Thursday, June 28, 2012

You can't choose your competition

I have said many times over and over that I have a love-hate relationship with short (5k-ish) races.  Actually, that's not entirely accurate.  It's pretty much just a hate relationship.  Short races hurt.  A lot.  However, I do love when they're over, which is relatively quickly compared to just about any other run I do.  And the end of the suffering brings with it a sense of accomplishment that you just can't get from an easy 10-miler. Not only that, but the best way to be good at running fast is to practice running fast.  Short races are great for that!

And so I concede that even though I don't like short races, I need short races.

In the last month, I have actually run two 5k-ish races.  The first one, the Washington Cherry Festival 5k at the end of May, ended up being one of my best 5ks ever (only 10 seconds over my 5k PR, which I really wasn't expecting considering my lack of training), but competition was fierce and I ended up 4th place in my age group.  What made it most disappointing was the fact that I was only 4 seconds away from nabbing 3rd place.  Four measly seconds!

But the fact of the matter is, you don't know who your competition will be in any given race, and for most of us runners who aren't at the elite level, the only competition we really need to care about is ourselves.  So, running so close to my PR (on a fairly difficult course) was encouraging to me.  Even if I didn't win a shiny medal. *pout*

Yes, I'm a sucker for trophies and medals.  Maybe it's because as a youngster, I was more the academic than athletic type (*cough cough* geek *cough*) and had never won a trophy in my life until I started running competitively a couple years ago. Maybe it's because I'm still amazed that I, someone who was a self-avowed hater of running until recently, can now run well enough to win awards.  Or maybe it's just because I love shiny, sparkly things.

Whatever the reason(s), if there's any chance for me to win some hardware, I become highly motivated to win it.

The past two years in a row, I have run the Lincoln-Douglas 3 Miler and the past two years, I have taken home trophies.  Last Friday, the night before the race, I decided I would go for a three-peat.  Yes, in typical Evily fashion, I decided to run this event at the very last minute.

The weather on race morning was actually pretty nice.  I was hopeful.  Maybe a little too hopeful.  My race went something like this:

Mile 1: Stupidly fast, "Wheeeee! I'm flying!"
Mile 2: Moderately fast, "Okay, this isn't fun anymore."
Mile 3: Sloooooow , "Don't puke. Don't puke. Don't puke."

(I didn't puke, in case you're wondering.)

The finish line on the historic brick-paved Metamora town square.
The giant slide is not part of the race...  but it should be!

Yeah, I started out way too fast and paid for it later in the race.  Consequently, my finish time was, well, not so great.  It wasn't my worst, but it sure wasn't as close to a PR as my Cherry Festival run had been.  Last year, I ran significantly faster and got 2nd in my age group.  I wondered if my time this year would be good enough even for 3rd place.  I waited impatiently for the official results to be posted at the finish line.

Finally, there they were.  I scanned the list for my name and was tickled pink to see I had won my age group!  I had achieved the three-peat, and would be taking home a shiny trophy!


But remember what I said about never knowing who your competition is in any given race?  Turns out I didn't have much competition this time around.  There were only 5 people in my age group, and I was over 7 minutes faster than the 2nd place woman.  There were over 180 people total in the race, and 92 women (of which I was 8th overall), so it's not like there was nobody there.  They just weren't my age.

I'm not complaining, mind you. I got a shiny trophy out of it!  It's just...  well... I could've jogged at an easy pace and still won that trophy.  And that would've been so much less painful!  But, knowing my luck, if I had decided to run it easy, there would've been 20 other people in my age group, all of them Olympic hopefuls using the race as a warm-up before heading to the Olympic trials in Oregon.  And then I would've been dead last in my age group.  By far more than 7 minutes.

So, again, it comes back down to never knowing who the competition is, and going into every race prepared to simply run one's best effort for that day.  Because ultimately, any race I run is a just battle between me and myself.  And if I happen to get a trophy out of it, all the better.

But if the US Olympic team decides to run Lincoln-Douglas next year to try and ruin my chances for a 4th trophy, I will trip them all.  That trophy is mine!

Peace. Love. Train.

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