Like I said, nothing quite like it.
This race is celebrating its 5th year and my family has been part of it ever since it started back in 2006. In fact, this was the first organized 5k that I ever cajoled my wife into running with me a couple of years ago. I will never, and I mean NEVER, forget her turning to me on one of the monster hills and saying:
"I can't believe you talked me into running this race as my first...."Priceless.
Anyway, fast forward to this years event. Our two oldest sons were unfortunately out of town on a camping trip with a group from church, so this was a different experience for us. It's traditionally a family oriented event for us and all of our kids run the races. This year, our 8 year old was the only child we had present, so he toed the line for the 1 Mile race all by himself. Luckily, there were several friends with him so he wasn't alone.
It's really a cool thing to watch your kids go tearing out of the Start line during a race. Seeing that excitement and focus in their eyes is really amazing to me. My wife and I were able to spectate the race, take some pictures and mill around.
As the gun goes off, I tear off (relatively speaking, of course) and assume around a 6:20 pace. This is typically how I will run the 5k. I'll maintain the 6:20 pace for the first 1.5 miles or so, and then let it slip to around 7:00 pace until the final stretch. Once I can see the Finish chute, I'll merely empty the tank with whatever is left.
This time though, the 6:20 pace had my heartrate pegged in VO2max land from the start. My typical 5k race heart rate is 140, which is high for me. My resting heart rate is between 45-50, so 140 is pushing me into Zone 2. In less than 2 minutes from starting the race, heart rate was at 180-190. Unsustainable is the word that came to my mind.
At any rate, I realized that my vacation into anaerobic territory would be short-lived and that I had to simply get as far as I could before my pace inevitably slowed. I struggled greatly with this run; moreso than I can remember struggling in a race. At Mile 2, I remember realizing that I felt worse at that point than I have ever felt after a full marathon. Far worse.
I hung on to a 7:00 pace until the 2.9 mile point, at which time I just about passed out. This was the last, long and steep hill before the straightaway to the Finish chute and I usually am able to really push my pace up this monster and then kick it to the Finish. Unfortunately, I had nothing to give on this day. I made it up the hill at somewhere around a 7:45 pace and was nearly dead by the time it leveled out for the final 100 meters to the Finish. I had no kick left. I had no energy to call upon. Even worse, I had no desire to try. I crossed the Finish line and immediately collapsed on the grass beyond it. I just laid there. I've never felt worse than I did at that moment. I didn't care if I came in dead last, I only was glad it was over.
Our youngest son came over to where I was laying and offered me a bottle of cold water, which I gladly poured over myself. My wife made it over to where I was laying and she seemed to feel genuine pity for my sorry, spent and exhausted carcass. Eventually, I was able to actually move again, and got up from the ground, grass stuck all over me. Knowing that I had the slowest time I've ever run that 5k in, I was certain that staying for the awards ceremony would yield nothing for me other than the opportunity to clap and cheer for runners that actually showed genuine athletic ability today; unlike myself.
Long story short, however. I somehow managed to still win 1st place for my AG, and yet again defend my AG championship from the past 2 (maybe 3) years. I don't know how anyone could have been slower than I was, but they apparently were. Nonetheless, I accepted my medal and chalked tonights performance up to doing too much in my 14 mile tempo earlier in the day, and leaving nothing in my body to call upon when I needed it. All in all, the 14 miler was more important to me because of the training. A fast 5k is not going to help me in October when I'm on the backside of Rocky Point hill in Pine Mountain at Mile 46. The 14 miler will.
So, that's it. 24:02 in a sufferfest for yours truly. I'll try to do better next year, that's for sure.