On Friday night I left work, hopped on the Metro to Crystal City, and raced a 5K.
It was hard...as all races are...but I guess overall it was fun?
Let me explain: It's been a long time since I've raced a 5K. I've been on-and-off injured for what seems like forever, so I've avoided racing. I couldn't see the point of paying money to run a mediocre 5K.
(Though I did tempo a Cranberry Crawl back in November, and before that did an all day relay in July.)
But the thing is, the best way to get ready for racing is to race. It's impossible to replicate that oh-so-special raceday feeling in a workout, no matter how dedicated you are. In a race you will automatically prepare better and push yourself harder than on a normal day. And the mentality of racing is tough - not only do you need to be physically able to run fast, but you need to be mentally prepared to really push yourself.
I want to get back into racing so I need to practice racing more often. (It's the dreaded race-yourself-into-shape formula. It rough...but it works.)
I knew that I wasn't in my best shape before Friday's race, but I wanted to do a 5K to gauge my fitness. Knowing my current pace will help me focus my workouts and set goals for the next race...basically it's all uphill from here! (A very long, very difficult, very tiring hill...but it will inevitably result in me running faster, so that's a hill I'm willing to climb.)
On Friday I met SpeedyKate at 5:40 pm to warm up. We jogged a couple miles and did drills and strides in front of the start line. Then, at 6:30 pm, it was no excuses, too late to back out: Runners set....GO!
We took off in a herd of mostly men, most of whom went out waaaayyy too fast (per usual...oh people). That was my greatest fear - I'm not confident in my race-pace stamina right now and the last thing I wanted was to feel my legs burning in a non-sustainable way before the first mile-marker.
I kept it comfortable. Maybe a little too comfortable. The course switched back, so as people I knew passed me on their way back from the mile marker I cheered. Loudly. The man next to me gave me a bewildered glare and I wondered, Hmm, maybe I should try a little harder...
So I picked it up a bit. (My watch died before the race and no one called splits, so I don't actually know how fast each mile was.)
The course is without a doubt one of the ugliest races I've ever participated in...Crystal City, though it may sound like a mythical place straight out of the Wizard of Oz is actually just a business district in Arlington. We ran under parking garages...behind huge cinderblock buildings...you get the idea...
Midway through mile 2 I hit a momentary point of, Eww this is hard. What am I doing? Ugh I hate racing! But I maned up (or womaned up?) and got over it.
The last mile was the usual no-man's-land of are-we-there-yet? mixed with me kicking myself for not looking more closely at a course map beforehand.
Kicking myself to run faster, that is! I picked it up in the last 800 meters and passed a few people, always a fun way to end a race.
I wasn't absolutely wasted when I crossed the line, but I was significantly tired enough to feel I put in a strong and respectable effort. I ran 20:02, and placed 6th.
SpeedyKate, Jessica, and I cooled down together and then headed to the showers provided for the racers. (Such an awesome set-up for a Friday night race! Run, then fancy gym showers, then food. Perfect.)
And then the important part: Dinnertime! We got half-price pasta (a deal for racers) at Kora that totally hit the spot. SpeedyKate and I split:
Seared Salmon Penne Pasta penne with salmon, spinach and tomato in a vodka cream sauce and Orecchiette with Italian sausage, mushrooms, mozzarella, and marinara
It was a great way to kick off a good weekend!
And I'm racing again on Wednesday, this time on my office team at the Capital Challenge 3-Miler. Racing myself into shape, one race at a time...