This is the third year I’ve run in the Mo’ Cowbell 5K. It’s a great race, well supported, and draws big crowds. This year, there were over 5000 folks running across the four events (5K, half marathon, marathon, and relay).
Parking, however, is a challenge. There’s plenty, but most of it isn’t close. Rather than fight the crowds, I park at Ameristar Casino, and walk up to the race course, about a mile away. It’s a good warm-up and cool-down, and gives me some quiet time to either plan or reflect, depending on which direction I’m headed.
I got to the course a little later than the last couple of times I’ve run the Cowbell, which was fine as far as starting the race was concerned. I was there fifteen minutes or so before the marathon started, with the 5K starting thirty minutes after that. No biggie. But by coming a little later, the lines were amazing. For example, there seemed to be plenty of port-o-potties, but the lines for those were staggering! I’m so glad I’d taken care of business before leaving the house.
The organizers had erected a giant cowbell in Frontier Park, with the promise that you could ring it after the race if you did something notable in your race. There were photographers there, posing you with the bell pre-race, and I grabbed the cord, telling myself that today was gonna be something big.
Oddly enough, they didn’t play “Don’t Fear the Reaper” pre-race. That’s been traditional, with 5000 little cowbells ringing right along. Not sure what happened there, but I missed that this morning.
The marathoners started, and we began lining up in our corrals. Of course, there were so few of us doing the 5K (compared to the marathoners), we started to creep up toward the start line rather than staying near our designated pace corrals. After a group photo by the organizers, we were off!
Now, my last three weeks’ running have been amazing. The last two in-person events had great finish times with strong splits, and Wednesday, I came within thirty seconds of a PR. I’d done the math, and figured out what I needed to do in order to PR in the race today. In fact, I’d gotten myself so worked up about that, that I had butterflies last night before going to bed. I hadn’t been this nervous before a race in a long, long time. I even woke up around midnight, not exactly feeling well. If it’s possible to overthink a race, I did it.
I tried to keep a reasonable pace as we got started, shooting for somewhere around 9:20/km, which would put me in PR territory. In truth, I probably started a little fast, finishing the first km in 8:52. I did to myself though. There’s only one decent hill on the course, and is in the first kilometer. Historically, it’s kicked my butt, but not this year. I kicked into a gear that I’ve been working on at the Greenway, and ran my fastest pace of the whole race going up that stupid hill!
Just past midway, we transitioned from the roads to the Katy Trail, a crushed limestone railbed. There is no question about it, I am nowhere near as fast on that surface as I was on the roads. My two slowest kilometers were on the limestone, and that had me worried about whether I could get to a new PR.
The last kilometer was back on the pavement, and I started seeing a little faster pace again. I started crunching numbers in my head as I felt like I was creeping toward the finish line. As I approached the finish, I noticed the clock at the line, and it said an hour, twelve minutes and change. Really? Over an hour? How’d I screw this up? And then I noticed that there were two lanes, one for the marathoners, and one for the 5K runners. I saw my clock sitting below 46 minutes, and I knew I’d done it…
I had the PR I’ve been working so hard for this year!
So how big a deal was this? Well, I’d set my previous PR on the Greenway back in 2012, and shaved nearly 1:30 off that time today. Compared to last year’s run on this course for the Cowbell — 56 races ago! — I cut just over six minutes from my time. For me, this really was something big, and a huge accomplishment.
After I crossed the line, I got my medal, water, chocolate milk, and went in search of that big bell. I found it, told the photographers about my PR, and found a mallet on the ground. I told ’em I was gonna ring the bell, Thor-style. I walloped that thing, and let everyone in the park know that I’d beaten the course, beaten the little voices in my head, and began October on an incredibly high note.