Time to test the engine…
Doing speed work and running as fast as I can around the track has been fun. Because of those training sessions, I’ve become more confident about pushing harder and sustaining a faster pace. For example, during a recent 5K, the Run Houston 5k, I pushed hard and surprised myself by finishing in 4th place. Getting so close to a podium finish blew my mind and got me thinking…. one day I might get on the podium.
After that race, I approached each track session with extra vigor. The competitor in me wanted to see how much more I could give in a short race, so I signed up for three more 5k races before the end of the year.
Race #2 – The Cypress 5K
The cold front caused me to second-guess whether or not to go to the race. It was in the 40s and I had no interest in driving for 50 min to run in the cold. On the one hand, I didn’t want to pass on the opportunity to test myself. On the other, I didn’t want to be cold.
While sitting on the bed, undecided, I assumed that fewer people would show up. For the same reason. They weren’t ready to be cold. So, if fewer participants are present, my chances of a podium finish increase!
So, I jumped up and got dressed determined not to miss an opportunity to shine. I also wanted to know if running hard in cold weather would delay my fatigue. There is always something to learn, and showing up provides me with lessons that are useful for future races.
Since I’d already picked up my race bib, all I needed to do was wait until it was time for the 5k to line up. While I waited, I stayed warm by jogging and dynamic stretching. As I suspected, the crowd was thin. I thought to myself that today might be a great day, so let’s get after it.
My goal was to maintain a pace that was faster than 8 min 15 seconds per mile. The previous best was 8 min 44 seconds per mile.
Assuming that most people would run faster than me, I lined up about 2/3 of the way to the back of the line. 5,4,3,2,1, and we’re off. As soon as I crossed the timing mat, I focused on keeping a high cadence and breathing well. Listening to music with a 190 bpm helps me keep a minimum cadence. Shortly after leaving the starting line, I glanced at my watch to check that I wasn’t moving too slowly and realized that I was running about 7 min 45 seconds per mile. Although it felt comfortable, I got nervous and decided to slow down. I didn’t have the confidence that I could sustain that pace.
One and a half miles went by quickly. I was comfortably holding my desired pace and thought…great! I’m past the halfway point and this is going well. Maybe I can get on the podium. The next thought was…stay present in the race, don’t lose focus on what might happen. So, I remained focused on my cadence, form, and keeping a high respiration rate. It was working. I was pushing it and passed a lot of people which fed my confidence.
With less than a mile remaining, I began leapfrogging with another guy. He would surge to pass me, then I’d catch him since I was maintaining a more consistent pace. After passing him, he’d surge and get ahead again then fall behind me. It was fun. As we approached the finish line, he surged again and I briefly thought…fuck that, you ain’t beating me today. Then I remembered, that today was about racing and testing myself, so I let him go. I crossed the finish line feeling great. I knew that had run a personal record and was very proud of my effort.
I got a shout-out from Skai Shadow the announcer, stopped my watch, and saw the new 5K Personal Record on the screen! 25 min and 13 seconds. Awesome!! Instead of rushing back to the car and heading home, I decided to grab some pizza and look at the race results.
BOOM! A podium spot!
The unofficial results showed me in 3rd place in my age group (50-54 yrs). I’d lost second by 7 seconds. Apparently, the guy that I was playing leapfrog with took 2nd place. Happy with 3rd, I didn’t give it another thought. I decided to wait around for the awards ceremony so I could get my 2nd medal of the day. My heart felt light and I was filled with joy because I earned my very first podium spot. The medal was 51 years in the making and felt awesome.
Once the times were finalized, I moved into 2nd place! YAY!!
There was no formal podium to stand on, instead, they called out the names and we walked up to receive our new medals. I was disappointed about that, but still eager to hear my name called.
After reviewing the race with coach Johnny, I realized that I was still holding back. Clearly, I pushed harder, but as I explained, I hesitated and reduced the pace early into the race. Also, If I had the juice, I could have raced the guy to the finish line instead of just letting him go.