The 5K

I have one tomorrow.

I knew it had been awhile since I last raced one, but I didn’t realize until I looked at my old logs just how long it’s been: nearly four years. It also turns out that I’ve only ever raced three 5Ks. In mid-2006, shortly after I started racing — with a 5K, 10K and 15K in under a month’s time — it became clear to me that I was better suited, at least temperamentally if not physiologically, for racing longer distances.

Or at least that’s what I’ve always thought. Namely, that I have no natural speed. But the truth is that I’ve never trained for shorter race distances (meaning less than a half marathon), so I really have no clue if that’s true or not. I stopped racing 5Ks because I hated how I felt when I was racing them. It was just too hard to run that fast. Because of the high level of discomfort involved, I bought into the “I’m not a 5K racer” perspective for years.

Now, after having recently raced a 2 miler and a couple of 4 milers, and having truly enjoyed each experience, I’m guessing that my dislike of racing shorter distances back then had more to do with my lack of aerobic conditioning and less to do with some sort of natural disadvantage in the speed department.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not proclaiming myself a fast racer at shorter distances by any means. I’m fully expecting to have my ass handed to me in the track races I plan to do in a few weeks. But I’m starting to doubt that I’m as irredeemably terrible at racing short as I’d thought.

Tomorrow’s race won’t exactly present the opportunity for a fair assessment, by the way, at least from a competitive standpoint. We’re running a small 5K way the hell up in Orange County. But, as with all my races this season, I’m going into this race essentially to see how things turn out, not to achieve any particular goal or beat someone else.

The last time I raced a 5K I hated it. Tomorrow I expect to love it.

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On a totally unrelated note, it’s spring and that means I’m thinking about my grandmother, who died just about two years ago at the age of 93. Flowers burst into bloom and I get reliably depressed; I’ve come to expect it, although it’s better this year than it was last year, when I found myself weeping on a few runs. I miss her dark sense of humor and appreciation for the bawdy.

I saw her in Iowa, alive, for the last time in April 2008 when I thought she was going to fight her way back from a stroke (having survived just about everything else life had thrown at her), then went back to say farewell at her funeral a month later. Then Cedar Rapids was hit with floods of Biblical proportions, which destroyed much of city’s historic downtown including parts where she grew up. I was relieved that she didn’t live to witness the destruction and loss.

My grandmother died less than a year after my great aunt, her older sister and best friend, died in the summer of 2007. That was also a tough one. We were hiking in Switzerland when I got the news about my great aunt and I remember sitting down on a log in the foothills of the Matterhorn and bursting into tears among all that enormous, vertical beauty. Both of these women were accomplished watercolor painters. I hate it when artists die in general, but it really peeves me when I know the artists in question.

Anyway. I don’t mean to be a downer. I just loved those two old gals and miss them both terribly.

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