"It's a little self indulgent..." - My mom
"After I read a sentence, I get mad at myself for caring what you're doing." -Karl Dusen

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Worth 50?

I was so underwhelmed by the Crystal City Twilighter 5k last year that I really didn't want to do it again. Then Jake started pulling this "good for the team" polemic while recruiting people to race year. I said I would if it wasn't 90+ degrees, figuring I had a way out with those terms.

While I was running in a slight chill in Portland, it became evident that the midwestern heat wave was going to be moving right over the Washington area by the early weekend, triggering my escape clause. The pure volume of running I did in Portland, 106.5 miles from Saturday to Friday, and the intensity inherent in each run -- extremely hilly for all but one run- the quarter workout Wednesday morning -- also gave me an excuse not to race. My heat acclimation I had so painfully acquired was wearing off quickly. I wasn't going to "race," but as long as the race was on, I was running.

I attribute this apparent irrationality to my office's wellness program. I ignored it for a few months, until earlier in July when the results from June's segment came in. I checked out the original e-mail and got a little more motivated to participate:

"The top 3 employees with the most points earned at the end of October will win one of three grand prizes. Grand prizes will include 6 months of free health insurance premiums (employee only), and cash prizes up to $500!!!"

I looked at the criteria for the different activities and noticed a great option- take 10,000 steps. I e-mailed the coordinator to ask if a. running counted and b. that was a renewable point source. She affirmed both. I had to get my hands on a pedometer, but that evening I counted my steps in the first mile- around 1300. If I run 100 miles a week, that's 130,000 steps right there,worth 130 points, about 520 points a month.

I just have to be in the top three to earn a grand prize, but I am not here to finish in the top three. To quote Jake Taylor in Major League "Well I guess there's only one thing left to do. Win the whole fucking thing..."

There are plenty of other sources of points, and the most delightful of all was "participate in a 5k: 50 points." That's worth 38 miles right there. So, regardless of the heat, I was participating in that race. Other options include keeping a fitness diary, making a recipe healthier, etc. For the most part, I don't even have to alter my behavior, though it did take me a week to get a pedometer, so I missed a week of earning points for a 100 mile week. But, I still walk more than a mile a day, and take more steps walking than when I run a mile, so that will add up, too.

On to the race: The WMATA trip planner suggested I take a bus to Alexandria and a train north to Crystal City, so I left with plenty of time to do that, unfortunately the bus I caught had not changed its marquee, so I spent a half hour going up the road to Tyson's Corner and back. Then another hour getting to Alexandria. I got the race with 10 minutes to spare, so no warmup beyond a few strides.

I was thinking of just jogging the race and earning the points, but that would kind of be a waste of an opportunity to run fast for a while. The course is as flat as it gets, albeit with the typical Pacers 180 turn. And it's only 5k, so I figured the best of use of my time, given the time I had spent getting there, was to run hard as long as I could until I just got too darn hot. I ran the first mile in the chase pack with Karl and Dutch Paul. We weren't too far off the leaders- 4:54 at the mile, just five seconds back.

When we passed the start/finish line about halfway in, the consequences started hitting me, and I dropped immediately. It was less humid than last year, but the heat (probably 95+) was still definitely getting to me. My head was starting to get painfully hot, and the cup of water I splashed on it barely made a difference. It was time to just finish, and there was no hanging on and gradually slowing, I came to pretty much a direct slowdown to jogging. I came through two miles in 10:25- 5:30, so not too bad of a deceleration, but it wasn't going to get any better. When we hit the 180, I was done, for all intents and purposes. Outlaw exhorted me to catch Wardian, a few steps ahead of me, but I demurred and just wanted to jog it in. Brandon ran by a few seconds after I resigned myself, and it would have been fun to finish with him, but I wasn't here to run fast, I was here for my 50 wellness points, a counter intuitive pursuit given the conditions, but hey, it's just 5k. I actually did hold a few people, including a high school runner, off before the finish, then I grabbed two bottles of water and doused myself. It was cold this year, a big improvement over last.

I did an easy 9 minute cooldown with Karl to take me well over 100 for the week ending that evening. 16:40 was actually 39 seconds faster than last year, but comparing the two years as if they were competent races conflates the issue- I got a good mile+ in and 50 points for the month. It's nice to think of it as an improvement, and I certainly am better in the heat this year, but you just can't empirically compare the two. It was a hard week of running, despite the favors the northwestern weather did for me, and it ended about as uncomfortably as I could have expected. I'm ready for an easy week to just get some mileage in the heat and work on my acclimation again.

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