There are some races that just have my heart. I do them every year regardless of whether I’m ready to “race” the course or am just folding the event into my current training plan. There’s no hard, fast rule about what makes me love a particular race. It’s unique to the event and unique to me. And the Shoes for the Shelter 5K is really a classic case of unique to me.
Shoes for the Shelter 5K is sponsored by Canisius College, running from near the school’s athletic center to the Albright Knox Art Gallery and back, with a few turns along Bidwell for good measure. (Literally.) Runners are encourage to bring sneakers or other shoes to donate to the St. Vincent DePaul Society. Also, it’s one of the big community service hours for the athletic teams on campus. And herein lies my tie to the race.
Rewind a few years ago. I had just finished covering the run to the NCAA tournament by the Canisius hockey team. I had spent the better part of the season around the team and traveled to Providence, R.I. for their first ever game in the national postseason event. I was also training for the Kentucky Derby Festival Half Marathon. I had never run the Shoes for the Shelter 5K but decided it would be a good course to do my speed workout for the week. So I registered and ran my interval plan: Two minutes hard effort. Two minutes recovery. Repeat. By the time I got to the final stretch my core was on fire and I wasn’t sure my legs were still attached to my body. I started having a conversation in my head. Look, there’s the finish clock. Don’t throw up. See the finish line? Don’t throw up. Hey, there’s the Canisius goalie. Don’t throw up in front of the Ice Griffs. Don’t throw up in front of the Ice Griffs.
And from that point on, I referred to the race as the “Don’t throw up in front of the Ice Griffs 5K.”
I didn’t say my story was universally entertaining. But when you’re gutting out a 5K race during distance training, you do what you have to do to entertain yourself.
Back to 2016.
I am well into my training for Grandma’s Marathon in June and this week’s long run took me to 14 miles. Saturday morning under gray skies, 28 degree temperatures and wind gusts around 20 miles per hour (wait, isn’t it supposed to be spring?) I did my 14-mile long run, paying extra attention to stay around my easy pace. (More on that in a later post.) With 14 miles on my legs Saturday I wasn’t entirely sure how Sunday would go. After all last year I ran my slowest 5K at Shoes for the Shelter after a long run the day before. But I’m in a different place in my fitness now, so perhaps this wouldn’t be as bad.
My warmup felt pretty good and I was confident I could my C goal. My A goal would be to run about the same time I did for my last 5K, thereby keeping on the same speed path. My B goal was to run about 15 seconds slower per mile than my A goal, which still would give me a solid time. My C goal was to hold tempo pace, a good 45 seconds slower than my 5K race pace but a pace that would fit in line with my training plan for the week.
All that goal talk goes out the window when the starting horn goes. Because then I just run. I wanted to keep it steady and work hard but not blow up early. My first mile? Whoa. It was way too fast. I laughed at myself and took it down a notch. This was a short distance but there were still 2.1 miles to go.
I felt steady in the second mile. I tried to pick it back up just a bit. That’s when the cold got me. It was a sunny day with no wind, just a bit of a breeze, but the air temperature was about 32. And while I’ve trained and race in much colder temps, the cold air into my lungs started to burn. So I kept it steady. I was in good shape to hit my goal anyway.
About half a mile from the finish line I saw the first group of hockey players. Cheers! Woot! Don’t let it look like I’m dying because my core right now is on fire.
As I closed in on the finish line I saw another bunch of hockey players. I noticed them because sophomore Ryan Schmelzer was wearing Buffalo Bills print zuba pants. Wait? Is he really wearing zuba pants? Do they still make zuba pants? And now he’s turning away from the road to talk to his buddies. Zuba-pants wearing Ryan Schmelzer and the rest of the Ice Griffs are going to miss me going by. That will result in negative points on my favorite teams to cover list.
I had just passed the group when I heard “AMY! Go Amy!” Crap. They did see me. Now I have to pick it up so I sprinted the final 100 yards or so. I crossed the line in a solid finishing time looking like I always do at the finish line — death warmed over.
In the final result, my time was a little off my A goal, but it was close enough for the day after a long run. The effort felt good. Running hard felt good. In the end, that was what mattered. The performance? Well, that’s starting to come together all on its own.