Thursday, August 25, 2011

Nite Moves 5K Race Report

Greater than any report I have to give, the most excellent thing about this post is that I have a race report to give at all.  After almost 6 months of injury recovery, I have finally been able to slide into a few races over the past couple of weeks.  Although I am still not fully recovered, I am really at a stage of strengthening.  With an Achilles injury, because I treated it properly by taking off completely from running, I now have to re-strengthen my right lower leg and calf muscle.  It has been so long since I've been able to push off with my right toes and land mid-sole, that my leg has weakened and atrophied to some extent.  So here I am finding ways to push past this part of recovery.

Prior to the onset of my injury back in February, my last race was a 5K called Roses En La Playa.  On that cold winter morning, along with a couple a hundred other brave souls, I fought the wind, endured the course and completed it in 18:16 (my watch time).  Shortly after that day, I had to say goodbye to racing and running for a while.

Last night I competed in the Nite Moves 5K race which is on the same course as Roses En La Playa.  It was the perfect set up to see where I'm at compared to where I was in February.  I couldn't help but to hope, as I do with every race I enter, that I would somehow exceed my expectations.  I almost always hope for a PR unless the course is too challenging.  So although I wasn't ready to run another PR, nor ready to race for that matter, I still hoped. 

So here's how it played out:  The race is an evening event and Wednesday evening was near perfect.  It was a tad hot for me (mid-70's) but not bad for a 5K.  Wind can be a factor on this course but the air was fairly calm.  Over 200 runners toed the narrow starting line.  The starting line, and really the whole course, is too narrow for such a crowd, but so it was.  I always station myself two people or more back from the line using the logic that I figure at least 15 of these runners are faster than me so they should start ahead of me.  Of course the trouble is that 80% of the people who line up at the front are way too slow to be up there.  It is a frustration that I have to deal with.  The start was too crowded and faster people converged on the slow "front of the line" hogs and it made for tripping, elbowing, pushing, and panic.  It's hard enough for me to maintain the right speed at the beginning of a race, but with this situation I was at the mercy of everyone around me.

It took most of the first mile, a couple of times running in the grass to get around people, to get into a rhythm and to begin to think about the race itself.  It was about this moment when I saw Kent just in front of me.  It occurred to me that Kent just ran a 36 minute 10K a few days before and he always runs the race I wish I had.  So I thought, "Cool.  I'll just hang with Kent."  So I slowed a bit and kind of hung just behind him but darn it, there was a female just ahead and I began to argue with myself to hold back.  I slipped past Kent, rationalizing that he's probably just taking it easy today and isn't going all out.  But as I pushed past, Kent wisely tells me to slow down (it is after all 1 1/2 miles uphill).  I said, "Ok."  But that girl right there ... right there ... does not need to be there, she needs to be behind me. 

I did not do a good job of slowing down when Kent told me too, and before long it took its toll.  Once we crested the hill and made the turn-around to go back down, Kent increased his speed and pulled away.  I spent too much already and couldn't go with him (this happened at Roses En La Playa too).  I did however get through the first two miles in under 6 minute pace which gave me at least a chance to break 18.  And I did get past that female runner.  The last mile and 1/2 are downhill and I was hoping that I'd feel relaxed, smooth and in control, but the truth is my broken fitness due to the layoff was lurking at my door.

There was one last motivation.  I had to beat Cuyler.  Cuyler is this amazing 14 year old swimmer on the Santa Barbara Swim Club and he's been blazing this course all summer (this race occurs weekly over the summer).  John, my husband (who is Cuyler's swim coach) had talked smack to Cuyler on my behalf and set up this vicious rivalry.  I had to beat Cuyler.  And oops!! there he was just ahead of me and I was going faster than he was.  I past him with about 1/2 mile to go and eeked out a whispered, "Go Cuyler."  I really meant, "Stop running Cuyler.  It's futile.  You'll never beat the old lady Crawford."  Would Cuyler even know what "futile" meant?  Anyway, I said, "Go Cuyler."  Yah.  You could imagine what he did.  Teenager boy. He went.  He passed me back up, but I stayed stealthily close in case he showed weakness.

I finally came to the final hill down to the finish line and ahead of me I spotted a female (not Drea, she had already finished), and there wasn't suppose to be any other female ahead of me except Drea.  I thought maybe she was just running along with another as a spectator.  She was just a child (12 or 13'ish) and I had no idea where she came from.  It's out and back.  How could I have not seen her.  People were cheering for her so she must have been in the race.  Bummer, now I'm going to have to go for it.  The last thing I felt like doing was running harder but I did.  I had it in me and I sped past her in the final yards ... and almost scooped up Cuyler as well ... but alas, he did beat old lady Crawford (by a modest 3 seconds).  I was satisfied with my 2nd overall female finish, and then I had to laugh when I found out that there was a kid's mile that had taken place which explains where the "young female" came from.  But hey, whatever it takes to scoot me along a few seconds faster, I'll take it.

My finishing time:  The all important finishing time which would reveal where I am now compared to where I was prior to my injury:  18:17 (by my watch).  I have spent no time on the track and have only recently begun tempo runs again and still have pain, so I was pretty happy with that 1 second off my pre-injury time.  Of course Kent finished in 17:41 which is where I WANT to be but I'll have to be patient.  If I had run a little smarter, would I have run a better time, maybe beat Cuyler?  Possibly.  Every race is a lesson.  Cuyler better watch his back.

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