This week was race number 3 of the 12 part Summer Sunstroke Stampede 5K series. Last night’s race was back on the Brushy Creek Trail behind my house. My turf. Homecourt advantage. It was time for me to get back to pushing the limits of my abilities and running a complete race. Something that I truly had not done since January at the 3M Half Marathon.
It was time to get back my race day mojo.
As I mentioned after Saturday’s Congress Avenue Mile, I feel like I have been searching lately. Not running poorly, not running wonderfully, just kind of “running”. I felt like I had fallen into the trap of “running races” instead of “racing”. The difference for those who look at me from the outside is negligible.
But for me, I know the difference. How it feels in the starting area, how I attack the first mile of the race, how many times I ask myself during the difficult middle sections, “how much do you want this today?”, and how hard I close the race out.
I’ve been disappointed in myself lately to be totally honest. And on Wednesday night, it was time to do something about it.
I had rested my legs Wednesday morning, no swim workout – just locked and loaded for race night.
After picking up Landry at Day-Care and getting her ready to spend some time with her babysitter, I ate my light dinner of a bagel and Gatorade. Threw on my race flats and drove over to the trail head where the race would start in about 45 minutes.
Temperature 100 degrees.
Not ideal conditions to “going fast”, but my race was going to be all about the effort I put out there, I honestly wasn’t too worried about my clock time. I just wanted to go out hard, settle into a comfortably hard pace and close strong. What that meant on the finish clock was pretty irrelevant.
All race days have their own limits to them. 100 degree temperatures at 7:00 p.m. on a weeknight is not a recipe for a PR. But at the end of the race, I wasn’t looking for a ribbon or an age-group win. I just wanted to get back my mojo.
Being a bit warm to say the least I decided on a short ½ mile warm-up. Ideally I would have liked to go twice as far, but I was already breaking into a pretty good sweat, ½ mile would be plenty.
I was keeping to myself before the race, not really chatting up anyone when I saw my friend Derek and someone who had to be his brother. Derek and I have raced very close to one another during the first two races of the season. He got me by :06 seconds in the first race, I returned the favor besting him by :17 seconds last week.
He and his brother John were going to go for a quick warm-up and asked if I would go along. It was 5 minutes to the gun, so I decided to run a quick ¼ mile with them. We spoke about goals for the race, John, an accomplished runner with a 5K PR of 14:40 (wow), was going to be pacing Derek.
Good I thought, I wanted to do a little racing tonight. Nothing like being pushed. We made it back just in time for the start. After we crossed into the starting area we were off in less than 1 minute.
Mile 1: I decided to change my watch to record ½ mile splits instead of full miles before the race. I wanted to keep a closer eye on my pace and if it started to wander, I wanted to correct it quickly. I thought that looking at things at every half-mile interval would be a good idea. A trick I borrowed from my friend Steve Speirs out in VA Beach.
At the race start we bolted out onto the trail and I took the lead for the first 4/10 of a mile. I wasn’t really interested in running out front, but I wanted to set my pace and lock in early – no more sluggish starts. I hit the first ½ mile in 2:52 – 5:44 pace.
A bit fast given the temperature, but as the course wound by the lake and headed uphill to the dam, I knew we would slow down a bit on the incline. I as feeling like I was running just about perfect.
Two runners came up alongside me at the ½ mile mark and I let them pass me by. Shaun who I recognized from the first race of the year who beat me by about :40 seconds and a new runner who I had not raced previously. I locked into 3rd position and could hear footsteps just behind me.
That would be Derek and his brother John cruising just a few seconds back. There was another runner back there who would surprise me over mile 2. Sara Mark.
I glanced down at the top of the first mile at my watch, I covered the second ½ mile in 3:07– first mile, 5:59.
Mile 2: As we made our way across the dam and headed downhill Sarah came up alongside of me on my right and passed me by. She was running about two strides ahead of me, another two strides behind the runner in 2nd position. Shaun kept on digging and was about :15 seconds ahead of all of us.
I recognized Sarah from the NOCC Balance 5K last August, the race where I ran my 5K PR of 18:12 the day before Landry was born. Sarah’s boyfriend is Scott Kimbell, one of the top runners in Austin – truly an accomplished former collegiate runner, Scott wins just about every race he enters in Austin. Sarah, who also ran in college is a strong, strong runner in her own right. Looks like I had a few people to “race” all of a sudden.
My third ½ mile came in at 3:05 as we crossed over the small footbridge and made our way toward the water stop and the turnaround. Sarah had passed the runner ahead of her as we approached the turn and as he slowed down to navigate around the cone I slid past him on the left. His pace was falling off just a bit, so I decided to go with Sarah.
My fourth ½ mile came in at 3:10, giving us a second mile of 6:15. It was time to climb.
Mile 3: We crossed back over the footbridge, Shaun in the lead still about :15 ahead of Sarah and I who were running in tandem. Over my left shoulder I heard footsteps coming up fast and hard behind us. It had to be my friend Derek’s brother John.
Tall, long hair flowing behind him, long powerful stride, John came bombing up the hill from behind. He passed us like we were standing still and started to reel in Shaun up ahead. Shaun who had been leading for almost 1 ½ miles would be hard pressed to hold off John, he was looking strong.
We got to the top of the dam after climbing for 4/10 of a mile, my ½ mile split was 3:23. I had only lost about :13 to pace over the climb and although the heat was really starting to sap my energy, I was hoping I had enough left to race Sarah all the way to the finish.
I had pulled into 3rd position on the hill, but after we hit the flat top of the course, Sarah surged past me and I fell in behind her, two strides back.
It was a little too early to kick, but I wanted to gradually increase my effort level and lock in. in 400 Meters I was back ahead of Sarah running third, I glanced down at the 6th ½ mile split which I had dropped back to 3:05. Only 1/10 to go.
Finish: We made the turn off of the dam for home and I gave whatever I had left. I covered the final 1/10 in :39 seconds, back to 5:44 pace which is where we started the race.
John Purvis finished first with a time of 18:26
Shaun Mendez was second with a time of 19:08
I finished third overall in 19:23
Sarah Mark came in just behind me in 19:25. The first female finisher by 2 minutes and 2 seconds.
1st place in the MASTERS division which I’m very happy about, a new course record for me by :06 seconds, which makes me even more pleased.
The best thing about the race last night however was that final mile, my own “duel in the sun” with Sarah as we kept pushing each other to see if we could break the other one in the 100 degree temperatures.
She brought out the best in me last night and pushed me to a strong finish – but more importantly she helped me find the joy of racing again – something I had been missing was somehow restored in 19 minutes and 23 seconds last night.
I’ve got my mojo back.