In HS, my 5K cross-country PB was 21;40 or so, going down from 23:24 my freshman year. I only ran for fun in college, since I would’ve had little chance making the team. After college, I got my PB down to 20:40, and that brought a sub-20 PB into the realm of possibility. I thought I had just about plateaued there, though. If I wanted to break through, I figured that I would have to have dedicated training for that distance, with a focus on speedwork. I was more absorbed by conquering the marathon over the past few years, though, as I was eager to make it to the top of amateur sport by qualifying for Boston. I still raced 5Ks, though mostly as fun ways to practice racing, throw in some speed, and enjoy the thrills of competing.
This past October, on my 4th attempt at the marathon, I qualified for Boston. With that goal checked off the list, I’ve been taking this year pretty easy. I had felt like I had been there / done that with road races, so I started getting into obstacle races. I was travelling a lot, too. My mileage has been maintenance. I did start adding in fartlek-style runs through the Zombies, Run app, though. Between that, and perhaps accumulated mileage and endurance, I had a couple of good runs recently. I was still super-low mileage, though, and travel can wear on you a bit and throw off workout plans.
I started missing road racing again, after about ¾ a year with near zero road racing. I signed up for a couple of 5Ks. I’ve gotten into beer over the past couple of years. I like collecting the bottle caps, and it’s also exciting to experience the colors, flavors, aromas, and mouthfeels of the wide spectrum of craft and global beers. When I found a couple of races this year that were beer-themed, it was a no-brainer.
I was recovering from travel, but I had a good taper, coming in to the Swamp Rabbit Beer & BBQ 5K. I decided to take Friday off, so that I wouldn’t have to worry about traffic, and so that I could take some much-needed rest. It was hot as I sat in the car for 2 hrs before the race, as I had wanted to beat traffic. During the warmup, I was shocked by how asleep my body felt, though. I was nervous. I wanted to podium so badly. Going for me, was some pre-race nutrition and a pre-race cooling protocol.
At the gun, we were off. There were 5-6 women around me. After about ¾ of a mile, it was down to 2. It was such a relief. The good thing about not over-extending myself at the start, is a better race time overall. It can be nerve-racking, though, to have to be catching people the whole time, with uncertaininty about whether you’ll make it. There were no mile markers, but the race was against others, not against the clock. Ahead of me was a girl running with her little pug. I was floored by how fast they were going. I was barely able to reel them in, catching them with about ¾ of a mile to go. While I was still chasing, I thought to myself how it must be tough for a dog, since they don’t have the benefit of the central governor in their brain to tell them that they were close to the finish line and only had to push a bit longer. For all they know, they may have to keep up that pace for a while. At the same time, they were driven by something also very powerful – love for their owner. Such were my thoughts as I pushed through the pain. It was starting to feel pretty hot, but I pictured myself at the park where I spent many a summer evening. The 1st place girl was pretty far ahead, so it was all about staying strong and not letting off the pedal.
I reached the final stretch to the Swamp Rabbit Brewery and went in to the line. I saw 19:XX and figured that the course was probably a bit on the short side. I was excited about the podium finish, and I won a growler, as I had hoped. It didn’t come with a fill-up, but that’s good, as I was travelling the next day, and would’ve had a dilemma if I wound up with all that beer. All finishers got BBQ and what turned out to be world-class beer that has won many medals. The Wit was amazing, and it lives up to its medals 100%…. It’s hard to believe that we have a place that brews some of the best beer in the world, right in our backyard. I sat in the taproom and soaked up the ambiance… it has a really fun atmosphere. I even made some friends there, and we spent about an hour talking.
I found out the next day that the 5K was USATF-certified, so the 19:49 was legit! That was 50s off my PR, on a hot day. Still can’t believe it. It came out of nowhere… or maybe out of Zombies and a few good years of consistent running. I’m thrilled.