Well, I thought I would take my chances and race with big boys in the Winston Salem area. Beat the Heat 5k is one biggest race around and perhaps one of the fast around because it draws such a huge pool of runners for the race.
The course had changed since I ran it two years ago. Instead of going up this one tough hill twice, they moved the start so we ran up part of the finish straight. The change was good in my opinion. The start area was much wider and made the starting line less congested.
After a little 3.1 mile preview of the course, sweat was running down the side of my face and my shorts were soaked. Mark Hadley was standing near the start and said something about it only being 3.1 miles of heat suffering. I guess he can see that I looked like I had already run the race.
The race counted down to 7pm and the gun sounded.
In my previous races I allowed myself to be boxed in by other runners. This was not happening tonight. But then, everyone appeared to have the same idea. I glanced to my left and saw Alana digging hard. We make the second turn and I looked ahead to see at least a couple of women in front of me. Later, I would learn that the lead woman was Pezz. She sizzled through the first mile in 4:59 if my old ears heard her correctly. I come through in a paltry 5:15.
When I feel the breeze blowing in my face, I feel good. Once we turn out of the wind, I feel like I am in a sauna. No air moving across my skin and a thick layer of sweat coating my limbs.
We make the turn and start up hill for the biggest part of the 2nd mile. Caleb flashes by me while Caitlin is right on his heels. Matt J is close behind with Alana looking smooth.
I already know it isn't my night. I go from feeling solid to carrying that big monkey on my back. I take two cups of water and dump it over my head. This feels good but does nothing to improve my ability to run faster.
We finally reach the top of the hill. 2 more right hand turns and I am headed on the downhill section back to the finish. I got nothing left. Mentally, I am telling my legs to go faster, but they are yelling back that they were at full power.
At last, the finish line comes into sight. This is when I see a runner ahead of me. I can tell that he is starting to struggle. This knees look like they are going to buckle any second now.
We are in the finish straight and his knees give away. He goes down hard on the asphalt. All sorts of things are running through my head at this point. Thoughts of other runners stopping to help a struggling runner to the finish is what comes to mind the most. He throws himself forward not once but twice to cross the finish line and then just lays there on his back.
After the race we talked for a few minutes. He name was Paul Sherman and he is a 2:50 marathoner. He came into the race having run a fast sub 17 minute 5k time. He was pretty frank with his explanation for the evening. He just isn't a great hot weather runner. Brother, I feel your pain and I believe that I am in the same boat with you. Jack up the thermometer into the 80s and 90s and my race times drop way off.
17:53 was what my Garmin recorded. This put me 37th overall. It is what it is. I have run this race twice and neither time have I come into the race running well.
But then, there is always next year.
By the way, Er Ralston gets a big "at-a-boy" from me. He directs a well run race and definitely is worth the drive up from Charlotte.
Sharing one thought at time,
The Cool Down Runner