Monday, November 25, 2019

5k Stampede Through Clifton, Clifton, NJ 11/17/19

I forgot about this part. Racing in less than comfortable weather. I have been spoiled as I made my “come back” with shorts and singlet weather. It hasn’t even gotten bad yet. 

I forgot about the part where I throw practically all the clothes I own in a bag just before I run out the door to a race since not knowing what I will want to wear 2 hours later because it might be 29 degrees with 10-15 mph winds or maybe it will be 35 degrees with a light breeze.  

I am out of practice. I need to handle race stress better. Some stress is needed. I know. But I used to do better than this.

I spent all day Saturday setting myself up to fail under the guise of being busy with things felt I needed to get done. Most of that stuff was not important. Part of me knew I was scattered, setting myself with an excuse to stay home and that part of me I knew exactly why. Fear of Failure. Fear of seeing my dreams crumble.

I have been making a solid come-back, better than I thought I would or could. Three marathons. A half marathon. Each faster than the race before it. All negative splits. All with deliberately controlled pacing. All starting a little slower than I felt I could handle but all ending better than my expectations. All were exhilarating.

All of these races whispered a promise that I can rise to personal greatness again if just do the work and believe in myself.  

Run the right amount of miles. Lift the right amount of weight. Eat the right type of food. Sleep the right amount of hours.

What is “right?”  I don’t know. 

But I know what I was doing before when sick was all wrong for PRing. So I will find out along the way if I just do a little more “right’ over time than I what I was doing when everything was going “wrong.” 

But how much is enough?  Good question. I guess the wall will come at some point. I was thinking today might be the day I stop seeing gains and hit it. 

And then what? Then I learn where I am weak. Then the real work begins. 

This race was just a local 5k. It was a local fun run. It was not going to be competitive. It is the shortest race on my calendar. It would replace my speedwork day. I wasn’t going into it fresh.

This race should not worry me but instead, it really had me scattered-brained and self-sabotaging. As grateful as I am to have the ability to run again, there is now a growing part of me that has heard the quiet whisper that reminds me “You know how to rebuild. You have done this before. Just believe in yourself. Give yourself a chance.” 

There is a big part of me that wants to race well again. I am not done here. 

And then there is the other voice that says “but you are 44 now…” (and “so what? That doesn’t have to stop me” I counter, but I can’t deny what I heard).

Weeks ago, high from a great race, I built the skeleton outline of a dream. I worked out checkpoints and milestones for pace goals I want to hit along the way. There really is no room for setbacks if I want to hit my A goal on time (I am not going to share that until I am writing a race report about doing it). 

My Why: If you were ever once a Big Dreamer and actually were able to achieve a few of your goals and then had the universe snatch it all away without warning, you might feel what I feel. There are a lot of things that make life worth living. Dreaming and believing you can achieve great things through hard work and belief in yourself creates joy. This joy can give significant purpose and meaning to even the most menial and tedious tasks (like eating, sleeping, being structured and efficient, appreciating supportive people, appreciating good health, etc). Without dreams, without the capacity to dream of the pursuit of excellence, life can feel downright monotonous.  When you can’t do what you love, when you can’t be yourself, when the universe sucks your soul out of you, when the universe makes you find a new way to tolerate the daily grind with a smile, you will find that when the universe gives you back the chance to dream again, you may, like me, dream bigger and harder than you ever thought you could… 

And then you find the thought of racing a little 5k that could kill you dreams in 20 minutes overwhelms you with the fear of failure, the fear falling down again, onto your still bruised, beaten, and fragile ego. 

This race would be the first race in my training-race schedule where I wasn’t actually sure I could achieve the goal I set for myself. I wanted so badly to not blow it.

Yet, the night before the race, I ended up working late, getting home at 11:30 pm thinking about how I really could just sleep in, do a tempo run, get more mileage than I would likely get at the race, be done sooner, and lose just the $17 I paid to preregister.  When I looked at the 28 degree and windy weather prediction, sleeping in was starting to sound like a good idea.

But I am not a quitter. Within an hour I was in bed. Between Alexa and my cell phone, I had about half a dozen alarms set because I knew I really did want to go. 

This is part of the process. If I want to succeed I have to be willing to fail and then learn from it.
I also really wanted to see Jim O. We spent many years road racing together. There are some people who I look forward to seeing at races and Jim is always one of them. It has been a long time. 

At the race, Jim and I run the course as a warm-up and have a good time catching up. I get to do my dynamic stretching. I do my strides. I am starting to feel less nervous.  My strides are fast. 5:45 pace.  I am feeling like I have nothing to worry about.  My goal for this race was 6:20-6:40, but I am feeling like that is too conservative.  Maybe I can go sub-6:20, which would be a huge confidence booster. My last 2.5M of my half was 6:45 pace so this is not unrealistic.

I am dressed lightly and the wind feels cold. I am worried I am underdressed but I hope once moving fast I feel better. I line up 3 rows back. This is appropriate. 

The guns goes off and before the guys in front of me are even able to take a step I feel a large hand pressing its palm into the small of my small and I am shoved hard by the guy behind me. I can’t turn around because I am trying to run forward.  I yell back “STOP PUSHING ME!” and hear nothing.  This did not feel like a jostle or a mistake.  Runners are usually polite and will say “Sorry” or “Excuse me”… or something if they bump into someone by accident. This felt deliberate and it bothered me. 

The start was downhill with a tailwind. I look at my watch and I am running 5:45 pace for the first few strides.  No… this is not good.  By the first turn, I settle into 6:20 pace which feels surprising hard. 

Ben pulls up next to me. I am still mad about the shove.  I tell him I am running too fast but I am just feeling irritated by being shoved hard at the start. It helped to complain and once I said it out loud, I was over it. I didn’t fall. Nothing happened to me. It just rattled my focus.

I look up and see one woman ahead of me. She is working incredibly hard.  I ask Ben… “Who’s that? Do you she will hold on?” This isn’t even mile 1.  
Ben says “Probably not. I don’t think so." I say, “I don’t think so either.” 

And at that same moment, a very fit young girl glides past me.  I turn to Ben and I say “But I think she can”… and she drifts ahead. M1: 6:34

It is too early in this race to worry about placement or chasing down anyone. I know there is a long hill in M2 but it is not steep. It is really more like a gradual incline with some more obvious steep sections.  But I can feel the wind and my fingers in my thin gloves feel frozen. I don’t feel loose. I feel like I am working very hard. I remind myself to check my form. I look at my watch and it is slower than I hope to see. M2 6:44.

I had already passed the first woman who I knew could not hold on to her fast pace.  The young girl is pulling further ahead. I don’t know if I can catch her. We crest the “hill” and I try to open my stride. I can pick up the pace a little but not really like I hoped to do.  I am reeling in first place but we are running out of road.  M3 6:33

I hit the last turn and I give 100%.  My legs feel heavy but I try to lift my knees, use more power. The final last tenth is up the incline and into the wind. I manage a 6:13 pace for that final push, not catching first female.

I look at my watch and I see 6:36 pace for 3.14M. I know this means I was slower than 6:36.  I end up 6:41 pace for the entire 5k, one second outside of my goal pace window. 

I feel like I mentally set myself up for this day. I feel like I made sure I was going to struggle. I feel like I missed my goal window 12 hours before this race ever started. I feel like I caused my own self-fulfilling prophecy. I walked off the course thinking “I really do have a lot of work to do” and maybe that is the lesson: Wanting something badly doesn’t ensure you can do it. Wanting something badly can get you working harder than you have ever worked before, but there are no guarantees. All you can do is work hard and set yourself up to have a real chance and then go for it... I started to think about how to revise my training to help me move my skills and ability in the right direction.

The good for me was that even when finding it hard to run as fast as I wished I could, I still negative split this race. This was part of the plan and I am happy to have achieved this even when racing all out from the gun.

I watch Jim finish. I did a cool-down run and then waited for awards with Jim and Esly. It felt like it was years ago when I raced almost weekly and tried to make every team race I could make. 

I miss my Clifton team and racing as part of the USATF Road Racing Series. I can’t wait to see what 2020 brings. This is going to be a fun year!

20:45 (6:41)
2nd F
1st AG

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