The only expectation I had entering week one of the Ocean Running Club Summer Series was to leave nothing out on the course. I did exactly that and earned first place in my age group. My first victory!
My crew (beautiful wife Robin) and I arrive with about twenty minutes until the start of the race. Unlike previous races, I wanted to warm up for a good ten minutes or so. I've noticed a negative split on three mile runs as well as a tendency to grind through mile one. This time, I was hoping to be a little more loose and relaxed through that first mile.
I jogged, popped a GU Roctane (first time experimenting with it), and lined up with the rest of the 100 or so participants. There was no National Anthem as in years past, so I had little time to get nervous, second guess myself, or become overwhelmed by the start of the race and numerous bodies rushing toward the same destination. I was calm and ready to execute my plan.
I started off easier than usual with a pace that still could have considered fast for my liking. I focused on my breathing and form, as I was wearing the NB Minimus Road. I blocked out any ideas of passing other runners or vice versa. It was my own personal race that mattered.
There weren't many people ahead of me as turned off the main road of the Winding River Park and headed through the trees. Knowing the course was a major benefit to me, possibly cutting at least 5 seconds or so off my time. My first time running this course was horrible; there are so many winding turns (coincidental, you think?) that I wasn't sure if I was running a 5k or a 5 miler. This newfound familiarity was helpful in navigating such a course.
I couldn't help but wonder if a swarm of runners were lurking behind me. Last year, I started out incredibly quick, so much so that I was in first place going through the trees off the main road. I knew I couldn't keep up the pace and the remainder of the race had me catching my breath and feeling like I was running backwards with numerous runners blowing past me. Today, it would hardly happen at all.
With one mile to go, I could feel soreness in my abdominal area. I had exercised my abs through an hour-long workout yesterday and figured as much would happen today. I checked the status of my legs and they felt great. I had to push through the pain. It wasn't much, so I knew I had to just toughen up.
I didn't really think it realistic to finish under 20 minutes, but I wasn't far off. My overall time was 20:33, a PR. Although the 5K (or 3.125 miles) was more like 3.07 miles due to an organizing error, the time would still qualify as my PR! And, even though I didn’t concern myself with the other runners, I finished 9th overall! I was first in the 30-39 age group! I don’t know anything else that could have been motivating for me to keep pushing myself and striving to be a better runner than that!
I even got my photo taken as I was awarded a nice Ocean Running Club pint glass for winning my age group. The accomplishment of finishing any race to the best of my abilities – a 5k or a marathon – has always been satisfying. Today, not just completing a race in my best time ever but actually winning a race has been most satisfying.