April 5, 2012

Running on empty

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Although the St Paddy's Day Dash used to start off the running season for me, it now starts a couple of weeks later. Not that the running season ever really ends these days, but the Carlsbad 5000 seems to kick things off again in the new year.

This was my third running of the "World's Fastest 5k", and it was another great afternoon, if not my own fastest 5k. We had celebrated Kristy's birthday the night before, so it had been a rather short night of poor sleep. I had spent the previous days planning and working the party, and hadn't prepared very well for race morning. Trying to gather my gear and take care of all the pooches without waking the household took longer than expected.

I showed up in Carlsbad about 15 minutes before the gun was set to go off. I still had to pick up my race bib and track down the Hawkin's clan and our friend Steve. I had to run. I ran the half mile to the race check in, pinned my bib to my shirt, and found Sean and Steve standing in the nearby Porta John line (they were running late as well). Already warmed up from the run to the start, we walked the few blocks past all the old guys in our division. Steve is just getting back into running, and neither Sean or I had been running much, so we didn't press too far into the crowd.

The gun went off and Sean was still trying to get his gear in order and I hadn't stretched out my twitchy calves. Unprepared. Halfassery. The crowd walked forward until it reached the starting mat, then picked up the pace. We lost each other immediately. I weaved my way through a sea of runners, knowing I wasn't trained for a new PR, but wanting to do my best. The crowd thinned out a bit and I heard a few watches beep so I thought we must be closing in on the first mile marker. What I thought was a mile, was only a half mile. More questions about my conditioning.

When I had stepped out of my car just 20 minutes earlier, the wind was bending the tree tops and it was pretty chilly. In the first mile I was somehow already dripping sweat. When we rounded the first hairpin turn, I realized I was feeling so hot because I was running with the wind. No more. The next two miles were into the teeth of the wind and I was quickly chilled then dried. It would be slower going, but somehow the force pushing back on me focused my efforts.

I kept going at a comfortably hard level, and my pace slowly improved. After a few slow climbs and descents, there is a short drop near the finish line to give you a boost. I crossed the line 30 seconds slower than last year, and more than a minute behind my PR at the Turkey Trot, but after too little training and sleep (and a little too much birthday wine), I was pretty happy with the effort.

I looked for Sean near the finish line, assuming he had come in a couple of minutes ahead of me. When I couldn't find him, I sent Marci a text. She said they were coming in soon. Sean's goal for the year is to get Steve to the finish line of his first marathon. He plans to run a half marathon with him sometime later in the year, and at the last minute decided to run with him during the 5k. He cajoled, bantered and joked Steve to the finish line, achieving the goal of running without stopping.

We met up with Marci, swapped stories, enjoyed a free beer, and waited for Marci's division to go out. She did a great job, running strong only seven weeks after giving birth. The other two Hawkin's kids had run their own Junior Carlsbad the day before, and did a great job cheering us on.

I have been in a funk lately. I haven't run much since the marathon in January, and I have been taking in too many empty calories. I wasn't prepared, and wasn't as excited about the race this year. But the energy and dedication of race day, and spending time with friends at the finish line have re-lit the spark. I don't have anything on the race calendar right now, but I am ready to run again.

Though we run throughout the year, the season does seem to be nicely book-ended by St Patrick's Day and Thanksgiving. The Turkey Trot is a time to celebrate, and the 5k in the spring is the time to get the party started again after the hangover wears off.

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