I’m spending an evening in tonight. I would’ve gone out, but I have a cold. It came on some time Thursday and was in full swing by Friday morning and has lessened somewhat, but hasn’t entirely faded away as of today. I don’t feel too horrible. I have a scratchy throat, itchy eyes and, judging from the color of the stuff, some kind of toxic waste coming out of my nose.
In short, I’m sick and have been for several days.
This was a rather unfortunate turn of events since I was due to run the Owl’s Roost Rumble 5k this morning. I briefly toyed with the idea of bailing on the race but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. For one, I bailed on a race last weekend and didn’t want to ditch another. For another, I put in a lot of time preparing for the race. I had a carbohydrate-rich pizza for dinner on Friday night, for example. I’d also taken the time to purchase a Red Bull and a banana for my breakfast. I didn’t want my prep work to go to waste.
Lastly, it cost me $15 dollars to register and, well, it cost me $15 dollars to register. Yes, I pay to run. Some people might find this to be a little unreasonable since running can be done for free. Most people I know would pay good money not to run and certainly wouldn’t pay someone for the privilege of running. But when you pay to run, you get t-shirts and other free swag like carb jelly. All-in-all, it’s worth it.
The race was actually an off-road trail run and started at 8:30 this morning. There was also a half marathon that started in waves between 8:00 and 8:15. I briefly toyed with the idea of running the half marathon event, but distance running isn’t my forte. I don’t really pace myself well and I tend to discover new and interesting kinds of pain after about five miles. The 3.2 miles of a 5 kilometer race are about the ideal distance for me.
I started the race at what I considered a safe pace, one that would get me to the finish line somewhere in the middle of the pack or maybe just inside the top half. I generally don’t worry about competing. It’s usually all I can do to finish. The last race I ran had about 360 runners and I finished a respectable 93rd. Not near the front, but not too poor of a showing.
About a half a mile in, something changed. I don’t know what prompted it exactly. Maybe it was the young lady easily keeping pace at my side, somehow offending my male pride. Maybe it was watching one of co-workers loping along effortlessly a few strides in front of me. Whatever it was, something touched a competitive nerve. I decided it was time to pick up the pace.
I put a little distance between myself and the young (cute) lady and started stalking my co-worker. A tenth of a mile later, I managed to slip past him. This salvaged my pride a little, but I’d discovered the joy of passing people. So I passed a few more. I’d pace myself behind someone for a while and then pass at an opportune moment. The trail wasn’t too wide and there were lots of roots and several nice mud puddles. One poor young woman went down in a heap in the midst of a particularly squishy patch, right in front of me.
Being the gentleman I am, I went around, rather than over her.
Eventually, I found there were fewer and fewer people in front of me and more and more people behind me. This was a new experience for me. I am much more used to people passing me. As the crowd in front of me thinned, I found that I was now running to stay ahead as much as I was running to catch up. I kept expecting to hear someone coming up behind me waiting for their chance to pass. All I heard behind me, however, was the sound of the person I just passed falling further behind. Well, that and the sound of my own incredibly labored breathing.
I was running way too fast. I’d abandoned any kind of pace I thought I could maintain. I was probably a mile-and-a-half into the race and I could see maybe five people in front of me and I had absolutely no hope of catching anyone else and precious little hope of staving off those behind me. I wear a heartrate monitor when I run and a quick glance showed my heart beating at 197 beats per minute.
My max heart rate is 185 beats per minute. I usually achieve that somewhere near the end of my run. Actually, when my heart beats that fast, it generally signals the end of my run because I find it damn near impossible to continue. But here I am with my heart beating something like twelve beats per minute faster than I’ve seen it all year. I am sucking in air in huge gulps. I am wheezing like a blast furnace. And then I remember I have a cold.
When I stop coughing, my lungs feel like they’re on fire. The hill I am climbing seems to have no top. There’s a young man two or three strides ahead of me and the young woman I just passed is somewhere back there stalking me. Incredibly, against all evidence, a voice inside me tells me that I could pass the guy in front of me if I wanted. I ignore it and let him stay right where he is. There’ll be no more passing for me. He’s welcome to all two of the seconds he’ll finish ahead of me.
At the three mile mark, the trail comes out of the trees and heads uphill towards the finish line. (Uphill. Why must the races always end uphill?) I am tempted to stop and walk the rest of the way. I’m dying. But I can hear the woman behind me getting closer, dammit. With ten yards to go, she pulled dead even with me. I had to sprint to finish one second before she did. My male pride would rather have me keel over dead on the spot than let a woman pass me at the end of I race I’d nearly killed myself to finish, as you may gather from the charts below.
As it is, I didn’t die, as you can probably tell. I did, however, spend some quality time puking over a lovely split-rail fence onto an anthill.
In the end, it was worth it. I didn’t win, place or show, but I did finish 16th in a field of 133 racers. I was 7th in the men’s 30 to 39 age group. This was by far my best finish in any run ever, including my rather undistinguished track career in high school. After I finished puking in the woods, I was really psyched. I almost wish I had tried to catch that guy in front of me. I would’ve been in the top 15. If I cut another minute off my time, I could even get into the top 10. If I can cut five minutes out of my time, I might even win! I figure all I have to do is drop ten pounds and…
Well, that’s a dream for another day. 16th was good enough for today and I thank God for getting me there. It was a good feeling and I’m pretty sure that cute girl really enjoyed hearing me brag about it. She was especially impressed with the vomiting, I think.
I can’t imagine why she didn’t want to give me her phone number. She was probably intimidated by my superior running skills.
Yeah. I’m sure that was it.