Posts Tagged ‘Texas Independence Day 5K’

If my math is correct, this is the 53rd race report since we started Run for Dom in 2010. 53 competitive road races and triathlons in a little more than 3 years. That is a whole lot of racin’.

The funny thing is, I can remember just about all of them. The weather, the courses, all of the PR’s and especially the races where things didn’t necessarily go my way. There were two races out of all of them where I was not entirely “whole”. Where instead of feeling like I was primed for a big performance, I was managing some sort of injury or comeback.

The first time was the Cooper River Bridge Run in 2011, the second time was Saturday morning.

It made for interesting levels of nervousness prior to the events where instead of wondering what the race clock was going to say when I crossed the finish line – the victory was going to be in simply finishing the race injury free.  In a bit of irony, the Texas Independence Day 5K was going to be my first real maximum effort workout since the Shiner Half Marathon in December.  The race where my Achilles strain occurred and knocked me out of the Houston Marathon.

It would also be my first step back toward our next “big” event which oddly enough is the very same Cooper River Bridge Run circa 2013.  A race now just 5 weeks away, the third largest 10K in the country.

Full circle it would appear two years later.

Knowing I was not quite prepared to race to my potential, I decided to ignore my watch, run entirely by feel and not obsess about splits and pace.  The course was unkind, starting at the south end of the Congress Avenue Bridge, starting on an incline and then heading straight uphill more than 125 feet to the Texas Capital.  In addition to the ascent, the course was going straight into a headwind and then would be turning four consecutive 90 degree left turns before crossing back in front of the State House and cruising back down to the finish line.

It was a pretty brutal circuit – especially for someone who had not done any speed work since two weeks before Christmas.

Instead of thinking about taking a shot at our 5K PR of 18:02 and maybe breaking through that 18 minute barrier my goals were much more uncomplicated for the race.

1.     Run your race.

2.     Test yourself, but be aware of your limits.

3.     Don’t do anything stupid out there.

On Friday evening I received a message from a good friend in New England.  We’ve known each other for a number of years now, he was there throughout Run for Dom, through the birth of my daughter, through multiple marathons for both of us – including some successes and failures.  Of everyone who knows me through the sport of running, he perhaps knows me best – especially when it comes to my motivations, my desire to test myself and my desire to always run with honor when it comes to strapping on my race flats with Dom’s initials on the side.

He shared with me an excerpt from a sermon delivered by his Grandfather in 1947.  It reads:

“As water reflects a man’s face so a man’s heart reflects the man.” – Proverbs 27:19.

I wrote that on a small piece of paper and carried it with me to the start of the race on Saturday morning.  It would be the last thing I would see before I fixed my gaze on Congress Avenue below my feet, bowed my head and waited for the muskets to fire and head out onto the course.

The Start:  I had sized up the field around me before the start.  There were approximately 300 runners lining up, 10 or so had “the look” in their eyes.  On another day I might have had enough talent to challenge each of them.  On Saturday I thought my odds of running in the top 5 were pretty slim, but we were going to give it our best shot.

Mile 1:  With the blast of four guns we were speeding off to the capital, we bounced up the first incline on the bridge and my legs felt like they were hardly touching the ground.  I had not run at this pace in more than two months – it felt exhilarating.  The wind was blowing 15 mph straight into the runners and as we crossed the unprotected bridge it was pretty fierce.

I was settling into fourth position and there was nobody to tuck behind except a young High School Runner who made me at 136.5 lbs. look like a linebacker.  He could not have been much more than 115 lbs. dripping wet.  We matched stride for stride for the opening 1/2 mile until I locked in to my even effort for the climb with him about :15 seconds in front of me.

I heard footsteps behind me over the opening half-mile, but by the time we reached 6th street and started the steepest part of the climb it was silent.  I was alone running in 4th place and unless I completely fell apart or another runner mounted a fierce change, that was where I was likely to stay.  Not even one mile into the race and our spot was firmly established.

It made forcing the issue even more pointless coming back from my Achilles strain and I thought about goal number 3 for the day.  Don’t do anything stupid.  We reached the end of mile 1 and at the beep I opened with a 6:10 first mile.  If you take :15 seconds for the wind and the climb we were approximately at 5:55 pace where we are usually at 5:45 at the start of a 5K.  :10 seconds off of our usual full-health fitness pace.  About what I had been averaging during my training runs.  Time to lock it in and stay even.

Mile 2:  The second mile started by climbing the last remaining stretch to 11th street and then battling up three consecutive hills around the capital.  On the highest point of downtown Austin the wind was howling and the pace was difficult to maintain.  I decided to bypass the water stop at the 1.55 mile mark and keep battling the elements.

On the last left turn I looked back over my shoulder and the fifth place runner was not making a dent in our lead.  I boxed the capital, made a right hand turn headed back toward the Congress Avenue Bridge and glanced down at my watch at the beep – 6:07.  I was :07 off of our usual mid-mile split.

Mile 3:  At the start of mile 3 I thought about putting down the gas a bit to maintain our pace but decided instead to just stay even.  I had a little bit more to give, but I wanted to be sure to keep our form and our stride uniform as we started the downhill section.

2.5 miles inI would pick up a bit of speed in this section without having to hammer away at the pavement.  I was able to spot my co-worker Elise who snapped this photo along the route.

I hit the bridge with a final full mile at 5:55 pace.  Again about :10 off of where we might have been had we been on point, but a very respectable close to a solid race.

We hit the finish line in 18:43, 4th place overall, first place in the Masters Division.

Post Race:  The Texas Independence Day 5K was just a small race on a big day in the state of Texas.  By far my least favorite distance to race – it was the most fun I have had in a pair of running shoes in almost three months.

The takeaway from the race was that I can stop feeling tentative, stop analyzing every step that I take, every stride on my runs and wonder if something is “wrong” with my left side.

I’m back and while I can’t say I’m better than ever yet – I know it is just a matter of time.  I have a great plan in place for the next few months as we ramp up for Charleston, SC on April 6 then transition to Triathlon season for the summer.  By the time we return to the Kerrville Half-Ironman in September, we are going to be even more fit and more confident than we were one year ago.

Sub 5 hours in Kerrville is imminently possible if we stay healthy and get some race day weather cooperation.  From there it will be fall Marathon preparation for either a late winter race or perhaps a return trip to Houston where we finally get our chance to do battle on that storied course.

But thinking about those things are akin to flipping to the final page of a book to find out how it is going to turn out before you start it.  All in due time.  All in due time.

All I know right now is I have an appointment on Thursday morning with our hill for the first hill repeat session of 2013.

Time to get this train rollin’.

 

 

 

I think one of the hardest things about coming back from an injury is knowing when you can “trust” your recovering body part to hold up to the rigors of a tough workout or a race.  It is almost one of those things where you have to get close enough where you feel more or less confident, but until you cut it loose, there is always going to be a doubt in your mind.

Part of the problem is that the fear of re-aggravating the recovering area means more time away from the sport – and after a layoff of 5 weeks in my case, that is something I have basically no interest in for a long, long time.

But the other problem is that we forget that very rarely as runners do we feel “perfect” before a tough workout or race.  Truth be told, more times than not there is some part of my body that I am monitoring.  Sometimes for months on end.  A strained abdominal muscle was the most recent example where I trained all summer long with the condition and even raced the Kerrville Half-Ironman with it.

I simply learned that there was a difference between “pain” and “injury” and knew my limits in pushing the former and not the latter.

Right now I would say that my Achilles strain is 95% recovered.  There is the occasional tightness after a run, a little bit in the morning, but if I had not had a full-on sprain in December and January, I would not even notice these symptoms right now.  I would just go about my day as an amateur endurance athlete and train on.

But right now I need that one workout or that one race to let me know that I am back.  That I can turn it loose and there will be no reprisals.  I might not be hitting my splits right now and I might not be in PR shape – but the only way I really know to do that is to race.

So, I’m going to hop into a local 5K on March 2nd – the Texas Independence Day 5K downtown where the Back on My Feet Team Members will be racing in their first organized event.  We’ll then tee it up again on three weeks later at the Thin Mint Spring 5K on March 23rd and compare our performances.

If we are anywhere near 18:30 by then, it will be a huge win, albeit far short of our 18:02 we posted in December.  We still will know going into the Cooper River Bridge Run on April 6th that we are healthy and pretty close to our previous fitness level.  At that point our Achilles strain should be firmly in the past tense and we can move forward and race fearlessly.

So to help me get excited about the prospect of racing again, and not fearful of the endeavor – we received inspiration in a box from the good folks at Brooks.

A shiny new pair of Brooks T7 Racers – in our favorite optic yellow and black.  All that is left to do is write D.V.D. 8-15-10 on each instep in honor of our boy Dom and we will be ready to give it our best shot in a couple of weeks.T7's

I’m not sure “Boom goes the dynamite” is the right phrase right now, but there might be a little snap, crackle and pop in store on Texas Independence Day.