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Slow and Steady Does Not Win the Race

September 14, 2009

Yesterday, I did my first race since last November’s disappointing 4K. I really wished I’d refreshed my memory on that one before I ran this latest race because the experiences were very similar: lack of preparation and insufficient warm-up leads to pain, lots of walk breaks, and a slow time. Here’s hoping I’ll remember these lessons for next time.

My lack of preparation for this race was pretty much entirely due to the fact that I didn’t plan to be in it, as originally I was scheduled to work on a database changeover project that day. I toyed with the idea of doing a race over Labor Day weekend instead, but never got around to registering for one, which was just as well because the changeover got moved to that weekend, thus freeing me up to return to the race where I did my personal best 5K time last year. If I’d been really excited by the idea I would have registered as soon as I knew I’d be able to make it, but I was pretty sure I hadn’t been training hard enough so I put it off and missed the early registration deadline and at that point figured I might as well put it off some more. I printed out the entry form and filled it in at 10 o’clock the night before the race, but didn’t write out my check until I was two minutes from heading out the door the next morning and had definitely decided to do the race.

Unlike last year, the weather was dry and sunny; that seemed to have brought out a bigger field of runners, and I hoped at least some of them would be slow like me. I did some warm-up exercises, including the ones I do before my normal runs, but either I didn’t do enough of them or didn’t do them close enough the start time or something, because my shins started hurting early on and never really stopped. I thought I was past that; my shins almost never hurt during my regular training runs anymore. Even so, the first mile went fine; unlike last year I didn’t go out too fast but was still on pace to make a decent (for me) time for the 3. 1 miles. The second mile was okay; my shins still hurt and my right hip wasn’t particularly happy, but I hadn’t slowed down too much. The third mile was craptacular. In addition to the shin and hip pain, I got a side stitch, which never happens in my training runs; I took even more frequent walk breaks, putting my arms over my head and trying different breathing techniques to try and ease it. As the other stragglers at the back of the pack started to pass me, I began to mentally prepare myself to be the last one to finish. I finally made it across the line in around 38 minutes, about four minutes slower than last year (though not my slowest ever, which is some consolation). I don’t know the exact official time because I didn’t stick around for the results to be posted; I’ll check online in a few days. I do know that I wasn’t the last one in; I saw a few people finish while I was sucking down my post-race water and walking around in the shade to cool down. Another bright spot is that my foot that had the heel pain which prevented me from running entirely for a couple months earlier this year came through the race just fine. I’m planning on testing it again on a 2.5 mile trail run next month if I can train enough between now and then (my shins still hurt today so I think I need to back off some this week).

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