Sub-18 runner Matt Clidas (in orange shirt) at the start of the Resolution 5K Run.
Saturday was our local running club's annual New Year's 5K, the Resolution Run. I normally do not run this event, nor do I usually make New Year's resolutions. However, training buddy John invited his brother Mike and nephews Matt and Andrew in from Seattle for the holidays and I hadn't had a chance to see them. John had arranged for them to run the 5K before flying out later in the day. So, this was my one chance to visit with them. Fellow triathletes Tony and Tracey were also running, as well as our newest runner, Debbie. I would include a further identifier for Debbie, but the use of certain words and descriptions without the express written consent of the National Training Buddies Association are strictly prohibited.
In any event, the run is in Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, a little over a mile from my house. No reason to drive over, I decide, just run over to warm up before the race. So, at 6:20 I jog over the park. Being an elongated island-like structure attached to Ft. Lauderdale Beach, Birch State Park contains a loop road about 1.7 miles long. Of course,once in the park, I take the longer way around to the start area, so I've run about 2 miles before the race starts. I come up to the waiting race crowd from the back of the pack. I first come across the ladies: Tracy and Debbie. They have appropriately seeded themselves back from the start line in anticipation of their finish times. They indicate that the guys are up towards the front. Being as ego driven as the next guy, I work my way towards the front.
I find the guys placed a couple of rows off the front line. We exchange hellos and start the usual pre-race trash talk and sandbagging. Matt is a high school senior who has run sub 18 minute 5Ks. He states his intent to run a sub 18 (trash talk). I suggest he move to the front line. Mike explains that he hasn't run in a long time (sandbagging). Andrew states that he is a wrestler at his high school, not a runner (sandbagging). Tony just wants to improve his run times for triathlons (sandbagging). John turns to me and says: "Its a 5k. This should be your race." Now, this is both trash talking and sandbagging at the same time. Let me explain.
I am not a smart runner. I tend to go out too fast off the front of a race and get pulled out with guys I have no business trying to keep up with. Thus, I start fast and slow as a race progresses. John, tends to start off slower and pick up pace as he warms up. In short races, my approach usually allows me to finish ahead of John. In marathons, his wiser, more even paced approach invariably allows him to best my time. The toss up is the half marathon. However, I have been doing longer endurance runs in preparation for the Disney Marathon. I haven't raced a 5K in over a year and a half. I have not done speed training since before the Vegas Marathon. So, I take John's "This should be your race" comment as trash talk, pushing me to try to keep in front of him. But its also sandbagging in that he's acknowledging that I should finish before him. Most likely, he's just messing with my head.
It works. I start to wieve my way towards the front as the race starts. Andrew is keeping up but is on the outside of the road. I tell him to move the left to run the shorter tangent for a left curve in the road. Of course, the road shortly thereafter curves to the right. He must think I'm an idiot. Fortunately, I had pulled sightly ahead of him, so I didn't have to see any quizical looks from him. In any event, I average about 7 minute miles for the first 2 miles and slowed for the last mile. My time: 22:25, a 7:13 pace. Not a P.R., but not bad for the last 5K before I turn 50. Matt runs his sub 18. Andrew came in close behind me, followed shortly thereafter by John. About a minute or so back come Tony and Mike. Next was Tracey, who never believes us when we tell her a couple of runners behind her are trying to kick past her to the finish. Debbie rounds out the group with a P.R. Congratulations, Debbie!
The next day, Tony throws Tracey a birthday party at their house. I meet Joe, a South African who tells us about his 12 times running the Commrades Marathon (a 58 mile ultramarathon). Fellow triathlete Carrie tells us about her upcoming Ironman event in New Zealand. Also present is a woman named Mandy who is training for the Marathon des Sables (Marathon of the Sands), a six day ultra-run in the desert of Morraco in which you have to carry all of your food and clothing for the event in a backpack. I always enjoy hearing about these ultra events, but also think how crazy they sound. Why do people do these events?
It begins to occur to me that the risk with signing up for the Ironman event is not the failure to finish. The risk is that you will succeed. Your mind will then start pondering the larger possible challenges. Thus, by the end of the evening, I've figured out my New Year's resolution. If I am successful in completing the Arizona Ironman in November, I resolve not to sign up for a harder event. However, like most New Year's resolutions, there is always the risk of breaking it.
Post Script 12/30/09: Got in my final 15 miler last night. Felt strong. Let the Disney taper continue!