I’ve had a string of not-so-good races. Let’s rewind all the way back to last November:
- North Shore Turkey Trot: I believe Kevin, my racing buddy for the day, chirped me during the race with something along the lines of, “Whatcha doin’ just jogging out there?!”
- McMurdo Christmas Day Ob Hill Run: I went to bed one hour before this race. I didn’t even show up to the start line.
- UCI Zot Trot Sprint Triathlon: I did this literally the day I got back from Antarctica. It was the first time I had swim in 3 months, biked in 2.5 months, and run in 2 months. Let alone the first time I did all three since Ironman Wisconsin.
- UCLA IronBruin Sprint Triathlon: I crashed the day before and finishing this race almost certainly led to my calf/achilles problems that required 6 weeks off.
- March Triathlon Series Olympic Triathlon: Didn’t make it past the swim.
Yeah, not-so-good. And my training since returning from injury has not been so good either. So when Jeff texted me on June 30th asking if I wanted to race on July 4th, I was lukewarm.
I actually would have outright said no, but I have a history with the Coronado Independence Day race. Three years ago (I can’t believe it’s been that long), I ran the 5k with Kristen. [Fun Fact #1: I went home from that race and shaved my legs for the first time.] It’s a great course and a fantastic way to legitimize the bbq and beer consumption that undoubtedly will come later in the afternoon. [Fun Fact #2: I might have been drunk the first time I shaved my legs.] Plus racing with Kris makes for like the best memories ever. So I was lukewarm.
Running it; not racing it, I told myself. It’ll be part of my long run which I have to do anyway. Undertrained and poorly-raced, I’m going with two friends who, at the time, were everything-except-sending-in-the-form pro triathletes (they have since sent in the paper work). They almost certainly will win the race/their age group/whatever-fast-people-do in the 5K. I’m going to be the fat, slow kid in the group. Wonderful.
This was all part of my, in retrospect, abysmal negative attitude about the race and my state of fitness generally.
Wake up at 5AM. Out the door by 5:40 so I can park by 6AM to squeeze in a 30-40min warm up/first part of my long run. On cue, I’m on Coronado Island by 6AM, but I’m not parked for another 20min. Whoops. Guess I’m running to the start line.
I run 30min way too fast and we’ve run into our first problem: I’m in a brand new pair of shoes because, well, they are red/white/blue (#americarulez). You know the ol’ “break in your shoes before race day” thing? Yeah, I finally figured out why. After 30min, my heel is rubbed totally raw. I spend the 5 pre-race minutes I have (the other 5min were spent in a port-o-potty obviously) asking everybody (check in table, announcer, finish line workers, random people to name a few) where the First Aid tent is. No one knows.
Pro Tip for Race Directors: Have a First Aid tent. Labeled. Where people can find it.
I spy some paramedics who have band-aids (true story: not all ambulances have band-aids) on the road kind of near the start line and at 6:59AM, I furiously put these suckers on. I weave my way through a couple hundred people to not-quite-right-in-front. As soon as I plant my feet near the start, Scott, who is also running, finds me and we each other good luck just as the 10sec countdown starts. No time to stretch. No time to think.
Mile 1: Not wanting to get stuck in the riff-raff of narrow bike paths in the first mile, I sneak behind Captain America, who is sprinting the first 100m, and use him to make my way to the front of the race. Right off the bat I recognize that the lead pack that’s forming is way faster than I am. I let them gap me. With some space to run and think, I quickly remember I totally forgot to lock my car and have a car key literally just sitting on driver’s seat. F. 5:43.
Mile 2: I’m in charge of the second pack on the road and feeling pretty solid. 5:43 is too fast and I know I won’t hold this, but my legs feel okay, so let’s see how long I can keep this charade going. I actually laughed a little thinking about how I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen later in this race. 5:46.
Mile 3: Is my first 5K going to be faster than Jeff’s race? 5:59. Nope, but not too much slower. Legs are starting to feel heavy. This isn’t going to end well.
Miles 3-4.75 (turn around): 5:54/4:42. Wait, 4.75*2 = 9.5, not 9.3. Guess today is going to be long. I count 7 people in front of me and I’m hurting. But the pack around me disappeared, so as long as I don’t explode, I’ll eek out a top 10.
Miles 4.75-7: 1:21 (6:05)/6:06/6:05. Hanging in there but I can feel a pack forming behind me, waiting to pass quickly. I have no idea how many are there and I’m surely not turning around to check.
Mile 8: Passed by 2 people. 6:09. Wheels falling off…
Mile 9: How is this mile taking SO LONG. I’m dying a slow death, but I reel one of the two back in but the second is long gone. 6:11.
Mile 9-9.5: As soon as my Garmin beeps at the 9 mile mark, I’m passed by the lead woman. I don’t have anything to respond. Chicked. 2:38.
Finish: 56:37, 6:00 pace (or 6:05 if it was actually a 15K). 10th Overall, 2nd in my age group. Upon analyzing the data, I found out I also set my 10K PR at the 10K mark of the race (36:49). Double PR kinda day.
I cool down back to my car (slash need to make sure I still have a car) and drive back to the park for awards. Jeff won his AG, Gina came in 3rd overall (and 2 seconds from 1st, which would have bagged her a Timex Global Trainer). I find Scott, who graciously lets me share some of his Lime-A-Rita (and his Razb-A-Rita). Sweet, sweet nectar.
Considering I truly didn’t think I’d break 60min, I was thrilled at my finish. I went out pretty hard and hung on fairly well. I think one of the best things that could have happened to me was showing up late and not being able to harp on my shitty attitude before the gun fired. Holding 6min miles for not quite 10 miles was a massive confidence boost for someone who had been super down on his training and his fitness for many weeks. This race made me excited to train again (until of course I realized I was racing again in 9 days). Plus I remembered I do love racing.
Sometimes a race is exactly what you need to rip you out of a workout funk. And sometimes it’s so bad that you need a friend to actually physically sign you up for the race. Without exaggeration, this race may have saved my 2014 race season.
Oh and my heel is still raw two weeks and one more race later. It was worth it for you, America.
**Yes, I received a discount to enter this race, but there was no “hey here’s an entry if you’ll write a good review of us” type thing. For fuck’s sake, if there’s someone other than my mom reading this, I’d be floored.