The stinging of the cold dry air entered my mouth and nose and burned as it passes down my throat and into my lungs. The sensation leaves me wondering do I really need to be racing this morning. Whole heartedly, yes, I do. This is one of those defining moments.
Having raced at McAlpine many times, but never in the Foot Locker 5k, my mind knows what to expect. The first half mile needs to be speedy and my legs are spinning as fast as they can. I know this, because I abandoned any attempt of normal breathing at the quarter mile mark. The term "hard labor" means something totally different to runners.
We round the first turn and start back. The pack of runners slowly thins out. I am still passing a few people but not as many as during the first half mile. We pass the mile mark. More heavy breathing and the legs are trending toward being numb. We wind our way along and coming to hill. I am determined to not let it slow me down. I hit it hard. Mentally and physically, my body responds as if I have slammed head first into a cement wall. The quads ache from being pushed to run so hard and then we reach the top where I am notorious for being a slow descender.
The last few strides I try to shift into a higher gear but I am going nowhere fast. We hit the last tiny hill and start around the lake. With a mile left to run, I know my goose is cooked and probably a little brunt.
A couple of guys go passed me.
We enter the back mile and I already looking forward to the finish line sprint. Beside the soccer fields, my quads are turning to butter. My legs feel shaky. The best sight of the race is the lake coming into view.
One last corner to go and then I sprint for the finish. Urging my legs to go faster and faster. My Garmin rings up the 3 mile split but it doesn't matter. People are cheering and I want to finish strong for them. I hear someone call my name. Where's that extra gear that I need now. Oh, no, I used it up during the first half mile.
The finish is in sight and so is the finish line clock. I cross it and finish with a time of 18:11. Not necessarily my best time, but then I don't usually bury myself with such a fast opening half mile.
Overall, the last 12 days have been awesome. I scored a 2:46 marathon at OBX, a 17:03 and 3 OA and 1MM at Santa Scramble 5k, a 28:03 and 1st 45-59 across 9000+ runners at the Charlotte Turkey Trot 8k, and finished it off with a 13 place finish in the Master's Foot Locker 5k and brought home the medal to prove it.
Perhaps my most prized award is the medal from Foot Locker. Competition is a premium at these events and is the very reason that I always look forward to doing them. Cross Country races are not for the faint at heart. Every event brings out a great field of guys who still enjoy the feeling that comes with racing on a cool crisp November morning.
Now for some "shout outs" – Matt – for keeping me entertained during my warm up and who put in a solid 18:33 time during the 5k, Brian – who I saw after the race – safe travels back to DC, Stan and John who passed by me during the girls race and didn't even notice, Caleb, Pezz – who I have seen quite few times running at McAlpine but officially met today, Todd and Mike B. for the warm down miles, and Mark – who was scurrying around watching Alana's race.
One last thought before signing off. Events like Foot Locker are exciting for me to do because growing up, I never raced cross country. I find the feeling of elation in the air something to behold. Runners of all ages come together and test themselves in the spirit of good healthy competition. No other sport on this earth matches running because only runners can follow in the footsteps of a best.
Sharing one thought at time,
The Cool Down Runner