The poet and I flew back to the east coast as part of a surprise 60th birthday party extravaganza for my dad. Days before I left, Twitter alerted me that Anabel was going to be in town and Yasi was around. After a flurry of emails and texts, we decided to race a 5K together. "Together" being a fairly loose term, but we'd all start at the same time and end up at the brunch table at the same time, which is all that really matters.
I do not like racing 5Ks. I used to claim that the 10K was my least favorite distance - it's hurts as bad as a 5K but for twice as long! - but that's never really been true, the 5K takes the crown in my book. I'd much rather race for hours on top of hours, it spreads out the pain in such a way that you can nearly avoid all of it. But huffing and puffing and getting my heart rate up and dealing with all of the negative voices who start yelling QUITE LOUDLY when I run fast, that's not for me.
So, race morning. We had our squealing reunion in the parking lot, got registered, and headed out for a chatty warm-up to scope out a bit of the course. At some point in the texting we obviously started discussing matching race outfits because we are girls, and Anabel gets credit for this brilliance.
The crowd was pretty small, but we chatted and bounced around until the weird siren thing went off. After a moment of confusion - do we go now? - we were off and running.
Yasi agreed to start out running with me, and we would see where we ended up. She's pretty speedy but she's also in the middle of a well-deserved break from training, so I had hope that we would equalize.
I went out at the tail end of the front clump. I knew Anabel was up there, but I had no idea how many other women were in the bunch because it didn't occur to me to pay attention (spoiler alert). I gave my Garmin a minute to talk to the sky and then slammed on the brakes, telling Yasi this is blow-up pace! 7:00 first mile is blow-up pace!
We settled into a long string of runners as the race turned onto a path that went in front of a building and around a little grassy area. All the Garmin watches around me beeped quite a ways in front of the mile 1 sign, and when I hit my lap button, the only thought in my head was two more miles to go, I can do this, I run two miles all the time.
The course brought us back by where the poet and Anabel's husband were cheering, and I am sure they said something positive as I chugged by, but the huffing and puffing was starting to get a bit louder and I was drawing into my focus, thinking about tightening up my form, trying to process calm thoughts, this isn't that fast, you ran almost this fast for much longer on Thursday, just settle down and hold steady.
We ran up a little hill for the second loop, and there was a water stop which I ignored but grunted out a thanks as I ran by. My pace dropped as I climbed the "felt like a mountain but was actually barely up" hill, so I started telling myself all the things that you do when you do hill repeats. Use your abs, pump your arms, feet under you, shoulders down, you live in freakin Colorado and this isn't even really a hill. (Still no hip extension, sorry Dr. Maggs, I'm working on it!)
When I started heading back on the second loop, I was having a hard time with math. I knew where the finish line was but I couldn't figure out how we would get there without running much further than three (point one!) miles. The negative voices crept in, I knew that a PR was easily within reach and the little chatterys wanted me to slow down, to take a break, ouch it's hurting I don't like this, and I remember very clearly thinking I've run over two hard miles now, if I slow down I'm going to be mad later about missing out on a PR and then I'm going to have to run these exact same two miles again someday so it might as well be today. And for the first time - yes, the first time ever in a 5K, I'm not proud of it - I did not barter a walk break with my brain, I did not give the okay to apply the brakes or even let up on the gas a little bit, I told all those little thoughts to shut the fuck right up.
We got to head back down the little hill, and there were a lot of people that were doing the 1-mile walk that I had to dodge around, and then a woman came into sight in front of me, and another one right in front of her. I reeled her in enough to hang on the back of her shoulder. I focused on her ponytail, on her blue tights, on staying with her. And when we ran past the poet and Anabel's husband again, they were both yelling at the same time but I clearly heard Mark say, Go get her and my illogical brain went - Why?
Why. WHY. I coasted on her wheel into the finish, only to learn about a minute later that she was third woman OA, and the one right in front of her was second. And then I was mad. At first, because why wouldn't I chase someone down? It's a race, for pete's sake, I can hear myself saying the words, out loud, to one of my athletes, and it makes me laugh. At myself.
I've never been competitive on the run, I can't even get close to the front of the pack most of the time. So I never worry about racing anyone. The races I do are always about me, about racing my own demons and sometimes the clock and sometimes just for fun but it's never because I want to chase anyone down. For the most part, I'm the one getting chased down. And because of that, I don't have a competitive streak in me on the run. There are times where I feel it in racing, but it's far more present in the water than anywhere else (like most of the good things are for me, in sport). Mark told me to go chase her down, and my thoughts weren't I can't or too hard - the thoughts were - huh? Why would I do that?
Yasi rolled in about a minute behind me, and we creaked off for our cool-down, chattering and happy and high on endorphins. We got to attend the awards ceremony and all ended up with first place medals (Anabel for the win, Yasi and I for the AG win).
And while it was fun (sort of) to get out and race a bit on my ironman-trained legs, the best part of the day was spending time with some of my dearly loved friends. I'm lucky to have met Yasi and Anabel through the strange lands of the internets, and the friendship that we've built over the past year is precious to me.
Three weeks to ironman.