high-five a bunch of people.
Then find my dry clothes, even though it didn’t rain during the race and it’s really not bad out, and head out for a 4 mile cool-down jog with Stephanie (who was supposed to run this as a “workout” and dropped an 18:30 for 9th after running 2:59 last month in Phoenix).
It wasn’t my best 5k time, but it wasn’t too far off. I would have believed anything between 18:30-19; we haven’t done much shorter stuff and I don’t have much under my belt recently to use as a predictor. I ran a bad mile 2 but a great mile 3, and I can work with that.
The next race in the series is the Rodes City Run 10k on March 9!