The GPS system on my phone calculated my drive time from Massachusetts to Buffalo as an 8 hour, 33 minute trip. Luckily for me cruise control and a mix of my favorite tunes cut those 33 minutes right off. Still, I ended the traveling portion of my vacation with an eight-hour drive home. And after a week of long runs, bike rides and kayak adventure, surely it was time to crash and prepare myself for re-entry into non-vacation society, right?
Yeah. You can just tell where this is going, right?
Upon my return home on Friday I hastily did a load of laundry, emptied my car and went straight to bed. The alarm was set for 5:15 a.m. to give me time for breakfast and to gather up my belongings to run a 5K Saturday morning. Was I insane? Well, maybe. But I didn’t give myself time to think about it. Here’s the lowdown: Saturday’s workout featured a tempo run, that meant running 3-4 miles at a particular pace. Let’s just say that my running has not been speed oriented in the last few weeks, so this task, while doable, seemed rather daunting. Enter Best Running Pal Sue who asked if I wanted to go to the Lake View Field Days 5K to get in my tempo work. The race is extremely low-key, there are very few participants (several of them my friends) and the course is flat — all factors setting me up for a good tempo run.
I took off on my 2-mile warmup run, jogging down some side streets and trying not to think about my pace. By the time I reached the starting line, my shirt was already damp from the humidity. Yep. This might be ugly. During the warmup, I noticed the beginning development of sloshy stomach. Since training is meant to include nutrition trial and error, I decided to take in some solid food rather than more shot blocks, so I downed a Honey Stinger Waffle 15 minutes before race time, hoping the solid would act as a balance to the liquid sloshing around in my stomach. (I am happy to report it seemed to work.)
The race began and while trying to hold back my pace, I was swept up in feeling pretty good and running with the flow of the race. Consciously I backed off, knowing that I needed to sustain a pace, not run fast and burn out. That first mile? It took FOREVER. Seriously. I thought it would never freaking end. But of course, eventually it did, and the course turned into a development where the runners wound around curves, bends and culs-de-sac. While a very nice neighborhood there were two problems here:
- There was no shade. What exactly do developments have against a tree-line street? Not only does it look pretty but it’s extraordinarily helpful when a 5K comes to town. Yes, the heat and humidity were not friendly on this day.
- The curves in the road slowed me down a few times and I seemed to chose exactly the worst possible moment to check my pace — the moment when that brief slow down around the bend is bungled by the satellite coordinates and for three seconds my pace appears to be off by a minute and 30 seconds. Yes, there were momentary flashes of panic and doubt.
Then came the next delight — something flew into my head. I don’t know if it was a very large insect or a small bird. (There is precedent for both) but it flew into my right temple, made a screeching noise, and flew away. Fortunately for me, I was too concerned with moving forward at a consistent, quick clip, but I may have let a profanity slip. As the course mercifully left the lollipop loops of the development, the puke factor started to kick in. While there was no sloshy stomach, there was a chance of throwing up on the side of the road. This is good, I thought to myself. I am strong. I am growing. I am pushing back the puke factor!
I kicked it into high gear with just under half a mile to the finish line. Oh, the puke factor was coming on strong. The desire to just stop and walk was there, too. But I wanted to run. Hard. I crossed the line and hit my watch. My average pace? Three seconds faster than it needed to be. Score! I went off to finish my cool down 2 miles and returned just in time to hear my name announced as taking second place in my age group. I smiled and cheered. My time was not particularly impressive, but I wasn’t there to race a good time — I was there to run a very specific time. Mission accomplished. And along the way, I picked up a little bit of hardware. Life is about showing up, about seeing the opportunities in front of me and knowing I have a choice. Had I chosen to muddle through the tempo run on my own, not only would I have missed out on the opportunity win an elusive age group award but I likely would not have sustained my tempo pace or would have had such an enjoyable experience with a challenging workout. Oh, there was no need to sleep in after my road trip. There was tempo pace to run, races to join, medals to win and plenty of time to nap in the afternoon.