“When you get second place, you say, ‘I could have won it here, I could have won it there.’ When you win, you never say anything; it’s finished.” –Greg Lemond
I’m really not too crushed about missing my sub-20-minute goal (today, anyway). I mean, truth is, I was still debating whether to run the race yesterday. And, honestly, I had a lot of fun.
As I warmed up for the 5k this morning, (TMI warning) I was coughing and farmer blowing wads of yellow-green snot onto the pavement and the grass. I didn’t feel terrible, but I definitely didn’t feel like pushing it.
On the start line, I met a former University of Minnesota cross-country runner who’d just gotten past a bout of mononucleosis. She was warming up furiously and she told me she was hoping just to break 20 like me. My strategy, of course, was to positive (yes positive) split the course by going out hard and then limping back to the start, or at least that was my plan prior to getting sick. But on the start line, I could tell I’d be changing strategies and aiming for more of an even-paced run.
When the horn blew, I left behind my brother-in-law, the Minnesota girl and even this guy with a beard and glasses who’d looked like he was going to kick my rear end. It probably took less than a minute before I eased up and settled into what felt like a manageable, normal pace for me. I decided right then that I wouldn’t give a darn what my result would be.
The pack grew silent as we entered the wooded park section of the course, the last bit of the first mile. That worked for me. I’d committed to keep my mouth shut throughout the race beforehand this time, just to see what that’s like. I seemed to be doing well relative to the folks around me. I spotted a kid ahead who seemed to be tapping out a decent rhythm, and then I somehow reeled him in, though not on purpose.
I caught him just as we hit the turnaround and then I left him behind as we moved through the second mile. I saw Minnesota girl going the opposite direction about an eighth of a mile from the turnaround, and I figured she’d be catching up to me soon.
After the turnaround, there seemed to be a deluge of people, thousands of parents and kids with race numbers on, going the wrong way on the loop-style course. We had to deke and dodge our way through them, and we were even forced out onto the road to run with the traffic. It was the most congested I’d ever seen a racecourse, and it was already a pretty narrow trail.
I got caught by three or four people from about 2.5 to 3 miles, but I also kept catching others–including a few young and fit high school kids. One of them evidently didn’t like being caught, because he took off running when I passed him. He never got more than 20 yards ahead, and I caught him again as we passed the “3/4 of a mile to go” sign.
There was noticeably something missing from the scene at the finish chute: I’d seen a large timing clock as I’d been warming up, but I couldn’t see it as we came to the finish. So I just kept tapping away at my pace. I picked it up a little at the end, but it was nothing like my half-mile intervals in training. I just didn’t feel like pushing it. Then, right as I was about to cross the line, some spectator finally moved out of the way, and the finish clock became visible. I watched it count from 20:06 to 20:08 just as I crossed the line.
I should’ve been frustrated and disappointed, but I just didn’t feel like whining given the circumstances. I’d managed to crank out a new personal best in what amounted to a tempo run. Running my 3-mile time trial in October had been significantly more difficult than cranking out this 5k race. After that one, I’d collapsed onto the couch gasping. After this one, I could’ve gone for another run (except that my iliotibial band was smarting a bit after my finish).
My wife told me later that she’d seen me racing and I looked “like you weren’t pushing it at all.” I responded that I really wasn’t pushing it, and that I might’ve done things differently if I’d known how close I was to achieving my goal.
That said, I think this has reinforced for me that the Benton-Franklin Red Cross Turkey Trot is NOT the place to try to run a fast 5k time. I mean, sure, the course is perfectly suited to fast times, but there are just TOO MANY PEOPLE crammed onto those 10-foot wide paved trails. I might come back and jog this one with my wife next year, but I think I’m done racing it.