I had planned, weeks ago, to run the Kinhaven 5k on Sunday, before possibly heading to Pittsburgh and then on to Terre Haute. When it became apparent that driving to Indiana was a bad idea and I opted to fly, the race didn’t fit in my plans. I liked it because it was the Bluemont Park 5k course, on which I ran a completely even race in early June, but my plans were dashed by my greater goal--getting to watch the Spiders at the NCAA meet. It's pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I gladly skipped it.
Jess McGuire suggested a race to me earlier in the week- the Herndon Turkey Trot. She said the winners got turkeys, and that seemed like a good deal. It was only $15, and she promised a ride, so I went for it. As it turned out, she couldn’t race, but she took me there anyway, which was a nice move because biking 13 miles to the race would have drained me.
Toward the middle of the week I stopped wanting to run. After my aborted workout Wednesday, I headed home. Thursday evening I got off the metro in Falls Church and really didn’t feel like going out for the seven miles I had planned, so I took that afternoon off. I slept in on Friday and didn’t run to work, so I took that evening off, too. I did managed to get up and run a sedate 3.5-mile Fisherman loop in the morning on Saturday, then had my hair cut to exorcise the bad mojo Mr. Barber gave me the day before Chicago.
When I got to the course, I tried to run it for a warmup, but I didn’t want to run on the golf course portion and disturb the golfers. I also felt really winded, and worried a bit. A slew of guys ran under 16 here two years ago, though last year’s winner just broke 17, so I had no idea how the competition would be. I got to the starting line but didn’t see much. Mostly kids and parents. I took it easy at the start, satisfied to let the Herndon cross country team burn themselves out early. After a 180-turn, the two kids leading me faltered, so I figured I would take it from there.
The long but slight downhill was right into the wind, so no matter how hard I pushed to break away, I felt like I wasn’t moving. Someone was right on me, but I figured it was one of the high school kids, so I tried to see how long I could push them. We turned onto the W&OD trail and after climbing a small bridge, I started to tire, so I relented a bit, and this Frenchman flew past me. I guess I hadn’t broken anyone but myself. I kept him somewhat close when we got onto the grass, but he pulled ahead a little before the first mile mark. I checked my watch- 5:36. WHAAAAAAAT. If that effort only yielded a 5:36, I really am coming apart, I immediately felt like registering for two races on Thanksgiving was a grave mistake. Another guy--in Oakton shorts--passed me. Then two others. Then another. At this point I was just feeling bad for myself and giving up. How could I train like I did all year and come apart like this? It was inconceivable! High school kids weren't running the workouts I was... this won't do. I had to catch them.
I accelerated a little coming over a hill, and I started to catch up to two fellows. I passed them back right before the two-mile mark, 5:41. Did I really only run 5 seconds slower despite giving up so much? If I wasn’t fighting for air, I would have realized that the first mile mark was actually the 1.1 mile. I passed the third place dude, a high schooler, and started to drag myself toward the leaders, who were deep in a battle about 10 seconds ahead of me. I made up ground until we went over a small bridge--when I landed on solid ground, my motivation was gone. The leaders added to their gap, and I just tried to finish hard, hopefully break 18. Break 18? Good God…. What happened to me? I saw the read Runner’s High finish line and knew I wouldn’t be breaking it. I did, however, marvel that I was finishing under 17:00- 16:55- my last split at 5:37. I didn’t look at the last split until after I talked to the winners.
“You took it out so hard!” the Frenchman exclaimed. I was perplexed. 5:37 isn’t hard, or at least it shouldn’t be to someone how dusted me like that. I checked my watch and realized the course error. I let that de-motivate my entire last 2/3 of my race.
I did end up running 20 seconds faster than last week on a course that I feel was slower, thanks to the grass. I also won a pie.
Now I’m in the Indianapolis airport waiting for Jeff Watson so we can drive to Terre Haute and watch the Spiders.