It’s been a while since I wrote about running—or biking or swimming for that matter—but I’m still doing it. There’s even a race that didn’t make it here: A couple days before we flew to South America, I finished fifth in Milford’s Santa Parade 2-Miler. I wore a Santa hat with Yoda ears and ran those two, uphill miles in 12:49. Unfortunately, the person who finished just 12 seconds ahead of me (also wearing a Santa hat) was the first person in my age group. Stupid Santa.
I have been running (and cycling and swimming and skiing) regularly since last year’s Ironman. I thought I gave myself enough time off after the big race, but I wonder if those seven races in seven months (plus a couple weeks of intense trekking) were a bit too much. As spring slowly came on this year, I’ve had a lot of tightness in the muscles of my left leg. I can also detect a lack of smoothness in my gait, which is relatively new . . . or not. Maybe I’m just noticing it now that things hurt a little bit. The pain usually goes away completely after a couple of miles, but I’ve had enough of it that I started to worry before yesterday’s 10K race. (The race was a meetup of sorts with some Boston-area alumni.)
To compound the tightness, I also didn’t have the warmup that I wanted because my blood sugar was a little bit lower than where I needed it to be before starting to run. So I waited about five minutes for the food to start doing its thing. When I started running, my heart rate strap immediately fell down to my navel, so I adjusted that. The drawstring on my shorts also wasn’t tight enough, and they were sagging a bit with all of the diabetes stuff I carry in my pockets. So I had to stop to retie them. All told, I probably only warmed up for about 5 minutes, instead of my usual 15-20.
Consequently, when my friends Mark and Robyn were taking pictures at the start, I couldn’t really force myself to look my usual calm, collected, take-no-prisoners, fuck-’em-up self.
A re-enactor’s musket shot started the race—as Lisa later said, “18th and 19th century wars must have been very loud!”—and we were off w-a-y too fast. I did the first mile in 6:37, which led to my first F-bomb drop of the race.
As soon as I started to slow my roll, my left calf started cramping, as it has done so much recently. I wasn’t sure what kind of a day I was going to have, but now I suspected a PR was out of reach. Everyone around me was inspired by the bagpiper playing for us in the hillside field, but I wasn’t feeling it. I did my 2nd mile in 7:30 and the next in 7:45. A steady trickle of about 20 people passed me.
Passing the 5K clock in a touch over 23 minutes, my leg was starting to loosen up. I thought, “I’m not having my best day, but it’s still a pretty good day.” And I decided it was time to get my head back into it.
A woman in a green top slowly passed me, and I decided to tuck in right behind her. She was running the pace I wanted, so I hung out just over her shoulder. We traded positions a few times, with me generally opening up on the downhills and her overtaking me again as the next rolling hill started.
Then we merged with the 5K crowd, which had started 10 or 15 minutes after us. It was chaos! The road had been all but empty, and now we were fighting to move through a sea of people running 4-5 minutes per mile slower than us. I didn’t want to back off Green Shirt Lady, but I didn’t want to clip her heels as we tried to find the best line.
Eventually, I needed to make my move. I found some space on the very edge of the road and bolted on a downhill. It was great. I was feeling pretty damn fantastic by this point. Green Shirt Lady tried to come with me, but the elastic holding us together snapped, and I wouldn’t see her again until after the finish.
With about a mile left I heard Lucinda (the instigator or our alumni 5K/10K meetup) yell something at me. I had been looking for her yellow/green, long-sleeve shirt since we joined her 5K crowd, and it didn’t occur to me that she might have it tied around her waist. It was great to get that little boost from her.
The race was over quicker than I expected, despite being very well marked. That last mile is either surprisingly short or interminable. Yesterday it went very quickly. It finished on the same asphalt track where it started, and I made an “adorable” face for Robyn, Mark, and Kathy as I went by. My final time of 45:31 was good enough for 49th place out of 385. It’s not my best (44:27 on the track in 2014) but was definitely plenty fast.
It was great hanging out after the race. We cheered Lue as she finished her 5K a few minutes later. And we huzzahed for Lisa’s first 10K finish not long after that. I was seriously impressed with her consistent 10-minute miles. She seemed pretty happy about it, too.
I have about three weeks before the first triathlon of the season. Let’s see what I can do to make my leg feel better.