In the second of my back-to-back downtown weekend runs, today I completed the Rock ‘n’ Roll 5K here in Da Lou.
This race started out with some crunky packet pickup woes. For some reason, the folks that run the race only had the expo open on Friday from 1pm to 6pm, with no same-day packet pickup… for a race that started at 8am on Saturday. To say the least, this was pretty inconvenient, given that I work for a living, and live about 30 miles away from America’s Center, where the expo was held. However, knowing I wanted to get this one done, I took off from work a little early, drove to the train stop, and rode Metrolink into town. The only nice thing about having to deal with this on Friday was that it allowed me the opportunity to pick up train tickets for this morning, and to fill up the Jeep in preparation for the race.
The clock went off this morning at 5:20, and I started my normal race day routine — big glass of water, and an English muffin with peanut butter and honey. I’d gathered everything up last night that I’d need, and got on the road at 6am, knowing that I had two hours to get to the race site.
I arrived at the Brentwood Metro station, and waited for the train. And waited. And waited. Eventually the train came, but only after I learned that there was track maintenance going on downtown, and that I would have to change trains in order to get there. This made for some long delays, causing the other runners on the train to wonder if some runners conspired against us by sabotaging the train system so there’d be less competition! 🙂
I got in place in my corral just about 7:30, which was cutting it a little closer than I’d care for, and I awaited the start of the race. I’d re-aggravated a minor foot injury this week, and with that in mind, I knew I was gonna take it easy today, so I went over my game plan for the day. I was gonna walk a lot of the course to lower the potential for really tweaking my foot, and be happy with anything just above fifty minutes.
Quickly, the race start time approached, and just as the National Anthem began to play, folks began to move up in the corrals. I stood still, hat over heart, and facing the flags around us. I know this is the grumpy old man in me rearing his ugly head, but it really bothered me that folks weren’t respectful of the anthem and flag, and were walking around, chatting among themselves, and carrying on. It wasn’t exactly like the recording was being played softly!
Once I got past my little grumpy event, the corrals started being released. I was in the third (and slowest) corral, and got to watch the expanse of folks in the other two corrals ahead of me. By the time we were released, people stretched for almost a kilometer, in a head-bobbing mass of running humanity. Pretty dang cool to see.
I crossed the start line, and jogged as I started. And with no pain in my foot, I kept jogging. Quickly, the first kilometer was behind me, at just under nine-and-a-half minutes. Not wanting to press my luck, I slowed to a walk for the second and third kilometers, each of which were around 10:30. However, the landscape changed, and began to be mostly downhill as I headed to toward the river and finish line. And with that slight downward incline, I kicked into a jog again, with my last two kilometers coming in at just a wiggle over nine minutes each.
I’d expected a slow race, and had prepared myself for something just over fifty minutes. As it ends up, I cruised into a finish just under 49 minutes, which I was thrilled with. I grabbed my medal, and started making my way through the “secure” runners area.
There were a couple of disappointments on the course. First, the one and only water table was just before 4km into the race, which is far too late to be worth much. The second was the availability of snacks at the finish line. I had a bottle of water, a bag of pretzels and a banana by the time I’d walked through the line. Frankly, that was a little disappointing, as I was really expecting chocolate milk at the finish. The chocolate milk folks had a huge display at the expo, which led me to expect chocolate milk would be lying in wait at every corner. Ah well.
What’s kinda interesting is that Facebook reminded me that a year ago, I was running the first of two back-to-back Rock ‘n’ Roll 5K’s. It’s kinda nice to reflect on that race weekend, and contrast it against this one. That was the first time I’d run two 5K’s back-to-back, and it was tough. I suffered through that first race, finishing just barely under 51 minutes, and feeling lucky for that time. The second 5K on Sunday was nearly ten minutes slower.
This year, I cruised through the course, finishing easily under 49 minutes. And that coulda been much faster, had I not been taking it easy. I’ve talked about this before, but I think plenty of practice this year has bred some real self-confidence. By the time of the RnR last year, I’d only run nine races all year. This year, the RnR was my 50th race of the year. I’ve learned to be comfortable in my running skin, and know that I can do this. I’ve figured out a nice pace that works well for me, and I’ve really gotten focused on making a race plan, and running that, regardless of the folks who pass me. Shedding all that mental baggage has helped me enjoy running, and look forward to every run. And yeah, it’s nice to see some improvement in my times, although that’s not really the goal!