Monday, September 1, 2014

Homestead 10 x 5K - I did it for the honey!

"I sure wish it was hotter and more humid out... said no runner ever." - unknown
After one successful week back running, I had a genius idea... why not run the Homestead 10 x 5k which was the next weekend? Sure I would only have trained for two weeks before the race, and my longest run was only ten miles in the last five months, but what the hell. My knee felt good, and I had wanted to run the 10 x 5k ever since I moved to Charleston.

I thought this was a great race to ease me back into competition since I would not have to run 31 miles straight, and instead only had to run a 5k on the hour for 10 consecutive hours (ha!). I decided to sign up after promising my wife that I would stop immediately if my knee started to hurt.

As a runner, the problem with living in the south during the summer is the heat. This summer has been relatively mild, right up until three days before the race when a heat wave hit the south. I started to rethink the idea of competing in this race when I heard news anchors advising people to stay inside unless they had to go outside, and if they had to go outside to not go out during the hottest part of the day. In the end, I  decided to move forward with my plans to compete because a little bit of heat wasn't going to scare me away.

The morning of the race was overwhelming for me. I realized just how much I missed racing... not only the competition, but the ultra running community/family. There are truly no better, crazier people than ultra runners.

Lowcountry Ultra's Race Director Tim Waz (and closet Alabama fan) sounded a siren to signify the first 5k was about to begin. We lined up to the start line, and five minutes later we were off. My strategy going in to the race was to run the first few 5k's as quickly as I could, and then hold on for dear life after that.  
Photo Credit: Nicole Taylor
I started off strong and in control, running the first 5k in 20:11. After finishing I quickly grabbed some fruit and water. Before I knew it, it was time to line up again. Off we went for the second 5k, which I ran in 20:18.  I felt good after the second run, but I knew I would not be able to hold that pace throughout the rest of the race. So I planned to slow down on the third and fourth runs, which I did finishing in 21:24 and 21:48.

Photo Credit: Nicole Taylor
After the fourth run, I noticed a significant increase in temperature since the start of the race. It was extremely hot...  I'm talking so hot you could fry an egg on the pavement.  We later found out the temperature reached 102 degrees Fahrenheit, and with the heat index it was a staggering 126 degrees Fahrenheit. Downright miserable. 

Nonetheless the brave souls running this race heard the horn which meant five minutes until the start of the fifth race. My legs were hurting badly by this point. However, I found out I was in 2nd place and was determined to stay there. Bren Tompkins, aka Spiderman, was in 3rd place, and I knew I had to stay focused if I wanted to keep my place. So off we went.

Photo Credit: Nicole Taylor
I managed to run the fifth 5k in 23:06. At the end of this run, I couldn't take it anymore. I made the decision to do something I've never done before... drop from the race. I had my mind made up.  My knee wasn't hurting but my legs were screaming. I convinced myself it was okay to drop since I just started back. I sat down, and sent a text to my wife letting her know about my decision to drop. She had the perfect response, "Enjoy the pain - it was not so long ago that you were wanting to feel like this but couldn't because of your knee." I stared down at those words, and knew she was right (which is rare ;-P). I picked myself up, stretched and then made my way to the start line.

Run #6 went down in 23:45.  Bren was gaining time on me quickly.  I knew I needed one last, hard effort on loop #7. I went out with Bren on this run, losing only a handful of seconds to him with a finish of 23:30. I was a little delusional at this point. I tried not to think about the three runs I had left. 

Fueling up in between runs (Photo credit: Nicole Taylor)
At the end of the eighth run, I finished with a time of 24:03. I was exhausted both mentally and physically. I tried to continue eating fruit and drinking water after each run, but the heat was not helping my appetite. The last thing I wanted to do was eat, but remembering how the award ceremony ended at my last race, I did myself (and everyone else) a favor and forced the food down.
At the start of the ninth run, I was leading Bren by only seven minutes and forty-five seconds. I didn't want to lose my edge so close to the finish, but I knew I could only do so much. Bren took off on the ninth lap, while I was left playing catch up. I managed a finish of 24:20, while Bren moved up two minutes closer to my overall time. 

There we stood at the start of the tenth and final lap. I kept reminding myself this was the last run of the day, as if that would make this run easier.  My legs were squealing... my mind was trying to convince me to walk this one out, but I knew I would be disappointed if I did that. "Pain is temporary," is what I kept telling myself. I also thought of one of my good ultra running buddies, Masumi, who could not be at the race that day - and decided to run this last loop for him. A smile crept on to my face as I turned the corner one last time to see the finish line. I finished the last run in 25:20. 
Photo Credit: Nicole Taylor
Relieved to be done with my first race since knee surgery, I collapsed (willingly this time) on the grass for a few minutes. I was ecstatic to finish in 2nd place overall, and even more excited knowing that I would receive a jar of Tim Waz's homemade honey.

I cannot begin to express how grateful I am to be back running. My knee has made a full recovery thanks to Dr. McKoy at Southern Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, and I'm focused on my next quest - Grindstone 100.