This morning I ran the first repeat 5K of my racing days - the Zeta Tau Alpha Run for Life. Last year, it was my second race of my life. Since then I've ran a few other races. I wanted to run this one as a warm-up for the 10-Miler next week, to remember what the feeling is like of competing with other people so that I don't overdo it from the start.
This morning, I could not find either of my watches. I don't know where my Garmin is, or my cheap Timex. I spent 30 minutes or so frantically searching my house. I even considered not running the face because I was worried I'd have the same issue I've had in all other races I've run so far - puking because I run way too fast without realizing it.
It's easy to get caught up in the adrenaline when someone shouts "go!" and a thousand footfalls drum you on. At the start today, I held back and tried to pretend it was just another run on a sunny Saturday morning in the cold.
I did not fool myself. After a couple of minutes, I became irritated that a man dressed head to toe in green spandex was still in front of me. I was also ticked off that I was being beaten by condiment. A ketchup bottle was running side by side with a guy in a sombrero. This could not stand, thought my body, and so I pushed myself a little harder.
I didn't really feel it, and thought somehow I was going slow. The Garmin would have been keeping track of how far I was going, and I would have used it to make sure I didn't overdo it. After all, I wasn't looking to beat my personal record of 22:01 for a 5K. I just wanted to beat the 23:08 I'd achieved last year.
All was well until I got to Alderman, and we climbed uphill past the Catholic church. I started passing people heading up, because I've deliberately trained on hills, and I liked the sheer thrill of passing people.
At the top, though, my stomach reminded me that I'm not Jesse Owens, and that I needed to keep things in perspective. I thought my puking moment was about to occur, but I managed to slow down, breathe a little deeply, and pass through it.
On the downhill, the ketchup bottle passed me again. This annoyed me.So, I forgot about my digestive issue again. I didn't outright sprint, but continued at what I thought was a somewhat decent pace. After passing the bottle again, I closed my eyes for about two seconds, visualized something else to take my mind off of things, and tried to dial in a nice pace to finish up.
I've run down McCormick so many times now in the past year, that I'm used to it, so when we ran back up the hill past Clark Hall, I thought I was going to be doing well. I didn't think I was going particularly fast. Didn't feel like I was really straining myself. Sure, I was going faster than my usual runs, but I thought all was well.
Just past the Harrison Institute and Chapel, I saw some guy who had stopped to puke. Poor guy, I thought.
Of course, there was the matter of the ketchup bottle. I had to stay ahead of him, so I sped up. I experimented with changing my gait slightly. I shortened my strides, but pumped my legs faster. There wasn't much left to go, and I though I would be alright.
Heading downhill and around the curve, the burps started again. I slowed down, hoping that would take care of it. I just wanted to make my way through to the end. My body had other ideas. Whatever causes this issue for me demanded to be resolved, so I tried to throw up without stopping. After some very unsatisfying attempts at this, I had to pull over for a second.
I leaned against the brick wall at Alderman, next to the book drop, and took 5 seconds to do what I had to do. Embarrasingly, there went the ketchup bottle. I knew I would not catch up, but that was okay.
Those 5 seconds felt like a lifetime. My heart was beating faster than I think it should have been. I took a deep breath, and up the hill I went to the finish line at Newcomb Plaza. I was amazed, as the timer was ticking up from 22:15, and I jogged across right at 22:30.
Not too bad. I've got plenty of training ahead of me, but I was satisfied with the results, and shook off the embarrassment.
I'm pretty sure I won't make this same mistake in the ten-miler next week, mostly because I've been training specifically for long distances. I've not done any speed work, but I've learned how to pace myself so I can go several miles. I'll make sure I have a watch for next week, even if I can't locate the Garmin.
I'm simply amazed to see the number of people who run, and even though I only knew a few people there today, I feel part of Charlottesville's running community. I also really appreciate how races held at the University of Virginia bring everyone together for good causes. I'm glad that I had friends to encourage me to keep doing this in the early days, and I'm looking forward to crossing the finish line with them in less than a week!