We walked ten minutes up the road to the starting area. I did a few warm up exercises and peed before we lined up. I am very proud of our little community; there were over 600 participants between the 5k and 10k races. We knew a few others racing that day. Our next door neighbor D was running the 5k, as was my wife. I really started to second guess my decision to run the 10k. The idea of having this thing done and over with as quick as possible sounded nice.
Katie and I walked over to the start line. We put ourselves in the middle of the pack, and started getting our iPods ready. Suddenly, Katie was having trouble finding the correct spot in her playlist and we panicked. As the starter was giving his last minute instructions, Katie and I were struggling to get her iPod working correctly. Finally she said, "Forget it!" and the starting cannon shot off. The start of any race from the middle of the pack is somewhat anti-climactic. The cannon has gone off and the folks in front of us slowly begin to move forward. After a couple of yards, I realized that I was in the wrong section of the pack. The pace was excruciatingly slow and I had way too much nervous energy to be sitting in this crowd. I said to Katie, "I love you, but I gotta get out of here!" And with that I hit the side of the road and quickly worked my way up the pack to a more comfortable pace.
I wasn't 200 yards into the race before I realized that my leg felt great! And for the first couple of miles I was Mr. Friendly. I thanked every single volunteer I passed for helping out, I was thanking every cop for being there, and I was waving to my throngs of adoring fans (my kids and a couple of neighbors). Here I am telling my kids I love them.
And I realized something during those first few miles: Races are kinda fun. At least way better than running at five in the morning, in the dark, by yourself. I was doing great hitting my mileage goals, just about 7:30 per mile. As I reached the turn off point for the 10k, I was wondering how many of the people in front of me were running the 10k versus the 5k. I knew there were only like 120 runners signed up for the 10k, and I could see probably 20 people in front of me. So I figured maybe a handful would be turning right and continuing on the 10k route. Wrong! Probably 15 people turned off for the 10k. I know I should only be racing against myself, but I immediately thought, "That's 15 people I am already losing to!" As I turned the corner myself and hit the 3 mile mark, a lot of the fun went right out of me. Suddenly, the crowds on the streets disappeared and I knew I was behind quite a few other runners. Fortunately, the leg continued to feel great!
I got into a pack of other runners moving at about the same pace. We would trade off leads, sort of drafting off one another, but there was one girl in particular that did not want to be in the group. I'll call her Laimbeer, because with the way she was throwing her elbows around she reminded me of Bill Laimbeer (I also questioned if it was appropriate to be writing this blog in my head while I am still running the race). It seemed like every time somebody would get close to passing Laimbeer, she would start grunting loudly and her elbow swinging became more vigorous. And as you can tell from my less-than spectacular depiction, that my Mr. Friendly attitude was turning not so friendly; it was even difficult to turn on the charm for the volunteers. Eventually, the pack that I was running with got passed Laimbeer, but our pack began to dwindle as well. By mile 4 it was just me and another girl, Pinky (she was wearing a bright pink shirt). Pinky and I had a pretty good rhythm going, but I noticed at mile 5 my pace had slowed a bit.
I was starting to really feel the lack of training runs, and my legs didn't hurt, I couldn't feel them at all. Completely numb, and I thought, "I'm glad my legs know what the hell they are doing?!" When we hit the home stretch of the race, I was pretty well spent, and the last quarter mile is completely uphill. Pinky started to pull away from me, but there was nothing I could do about it. Finally, I got to where I could see the finish line, and all I could think about was just getting to it. I saw Katie and D cheering at the last turn, and D says, "Just turn the corner and you are there!" I told him later that was about all I could think about, "You're there! (Just don't die)" I was so gassed I got passed in the last 100 yards by somebody that I hadn't seen in 2 miles. But when I hit the finish line I felt really good, 6.2 miles in 47:49.6. Works out to be 7:42 per mile. That's a little more than my original goal (7:30 per mile), but considering some of the obstacles I had faced, I certainly feel great about it.
As soon as I finished some volunteers were asking to have my timing chip. I was so beat, I had to ask them to wait a minute while I recovered. Katie and I got some water and food and waited for some of the results to post. Katie had a great 5k herself, 5k in 29:59, and D finished his 5k in 21:39. In the end, I finished 30 out 134 runners, and 3rd in my age group. Here's the trophy:
Mission accomplished. Eat some food, get some, rest, because I have 46 miles to ride tomorrow...