(Above: The elevation chart for the Doylestown 'Red, White & Blue' 5k race on May 24, 2008.)
I woke up at 5:00am on Saturday morning. You see, besides my running, I am also the assistant to the Head Dog Groomer when our show dog has a match. So, even before I could think about the race that day, I had to help get our dog ready for his show. He was washed and dried and looked handsome as my wife and he went out the door around 8a. My race wasn't until 10a but it was only a 20 minute drive to get there and I had registered the day before so I didn't have to hurry.
I can't say I was excited about this race. I'm not really sure why I even signed up. It was one of the few races in the Bucks 5k series that I haven't run before. So, I didn't know the course that well. It was a beautiful day, though. Temps were in the low 60's (F) with low humidity. But, I was up early in the morning and I was tired. Let's get it over with so I can go home and take a nap. Looking down the street at the start, I could see the first quarter mile or so was a slight uphill. Great. Wonderful. As if I'm not tired enough, now I have to start this race going uphill.
The gun went off a little after 10a. I was about 20 deep from the front and started my Garmin when we crossed the official start line. Chief was on my left and I usually like to pace myself with him. But, he's had hamstring problems of late so better for me to get in front of him this time. After a quick hello with Chief, I pushed ahead.
I got up the hill with little problem and started on the descent that was the rest of the first mile. I have to say it was steeper than I anticipated. I had quite a few people passing me, but, that would make sense since I was so tired to begin with. After the hill, I rounded the corner and saw the first mile split. I had just done a 7:30 mile.
But, after that hill, I expected that. If you drop a rock off the side of a building, it will fall fast too. The second mile will slow me down. I had to go uphill for a .5 mile to the race turnaround. At the turnaround, you follow the same road that got you there and then, at mile 2, you begin the ascent of the mile 1 hill. Usually, at this point, I'm doing an 8:15-8:30 pace, that I'm not thinking of a PR. But, at mile 2, I was in at 15:10, a 7:40 second mile.
On any other course, I would be celebrating as it would give me a legitimate shot at my 5k PR! But, I had that hill in front of me. Surely, that would do me in. I struggled to get up it. And, so did everyone else. I was feeling sick to my stomach. Sick, as in, I was going to stop on the side of the road and lose my breakfast. But, there was no side of the road. This was a driveway of a school. I had to stop thinking about it and slowed down enough for the feeling to pass. At the top, I began to plod to catch myself. And noticed the course was flattening out.
Even plodding along, I was starting to pass people. Maybe I wasn't as tired as I thought I was? This is the point I usually give up. But, I didn't want to this time. I wanted to keep trying. I wanted to beat Chief. I wanted, at least, a 25 minute race. So, I picked it up a bit.
I was in at 24 minutes after 3 miles. Well, that's it. I can't do a PR only a 25 minute race. I mean, it will take me a minute to do .1 mile, right? Umm. That's a 10 minute mile. You're doing faster than that, Joe. If you hurry, you can PR. I saw the finish clock up ahead. After a few steps into the last 1/10 of a mile, I began to sprint.
I think at this point of any race, the polite thing to do is to finish where you are relative to the people around you. But, I bolted. The guy next to me thought I was nuts but I didn't care. I had a shot at doing something I've been trying to do for the past 5 years.
Everything around me was getting fuzzy. I was concentrating on that finish line. I didn't care who was in front of me. It was me and the finish line at that point.
Finally, I crossed. I was relieved. I knew I had just set a PR on a day that I was too tired, and didn't care at the start of the race. Did I blow my time away? Or did I just barely break it? It didn't matter. I just....
Back in my high school days, when I was playing basketball in CYO, I remember having discussions with my teammates on the worse way to lose. Was it worse to get blown out of a game or lose at the buzzer? My contention was that it was far worse to lose at the buzzer. You knew you were just as good as the other team, but, maybe for a small error in judgement, did you lose the game.
Well, I thought of that moment, when I looked down at my watch. It read 24:44:22. I had missed tying my PR by 23 hundreths of a second, missed breaking it by 1:23 seconds. I stood there not knowing what to feel.
Officially, I ran it in 24:52. But, I don't start upfront. I don't want to. That wouldn't be fair. Besides, I would get trampled. So, I start my watch when I cross the start and take my PR from there.
Don't get me wrong. I know it was the second fastest 5k I ever ran! I was happy as, on a day I didn't expect anything from me, I came out and surprised myself. But, for a small error in judgement on my part, I could have easily lowered my 5k PR. There was no point in thinking about where I could have made up that second. It could have been any place. The turnaround, the crest of the hill, the 3 mile mark, any place. I was disappointed.
For me, the spring racing season is over. I had a good spring. I did well. I have no qualms. There is even a lesson about how I do better when I don't know the course. But, dope, why didn't you sprint that last 1/10 of a mile?????????
(Note: Next week I will re-visit and talk about where it all began for me and running. After that, I will be taking a few weeks for vacation and hope to start blogging again the week of June 22.
Lastly a small homage to one of my favorite shows growing up. Goodnight Dick! Rest in Peace!)