For one, I'm not much of a short distance runner. I honestly think I'd need to run at least a mile before a 5k in which I actually wanted to do well. For two, I'm not a cyclist. I have a bike, I can ride it okay, but I don't particularly enjoy it. I can run hills and feel like Wonder Woman, just chewing them up, but on a bike? Ugh. I just feel like gravity is conspiring against me. Biking hills hits my "Uncle!" button way faster than just about anything.
But the description said the course was fast and flat, and I had a friend from Houston racing it, so I said, "What the hell. YOLO, right?"
In the last couple of months, I added a bike day to my training each week, and then started adding runs after those and even a bike/run/bike/run interval day to prepare for this race. I felt like I'd done as much as I could given my other training goals, and would fare pretty well.
But earlier in the week, I joined the Community Recreation Center up the street and started my weight training program. Wednesday's workout included deadlifts, and either I did them wrong or used too heavy a weight, but the lifts just wrecked my hamstrings. And if you recall, I already had a gimpy hamstring from three weeks earlier. Doh!
Fortunately, it was the OTHER hamstring muscles that got goobered up by the deadlifts and not the one that was hurt before (the more medial one). Then on Thursday, I did a pretty hard stride run that I knew at the time might come back to bite me. But it felt so good, I couldn't help myself. And indeed, by Saturday morning, my hammies were talking to me with every step, much less every running step, and my legs felt anything but fresh.
And from the first half mile of the 5k, I knew it wasn't going to be a day of stellar times. After researching pace strategies for duathlons, I decided going comfortably hard for the first 5k and just muddling through the second 5k with whatever was left was my strategy. The second one was going to suck regardless, so make up time where you can.
The first 5k was still in the range of 11 minute miles, which isn't all that great for me by any means. AND, that "flat and fast" promise? Uh uh. One portion was on a trail that was flat and fast but the rest of it was rolling hills and I just didn't have my hill chewing teeth that day. I guess I can chew hills over long distances because the walk breaks that I use to stay fresh become less consequential time-wise yet more valuable energy-wise the longer I go, but for short distances, I just don't know how to manage it.
But we got it over (we being me and Rosie, my friend from the DRC running group) and headed to the bike transition. My first few strides on the bike felt SO good. My quads were still pretty fresh despite the hills and it felt great to use new muscles, so I just flew through the first few miles. And indeed most of the bike route was flat. However, there was a STRONG headwind for nearly half the out and back loop, which we did twice. Every American flag on the route was standing straight out parallel to the road we were on. So, into the wind FELT like riding uphill, and blessedly, the other direction was very fast and easy thanks to the tail wind.
However, as the bike route went on, you did finally hit a hill. Of course, going down it was amazing. I just hunched down, tried to reduce my wind drag, and coasted. On the way back, though, into the wind and up a pretty steep hill was pretty bad. The second loop around, it was straight up AWFUL. We all agreed that that was the worst part of the race.
The second worst part of the race was a hill on the second half of run that neither of us even remembered being there on the first 5k. There were some longhorns in a field and that's all we remembered from the first 5k. The second 5k, I didn't even see the longhorns because I was cursing that hill! My legs were so miserable by the second 5k that pain didn't matter anymore. My legs were just tired and I knew my overall time wasn't going to be anything to brag about, so I didn't grind as hard as I could have. I have a half marathon next weekend and didn't want to blow a hammy or something else stupid on this race.
So I walked some of each of those hills on the second 5k. The cycling just sapped my spirit and my climbing muscles (moreso my spirit, I'd say) and I just couldn't find the will to get to the top.
I'm always happy to see a finish line, but usually in a "woo! I did it!" way. This time it was in a "Woo! It's over!" way. I did my best but my best was disappointing to me on this day.
I was very proud of my friends, however, who rocked it. Rosie beat me by a good margin, and my Houston friend won first in her age group! So proud of my girls and very inspired by their success.
Some items of note from this race:
- Very nice free 15 minute shoulder massages afterward. My shoulders were up to my ears on that bike ride, so that was a great perk that probably saved me from a raging tension headache later in the day. Also some really tasty food and drinks, even though we never made it to the bubbly bar. Also, nice cycling jerseys instead of tech shirts and very pretty medals. A very good swag race.
- The bike route ended up stopping a line of cars half a mile long. Lots of irate drivers, a few shouting encouragement, and one guy... well, he made the most of his time and pulled out his flute (not a euphemism, a real silver flute) and started playing it with the window down while he waiting in our little traffic jam. Bravo!
- The lady on the second 5k who panted and moaned like she was having an orgasm (or working on it) the entire time I was in earshot. Now, I know you must think I'm exaggerating, but I'm serious. If you heard these noises on the other side of a door, you would assume someone was being very well serviced in there. It was unbelievable! I don't know if she was in pain or couldn't help it or what but it did at least serve to make me turn on the jets to get away from it. It was very disconcerting!
Overall, I'd do it again, but I'd do more hill work on my bike and work on my 5k to prepare and I'd taper better so my legs were fresher. In the end, though, I enjoy straight road running much more. Way less complicated, I can just zone out and go, and it's easier to gauge my competition, which is what drives me later in the long runs.