When you sign up for a race in New England, you really never know what you are going to get. It could be mid-40’s in June or mid-60’s in January. It keeps you on your toes. It wasn’t quite 60 degrees, but it was way, way warmer for this New Year’s Day 5k versus last year’s version.
Last year, I struggled to pin my bib through six layers of clothes and had icicles hanging from my ears by the end. This year, I was quite comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt. The hill in the first mile? Yeah, that didn’t change.
What is it about a taper week that brings out the worst self-hating demons? You’d think by this point I’d be used to it, but they get me every time. By Wednesday, I’m feeling achy and diagnosing myself with the flu or some new chronic disease. By Friday, I’m sure those niggling pains are actually torn ligaments or stress fractures.
This past week Michelle finally put a stop to all the nonsense and asked why I was freaking out that I always got like this before a race. She was right, of course. There were no upper respiratory infections or torn ligaments. It was just a big, hairy goal that was trying to knock down my confidence. I didn’t entirely succeed. Clearly, I still have a lot to learn from Deena.
I realized later in the day that it was almost three years to the day that I last won my age group in a triathlon. Three years ago, I thought I was perhaps in the best shape of my life. I had just had a great race at the Rev3 Poconos Olympic distance. The plan was to step up and absolutely crush a 70.3 the next year before taking on the full Ironman after that. I had no idea that I would actually end up in the hospital instead with a tumor, a chronic disease, and the mandate to not do much of anything for six months.
It was a long and winding road back (hello, arthritis), but last weekend I finally felt like the old 2015 version of me as all the preparation came together in a great race and I once again climbed up on the top step. I have no plans to do a half or full iron anymore, that shipped sailed with the cartilage in my knee, but it felt really good crossing that finish line knowing I put everything I had into the race.
But let’s back up and start at the beginning.
You can only do the race on race day. Trying to make that my older and wiser mantra. There’s no use wasting energy in stressing about the weather, or the course, or if your child comes down with a stomach bug the day before that has her throwing up and moaning on the couch. You race or you don’t. The alarm went off at 4:30. I got up, it was race day.
It had been over a year since my last triathlon and I was nervous. I was nervous for the packing. I had forgotten just how much logistics and checklists are involved the day before a triathlon. Sometime mid-morning I felt a fluttering panic in my stomach and was sure that I was missing something major, something critical from the list. I had a crystal clear vision of showing up on race morning without my bike or my pants. Something that would be embarrassing and force me out of the race.
Turns out a few deep breaths and some double checking and then triple checking my race day list was all I needed. I drove the hour south to Wareham, just before the bridges to the Cape, still somewhat convinced that I had forgotten something, but I showed up at the race venue, unpacked my gear and found that it was all there. I was ready. It was time to race.
One silver lining to being limited to shorter distances is that you can race more. You might find yourself racing four times in five weeks. I love racing. I love the nerves and possibility of the start line. I love suffering and pushing myself, at least after the fact.
But even I’ll admit that four in five weeks might be a bit much. And I have two more weeks coming up of races. I’m going to need a break before I get injured or burn out. But back to last weekend. This one wasn’t my fault. Really. I hadn’t scheduled this one on the calendar. A friend who is not quite as obsessed with running and racing as I am suggested we try this race and, to support him, I agreed. Turns out the Trillium 5k is pretty popular and parking is pretty limited at the brewery so entry is a lottery system. You know the end of this story. I was selected. He was not. Therefor, four races in five weeks.
By the fourth mile I was cursing the bride and groom. Turns out when you are a master’s runner, it’s not a great idea to prep for a race by staying up to the small hours of the morning drinking, dancing and eating way too many shrimp appetizers. At my age, I need a week to recover from such debauchery, so running a 5.6 mile trail race a mere two days later was tough.
The series started in 2015 and it’s been my white whale. Each year, circumstances (it is a holiday weekend), injuries, freak diseases or weather (one year was absolutely torrential rains) has kept me from racing. So, given that history, I wasn’t about to let a lingering hangover keep me from racing on Monday.