Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Five Minutes of Glory

Little Tiny Races. The holy grail for those of us narcissists who like attention and medals and age-group awards and attention. Well, I found one. And I will say this - be careful what you wish for.

I was in Kentucky visiting DW's family, so of course I looked for a race to break up the times. Local loopster Forwil found a little 5K that looked perfect. Last year they had about 120 people. Flat, fun course along the river. I could go for a sub-20 and be in the front of the pack. Last year only 5 people broke 21 minutes. No AG awards, sadly, but it looked to be a fun little race. And I would get to see Forwil (Billy) and Lawrenceaa (Alisha) too! Win-win.

Let me back up a little. It was a cutback week, and I was traveling, so my only mileage for the week was 4 on Wednesday, in which I felt like death in the heat of Arkansas. Then I was invited to join the local running group on Saturday, so I went ahead and did 8 miles with them. Not my normal day before a race routine, but I was not taking this race too seriously. Plus I got to run with the awesome Alisha (for a while anyway) and met some other great local runners. The 8 easy miles went well and I felt pretty good up until the last two blocks, when I felt a twinge in a muscle just under my hip. Not too bad, but a little strain.

Then we made a trip to the zoo where I got some tips from an old mountain goat.
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So the next day was race day. DW and I headed to the course and found...nobody. So we walked across the bridge to the rest of the course and wandered a bit and finally found a little card table with about 5 volunteers and a few runners milling about. OK! I got my bib number and asked how many people they expected. "Oh, about 20" was the answer. ..... 

I looked around and didn't see anybody that looked like a serious runner. Hmmmm, maybe I can win this thing! I also found out they changed the course as I took a brief look at the new map. No bridge = no hill. Hmmm, flat and fast. I warmed up with about .75 miles and the sore muscle felt OK. Then I chatted with Billy and Alisha and DW got some photos. Loop meetups are always fun. DW was again impressed with the quality of people that are loopsters. She said of all the loopsters she has met, she only thought one was a little strange (no guessing!) The rest of y'all are highly thought of!

Here I am with Alisha and Billy.
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No wait, that's Shark Girl. Here we are.
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Wake up Billy!

Time to race! A small group of joggers milled about. I saw two young guys who looked like they might be able to challenge me. And that's about it. Everyone was hanging back. The starter said, "Any 'fast' runners should come up here to the line." and I walked up. By myself. No one else joined me. Finally a few guys strolled up close, but everyone was being shy. And so we were off!

The first 100 yards or so there was just Billy and one other guy with me. We were following a 12-year old kid on a bike who would lead the way.
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By 200 yards I had pulled into the lead. Checked my pace - 6:35 - perfect. Felt good, and here I was, leading a race! I've done a lot of races (over 250) and this has NEVER happened. I must say, it was FUN! I waved to the family, shrugged my shoulders, and was enjoying myself.

By 1/2 mile I couldn't hear anyone behind me and was just following the bike. The pace was starting to hurt, as it should in a 5K, but I was just running and not worrying about time goals yet. With a big lead, I eased up a little and figured I would just enjoy it. I was leading! Sure, there were only 14 runners and 8 walkers on the course, but hey! It was fun to chase the lead bike! I felt a little like a superstar!

Cue sinister music.

About .8 miles my little twinge woke up and sent me a sharp, clear signal that this would not be a PR day. Ow! Like a little muscle tear, I felt a little wave of heat and pain in the same spot under my hip. I winced and immediately adjusted my stride a little and tried to assess the damage. Hurts with each step, but I can still run. With a slight hitch in my step, I slowed down. With a big lead, I immediately dropped the time goal and just tried to decide if I could still run the whole thing, or if I should drop out. I kept going and decided I could still run for now and just took it down a little. Turns out I went from about 6:40 to 7:30 pace. It didn't feel like I slowed that much. Went through mile 1 in 6:45, and soon I heard footsteps.

OK, somebody is catching me. But my leg was telling me not to go any faster, so I helplessly watched this young guy catch me and go by. I maintained as fast as I thought was reasonable, but I did not care about winning enough to hurt myself. He got 20, 30, 50 yards ahead. I was pretty bummed. The opportunity of a lifetime, and a little injury was going to mess it up. I limped along feeling sorry for myself. Still, flying...
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And then I started to feel a little better. The lower pace felt too easy, and I guess the leg pain was numbing, and I decided maybe I could go after him. Plenty of time for a strong finish! So I picked it up a little, as the start/finish area approached.
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And then I looked over...
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...And then it was over. I hit the finish area and the bike had stopped; the other guy was going through the chute and walking, and people were saying "Stop, You're done". I stopped the Garmin at 1.50 miles. W.T.F.

Another WTF face.
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Turns out the stupid kid on the stupid bike cut off one whole big section of the stupid course and I just followed her blindly. And there was nothing to do about it now. Everyone just seemed confused. Total mess.
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So that was it. No strong finish. No cheering crowd. No 1st place award. No sub-21 at least. I was left with an empty feeling. Like I didn't even run. I hung out with A and B for a while and commiserated. And then went home. This one is not even going on my race spreadsheet. To be positive, at least I didn't overwork my strained muscle for another mile and a half. It looks I will need a little time off to let it heal, and hopefully I can be ready for the next 5K in 2 weeks.

Stupid biker...
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It's all good. Loopmeets rock.

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