Glacier 10K race report
There are a few lines from Running With the Buffaloes that have stuck with me ever since I first read the book back in college. They are the paragraphs that discuss coach Mark Wetmore’s approach to preparing his athletes for NCAA’s:
He was and is preparing them to approach NCAA’s as just another race. After all, “How many people go to NC’s and run better than they have all year? Ten percent? I don’t want to go in having to run better than ever. I want them to think business as usual. If five of us run business as usual, we’ll be alright.”
For this reason, there will be no fire and brimstone speeches… Wetmore believes “the more cranked up you are on rhetoric, the less likely you are to run well. You go out too hard the first mile, mile and a half, and run worse than you would have.” (p. 182)
I found Wetmore’s sentiments about “fire and brimstone” and “business as usual” to be so incredibly true as a rower in college that the mentality has carried over into my post-college running. I’ve become very businesslike in my approach to racing, in that I know exactly what I’m capable of so I go in and do it fairly unemotionally. Lately, there are rarely any surprises, because I take no risks.
And you know what? I think I miss taking risks. The act of risk-taking in races, for me, is tied to having rivals. Female rivals. There are a handful of guys I can mix it up with here, but it’s not really the same. If I beat one of the guys, it’s probably just because he’s out of shape. If he beats me, it’s because he’s a guy and has some magical biological advantage so I don’t really care.
I wonder, idly, what it would be like to get that gutsy, risk-taking spark back. I don’t know what it is — maybe some innate evolutionary competitive instinct — but there is nothing like seeing another ponytail bobbing up ahead of me in a race to make me decide I’m going to chase a sister down even if it means my teeth will be buzzing and my stomach will be knotted up in a ball in my throat from the effort.
On the other hand, running dead alone in these small races, I’ve gotten so good at focusing inward that I think (…hope) the habits I’ve honed here will be to my advantage if I ever run in bigger races that are rife with competitors and distractions.
Anyway, let’s talk about yesterday’s race.
Sunshine. Flat, officially sanctioned course. No ice or snow on the roads. No wind. No obstacles to a good performance.
I was a little worried I’d be off-kilter from having been sick the week before, but I felt good during the warmup (or more specifically the three warmups I did due to bus stops being two miles from the race start and then the race time being half an hour later than I thought).
Standing on the start line, though, I gradually realized I had no doubts about how the day would go. I knew I’d see 39-something. I’d seen it in my head along with the 6:26s I’d need to string together to get there. I’d seen it indicated in all the numbers from my workouts. Nothing about it scared or intimidated me anymore.
So I ran as if I already owned that 39-something PR.
Some fast guys took it out hard and dropped me within the first mile. I shot out in a 6:09 and 6:14 first and second mile and thought about maintaining some kind of contact in hopes that they might slow down, but they were strong and the gaps only widened. I was completely alone, so I shifted gears and settled into low 6:20’s for the remaining miles.
Business as usual.
I ran as if I belonged there. As if I’d run under 40:00 on many occasions before. In fact, it was only with mild interest that realized I unofficially PR’d at 5K through the halfway point.
The rest of the race was a matter of enjoying the sunshine, reveling in my fitness, and feeling lucky to be out there. Just one of those good days.
Was it uncomfortable? Of course. Racing is never comfortable, and I’m used to that discomfort by now. But did it ever feel unsustainable? Was I ever anxious that I wouldn’t meet my goal? No, not at any point after the race began.
In fact, in the final straightaway (which was long enough that I could see the seconds ticking upward on the finishing clock for what seemed to be five or seven eternities), there was an exciting moment where I thought I could (wait, no — wait, yes! — wait, no, nevermind!) break not only 40 minutes but 39.
Not quite. I crossed the line in 39:04. A PR by nearly 2.5 minutes.
I am quite pleased with this effort, although naturally I’m wondering why I couldn’t have found five seconds to squeeze out of one of my less-focused middle miles.
So I guess I can’t offer a “fire and brimstone” race report about how I raced completely out of my head, how I was tough, pushed hard, gritted my teeth, dug deep, had some kind of groundbreaking life epiphany, and battled with myself to pull out the PR.
I didn’t have to do any of those things yesterday, and the reason why not is that I did them already simply by training through this winter. The race was the reward. All I had to do was execute the plan and enjoy myself. My big PRs in the 10K and the marathon in the past few months have been the products of consistency, preparation, preventative injury management, and good luck in that I managed to stay healthy. There were no shortcuts. No surprises. No risks.
There’s something really insufferable and boring about that, but I don’t care right now.
After crossing the finish line, I grabbed an orange slice, congratulated my fellow racers, and turned right back around to haul down the road to the bus stop so that I could make it on time to a big conference put on by one of my workplaces. Once there, I found myself literally running back and forth between two conference halls. There may have also been a moment when, while setting up the second conference hall as Mary Poppins music blared over the loudspeakers, in a fit of undernourished and dehydrated delirium, I led a few coworkers in what was more or less an impromptu Broadway dance performance that involved spinning, leaping, jumping off walls, and coordinated tossing of decorative items.
Then this morning a group of us set out down and back Thane and the sun was bright on the pavement and the water was flat and the wind was nothing. I can talk all about running and racing with these guys and never feel judged or stupid for being excited about it or for putting time into training. Or I can just shut up and enjoy cruising along in companionable silence with other people who just… get it.