The Potomac Valley Track Club does a series of run races throughout the year (they have something literally from January through December). I can’t remember how I originally found out about them because I don’t interact with the club otherwise, but I’ve done a handful of the races over the past few years and have always enjoyed myself. They’re small, staffed by cheerful older volunteers, and occasionally they’ll have water and a snack at the end. Considering the race fee is usually around $10, the snack is really a lux bonus.
Their July race is called the Go Fourth 8K Run. It’s an out and back 8K that starts in a park off of the 4 Mile Run trail and makes you run to and along the Custis Trail (I-66) for a few miles. The Accomplice badgered me into doing it with her this year, because when it’s 100F and humid, obviously what you want to do is wake up early and run 5 miles of hills. I didn’t decide to go until I woke up at 7:30am and didn’t really plan much except to get myself dressed and out the door with a Larabar in hand by 7:45am. I was cranky, hot, had a stomachache, and was annoyed at the prospect of kayaking in the heat all day (with my mother, my original Fourth of July plans) immediately following this suffer fest. I was basically the opposite of race ready. And it showed.
The race started after a tinny National Anthem played on someone’s 1995 vintage boombox and another guys shouted, ‘Go!’ As we’re in a heatwave in July and the only people who show up to these events are real runners who appreciate this particular flavor of masochism, I was quickly left in the dust by, well, everyone. No really. Everyone.
I always expected being last would be demoralizing and frustrating, but it wasn’t. It was…freeing. This was a tiny local race on a ridiculously hot day. With hills. That I didn’t even want to be doing in the first place. I could give myself the gift of not pushing myself through the race without turning around and slapping myself with guilt.
So I made the decision not to catch up to the people ahead to me and, instead, changed tactics. Priority #1: attempt to stop feeling physically awful. Remember up there when I mentioned the stomachache business? Yes, well, that still plagued me. I hate feeling nauseous. HATE IT. I’d rather break bones than suffer extended periods of nausea (unfortunately these two things often coincide). The Larabars are now on the blacklist of pre-run breakfast foods.
Instead of ramping up my pace as I’d normally do after a few minutes, I shuffled along slowly. Not too much jostling, no stop/start, just steady steady shuffle. I had my heart rate monitor and tried to keep myself in Zone 2, which was a little hard with the hills, but overall I did pretty well. Some of the hills I would shuffle about 3/4 of the way up and then walk to the top. It was mentally exhausting to go so slow if not physically exhausting (there was an internal litany of ‘are we there yet? how about now?’). It was as though I had a little too much time to think. But I kept up the Z2 attempt until the halfway point, whereupon I turned around and decided that I was really done with this shit now and sped up to the pace I probably should have been holding the whole race (14:30 min/miles).
On the way back I stopped a few times and had to figure out the directions back to the finish line (there was a tree blocking the path, then there was an unmarked fork in the road…). Finally, I crossed the finish line as the last competitor. The Accomplice cheered; the officials promptly broke down the clock and headed home. I traipsed off to get my victory watermelon.
It’s funny: this was such a stupid little race that I wasn’t even supposed to do, but I learned a lot from it.
- No Larabars for breakfast before a run. They are neither filling nor stomach settling.
- I become a mental weakling when my stomach is distressed. At any given point during a run 5 different things on me are aching. I ignore them all 99% of the time. My stomach is the only bit of me that makes me whine and consider turning around and going home*.
- Due to #2 above, I really do run like crap when I don’t feel well. I need to either learn to run while wanting to throw up, or I need to not want to throw up in the first place. I have a strong suspicion this will be a problem to be solved as I get closer to Augusta.
- My Z2 pace is pretty pathetic. Granted it was hot, humid, and there were hills, but I still have a long way to go to get back to my late 2010 paces.
- So long as you’re not worried about course closures, being last is not that bad. A bit lonely, perhaps, but not as horrible as I envisioned.
So, all told, an informative if not completely enjoyable race. I suspect I’ll have another one of those this coming Sunday. The Accomplice has badgered me into signing up for the General Smallwood Sprint Triathlon. Whee?
*Well, and chafing that I can feel. But that’s just sensible, because chafing you can actually feel while doing the workout is chafing that is likely bleeding and will be something you have to suffer through for the next week. Chafing is the gift that keeps on giving.