Getting ready to hurt real bad

Tomorrow is my first 5K race in nearly a year. That last one in April was difficult physically (bad wind in mile 2) and mentally (because I gave up; see “bad wind in mile 2″). I had wanted to break 21:00 that day but it was not to be. It’s an important milestone that I’d like to pass, but I don’t know that it will happen this year, not because I don’t think I can get fast enough but because I think tomorrow’s race will probably be one of two or three 5K races I do this year. So I will lack opportunity.

Tomorrow’s race is hilly. We may get wind. We probably will get rain. I can’t figure out whether to wear tights or shorts, since we’ll be right on the edge in terms of temperatures. If I stand around in the cold in shorts for too long then my legs will stiffen up. But if I wear tights and it’s warm, I’ll get overheated. Decisions, decisions.

The Coogan's 5K course: "Ugh. Whee! Ugh. Whee!"

I did a track workout on Wednesday that was a total disaster. First we got kicked off the Bronxville HS track, so I was pissy and freaked out. We drove over to the track at Roosevelt HS (Yonkers), which was empty. The wind was a steady 25 mph with gusts at 40+ mph. First track workout since the summer. I had no idea how hard to run anyway, but I was constantly getting…er…winded from the stupid wind. It was like a rude bar bouncer (not that I’d know), pushing me, pushing me, back in the wrong direction. It was getting dark. My hands were about to freeze off. I emerged from that 45 minute experience more of a pre-race head case than usual.

Today I did a 4 miler, again into ridiculous wind, with five strides. I did a few short ones (10 seconds) and a few longer ones (20 seconds). While doing those I thought, “How the hell am I going to run fast tomorrow?” My legs didn’t feel up to running fast until I was on the last one. Then I felt some measure of confidence. Roll. Rest. Relax. It’s just a stupid race.

Since I don’t train for or race many “short” races, it’s always a mystery, how to set the effort. I am very good at dialing into the right effort for a 5M – 13.1M race. (Don’t ask about marathons. That’s a nut I’ve only cracked once.) With the shorter stuff…I guess I just need to be extremely uncomfortable, verging on unacceptably so, after the first two minutes or so. That’s the right effort, usually. Since tomorrow’s race will be crowded, it may take a little longer than two minutes to reach the desired level of awfulness.

I have one word in my head in a short race: “Push! Push! Push!” It’s a relentless mental whip. Running that hard hurts, but it’s over with quickly, which makes it bearable. That’s the theory. Yet, still, 20+ minutes is a long time to be screaming at yourself and willing your legs and arms to keep pumping even though it feels like someone’s beating them with hammers.

I tend to lag mentally (and the body follows) at somewhere in the beginning of that third mile. I am determined to not do that tomorrow.

It’s a downhill finish. Those are fun. If you don’t die before you get there.

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