In a week that had me question my fitness, motivation and my desire to compete, for the first time in a long time I can walk away from a race feeling content.
Over the course of the past couple of weeks, I have been feeling more and more stale and sluggish on my runs. Running was becoming more of a chore than something that I was enjoying.
It is cyclical. I go through this every couple of months.
This past weekend was one that I had keyed in on for racing. There were plenty of different options on the table, ranging anywhere from 5k to half marathon. It was just a matter of picking one, and putting forth a solid race effort. Down to the final hours of Saturday night, I was still up in the air on where to race.
I ended up deciding to lace them up and give it a go at the Stomp the Monster 5k – a USATF-NJ event that was only a couple of minutes down the road from me. Convenient and short. Just what I was looking for.
I made my way over to the Marlboro Municipal Complex at around 8AM. Way too early for the 10:30 start, but since I haven’t raced
since November, the nervous jitters were getting to me.
Seeing as the race was an official USATF-NJ competition, I knew that there would be more top level guys there than a regular local 5K. This was something that I was excited about. I’ve always said, I’d rather finish 10th and run fast, than run slower and win.
Before the warm-up, I met up with good friend and facial hair connoisseur Jeff Perrella – aka, Quiet Storm (you can follow him here and here). We took off for our warm up around Marlboro as the drizzle from the impending storm started.
After the 25-minutes leg loosening warm-up, I did some quick stretches, changed into proper racing attire and headed over to the starting line. I was now, for the first time in a while, excited to race. I suppose since it had been such a long time since I had raced a 5k on the roads, I had zero expectations going into the race. Even though my coach flat out told me that if I wasn’t going into the race looking to run 15:15, don’t bother showing up. That didn’t matter to me. I just wanted to get out there, see what I had, and compete.
The gun went off and the race was underway. I anticipated the race going out hard, but as we went into the first half mile, no one was dedicated to taking the pace. Therefore I figured, “what the hell”, I’ll do it – if I blew up from making it an honest effort, so what.
We hit the mile in about 4:52 or so and we had a pack of about 5 guys or so, with Perrella sitting quietly in the back. Knowing about his famed and devastating kick, I was not looking for it to come down to a last second kick to the finish.
As we made our way through the neighborhoods of Marlboro, I was debating in my head – could I really be feeling this good? I expected the pace of the 5k, be it fast, or slow, to feel like absolute hell. It seemed to be the complete opposite. I was feeling strong and comfortable.
We hit two miles in about 9:43, and Jeff decided that he wanted in on the action and he surged to the front to try and shake up the pack a bit. It was successful. As Jeff made his move, it was gut check time. Do I completely bag it, or do I stick it out, take a shot at hanging on and see what happens?
Justifying 5-minutes of pain was an easy call.
The pack was now down to three – myself, Jeff and another fellow runner that Perrella was constantly exchanging elbows with. We headed into the final 1200 meters swapping leads and surges. Jeff and I had cracked our friend, and I now found myself in the lead with about 2-minutes left in the race. If I was going to lead this late, I was not going to give it up.
On my toes and turning my legs over faster than I had in years, I made the final turn for home. The famed kick from Jeff I had been fearing was not to be on this day, and I crossed the line in a time of 15:12, with Perrella a close 2nd in 15:15.
While the overall time was not a world-beater, walking away from the race, I am content with how I was able to compete. When it came down to gut-check time, I was able to hang, respond, and surge. As this race was just the beginning of a long spring and summer of racing, it certainly got me started off on the right foot. My confidence and enthusiasm for racing, which had recently been waning is now back to full force. I am excited to see what the next couple of weeks of training and racing have in store for me.