|El Jefe after the race|
I watched the local Cherry Creek Sneak in Denver two weeks after my "mary" and resisted the temptation to race in it so close to Boston. My coach's plan continued to prescribe rest, mild work-outs, and cross training. All didn't satisfy my need to hit the running "crack pipe." I slightly rebelled and informed coach Benita I was going to run the Highlands Ranch Cinco de Mayo 15K race this last weekend. I figured, this would give me the race "rush" I was looking for prior to my first triathlon of the season and planned half marathon in June.
There's something to be said for running a local race...a "homecourt advantage" if you will. Last weekend was a busy race weekend in Colorado including the popular Colorado Marathon. I was unsure Friday night if I'd race Saturday morning since I really hadn't run that much in three weeks. I had also put 50 minutes on my feet on Friday with a modest "jog" along the local canal trail. I hate that word (jog,) but that's what it was. I had also had clients I entertained in town Wed and Thurs night so I was just "flat tired" come Friday night. All the wrong variables for racing on Saturday. Of course, I did the "alpha male" thing and proceeded to head out to the recreation center nearby for the race day registration on Saturday morning.
I had a rough idea of the course as it started and finished out of one of the local rec centers that I trained out of on occassion. Talking to a fellow runner about the course prior to the start, she mentioned a "tough hill" around the turnaround point. I'd later learn that it went up the Lone Tree bluffs which is where I head when I need a challenge hill training session. I honestly wouldn't have signed up for the race if I knew this was included in the course. I was in no shape to be racing up a hill. This "beast" of a hill resembled the one that the legendary football player Walter Payton would run up in his off-season to build strength.
Once the gun went off, I had some semblance of a race plan thinking I'd head out around a 7:20 pace then try and pick it up after a couple of miles. Wouldn't you know that my Garmin went to sleep right as the race started so I had no idea of my pace as we took off. I started out with a small grouping out front. One guy (much younger) took off. I let him to. I was going much faster than I'd planned, but I was running naked (without GPS.) Early on, I was helping set the pace with the runners out front. I clearly was not thinking straight...what am I doing here???
The younger "gazelle" was creating distance, and I had no visions of catching him. I wanted to stay near the front of the pack. Sizing up the runners, I didn't see too many that I recognized as the local fast runners. Either that or the "fast ones" were running the 5K starting 30 minutes later. Surprisingly, I hung onto 2nd place for awhile, then 3rd, and eventually fourth. All three ahead of me looked like they were in their 20's. "Just try and hang with them" and hang onto a "top five" finish I thought to myself. That would be a "first" for me to come in as an overall top five. There are no asterisks on how many entrants in a race and a podium is still a podium I also thought--even if this was a smaller race.
As the hills got hillier, I realized the tough turnaround mile, the other runner mentioned was in fact the "Sweetness" (Walter Payton) hill. "Crap! What did I get myself into?" At times, I felt like I wanted to walk up that bluff, but continued to run. My opening 6:40 pace dropped to 9:15 running up that "bastard of a hill." Insult to injury was that the teen volunteers at the top of the hill weren't handing out water; they were chatting and texting. I had to stop briefly to hydrate for the fun descent. I dropped below the 7 minute per mile pace flying down the hill, and had up-and-down "rollers" (hills) on the way back.
I resisted the temptation to look behind me to see if any old dudes (or young ones) were going to challenge my top five finish but I didn't look back. I could tell my pace slowed a bit and had one last ugly hill to climb to the finish. At this point, some of the slower 5K runners were on the course. A couple teenage girls stopped running two across when they heard me coming. I "threw on the brakes" and still ran into her back. I grumbled that they shouldn't do that. ("Grumpy old man"they probably thought.) A 5K mother was running with her grade schooler and mom had no idea runners were coming in. I nearly wiped the little girl out. Sorry! I realize this was not a "hardcore" race, but there were hardcore runners racing in it.
As I crossed the finish, I knew I held onto fourth place overall and first in my age group as the three ahead of me were in their 20's and 30's. I was 30 seconds behind "Bo" the last few miles. Bo was 33. We chatted after the race and congratulated each other. He was shocked to learn my age. I'm sure the race results looked a bit bizarre read as the ages read 29, 26, 33, and 50. Yes, I'm 50, but I like to think I don't look like it, or run like it. Yippee ki yay mother f.... I guess 50 is the new 30.