Sometimes in the early season I'll come up on a race that I just dread the thought of. My plan this winter was do at least three races before Shamrock- New Year's Day, Sweetheart, another 5K and then this one.
That didn't happen. I hadn't raced since New Year's Day. I almost posted here the day before the race, but I didn't want to. It would have been negative, about how I was overweight, how I hadn't been running and was going to have a slow race. What would be the point ? To set low expectations that I'd probably then meet.
Sounds like a dumb idea.
I did show up on Sunday morning at the race with a friend, Michael D'Addetta, determined to treat the race like any other, specifically like I was going to be able to go out and have a decent performance, even though I didn't believe it, not one bit.
I did a run out and up Prospect but no one was warming up there. I had not checked the website to see if they had changed the course again this year. They had. I won't complain. Last year I went into this race feeling much like I did this morning, and about 3/4 of a mile into the race I was in so much distress from going hard that I felt like I feel when I start to struggle in the water, and that never happens running. I wasn't just out of my comfort zone. I was out of the zone where I can deal with the stress of race.
So I came back, hit the head again, and then headed for the starting line. The one thing that is a pain in the ass about this race is the starting line. You walk there from Toads and the walk to the line is also the first oh 300 meters or so of the race. So as you are trying to do your strides, the masses are streaming towards the line.
The funny thing is, while this is a pain in the ass, I actually like it, because I pick my lines (and they may not be straight) and I run those lines. I've yet to run into anyone, but it certainly gets your adrenaline up.
Finally it got so congested that there was just no point to it. This race always starts a few minutes late, but finally 1900 of us were ready to go. It was very tight on the line.
Then we were off and I was racing again.
I expected it to go badly, for the stress of race pace to crush me in its unyielding fist. But it didn't. We hooked the first left and there was George Buchanan and a few other guys in front of me. I was back and forth with the ironman guy that looks like Sean Penn. I kind of locked in on him and hung with and suddenly we were running by the museum and we were at a mile. I ran that first mile in about 5:40.
It was strange. I was in control. I knew if wanted to avoid a complete meltdown, I had to control my pace and run 3 steady miles or as close as possible, given that the third mile of a 5K after a long layoff will always be a challenge.
We hit the halfway point and then started back towards the finish and I knew I was slowly loosing ground to people behind me- but slowly. I was still running with good form, there was some serious downhill coming (the race this year brining you in on much of the last mile of the New Haven Road Race course. I was slowly being passed by people, and Sean Penn had pulled away, but I was holding on and not only that, I was clearly in position to run under 18:30 when I was expecting to run over 19:00.
I was in a mix of four guys and I was probably 3rd of the four. What I had no idea about was that Charlie Hornak was right behind me and if it had been 3.4 miles, he might just have caught me.
In the end, I was thrilled. Not about running an 18:28. For me an 18:28 kinda of sucks on a flat course.
No, I was thrilled about the way I felt.
But what really made me happy was this. I drank my free Red Hook, then the free Red Hook that Michael got (he was driving), and then my Recoverite. Michael gave me a ride home and I got there and found myself locked out. So what did I do ? I ran another 45 minutes- ran hard. I didn't even feel the beer. I had a great run, and ever since, I've felt like I was ready to go. The race I thought would crush my confidence instead stoked me for the season. I can't wait now....