Another mouthful. The Lake Park Summer Fitness Running Series is a weekly 5k my running club holds on Tuesdays in July. It seems like an overly long title for a mid-week race, but whatever. It’s a legit race, probably moreso than the 52-Week 5k Series the club offers on Saturdays. It’s $5 to enter if you’re not a member, free to members, and it turns out CMS members really like free stuff. As it happens, it was seeing this on the calendar that initially had me join the club in the first place: $20/yearly dues and if I did these races it paid for itself; also of note, the 52-week 5k price drops from $5 to $3 for members, so for a guy that was into running a truckload of races that year, it made all the sense in the world.
I seem to miss at least one of these races for some reason or another. Last week, it was a vacation. Last summer, I think I may have done one race coming back from falling down a mountain and it was pretty ugly – my time last summer was mere seconds slower than the first time I ran. The first year I did three of them.
This is the third year I’ve been running to any magnitude. The first year, I didn’t know what to expect from running in summer, didn’t do enough and just rode the struggle bus through it. Last summer, I spent June and most of July on the DL which left me out of condition and still unaware as to how to run in heat. This is the first time I’ve been able to actually put any real concerted effort into running in heat and humidity.
I can tell immediately that I’m not hydrating myself nearly enough, and I’m finding it’s my willingness to exert myself in less than ideal conditions that is getting in my way — like most things it’s the head that gets in the way more than anything else.
As it turns out, my head got in the way again this evening – just not for the whole race, so I guess that’s progress.
It’s a generally flat course – my GPS recorded a 2′ elevation gain overall: a loop around Worcester’s Lake Park before exiting the park, down a few blocks and back into the park to finish where it starts. There’s generally a pretty good turnout – usually more than 70 or so runners – and the club does a small cook out featuring under cooked hot dogs and Polar seltzer water. Hey, what do you want for “free?” It’s truly a gem of a race, powered solely by an active group of volunteers.
I did a quick mile warm up which wasn’t pretty. I struggled through it at a moderate pace and I could feel every bit of my bootcamp workout from yesterday – nothing like jump squats to really let you know what for. The big difference tonight, beyond attempting to not let my head get in my way, was my running buddy Duke showed up at the last minute after having been stuck in traffic. He challenged me to a 24-minute race, I said I was going to go all out for the first mile and see where that left me, but that I hadn’t seen sub-25 in some time.
And so it goes: I went out as fast as I could for the first mile and played it by ear from there. Going back to the volunteers, it was super helpful that they were all out there at apparently strategic points to direct traffic, but it turns out just as I was wanting to quit I would see a friend of mine and obvi didn’t want to look like a wuss or that I couldn’t handle it in front of my friends…and of course once by them, I had to get a safe distance away so they couldn’t see me wussing…but then of course I’d see another friend. If the antagonist getting in my way is my head, sometimes it’s helpful that circumstances conspire to use that antagonist against itself.
It wasn’t my best race, but it was my best race in a while. Basically, it’s what I needed: I got over the hot weather hump, I exerted myself, pushed myself and showed myself that performing in hot, humid weather doesn’t have to mean a half effort. I finished a full minute (and almost a half!) faster than any previous effort – it didn’t have to be my best race to be a good race. NOTE: My self time of 24:42 seems to be off from the official 24:35. I know I didn’t stop my watch as soon as I crossed the line but I didn’t think I had waited 7 seconds, so I’m not sure what’s up there.