This morning was our last big effort before Nationals. In the dark, I met the boys minus two who have the flu. No, there would be no Nash 5K show down as the man is sick. I blew snot into my glove and dragged along into the warm up feeling as fresh as a stirofoam. Shockingly, the beet-lemon-tobasco sludge I gulped down the day before did nada for my boda. Now I knew I faced running a hard grass time trial 5K solo mio. Oh sure, the other boys would be out there too, but they’d keep me as much company as shooting stars the way they fly the green.
The light was still dim hiding the crevices and holes when it was time to get started. The boys gave me a sixty second head start- always more fun to hunt. I pushed into the opening stretch with ease. My legs turned over nicely and felt smooth striking the ground, but by less than a quarter mile in, my breathing began to wheeze. I simply could not get air into my lungs. And so began the suffer-fest.
I pulled all my tricks to keep my mind clicking over the distance. I pushed up popping hills and opened my stride on the downs. I relaxed my shoulders and tried to keep the racket from my lungs less spastic and more rhythmic. I spat. I blew snot. I might have whimpered. Rusty rocketed by me on his way to clocking a 15 second best from last year’s grass trial. Eventually Todd aka Train railed past me with a puff of “good job.” I puffed back something like “u to.” That’s Latin of course for You as Well.
Each boy that passed me gave me the opportunity to try and hold my pace- pick it up- push a little harder. My legs did a little wobble thing over the grass and my lungs clawed at oxygen like a cat terrorizing a toilet paper roll- MORE! Next Joe took me over. He barely made a sound and my blender rattle hummed obnoxiously in my own ears. QUIET! I exhaled, but the inhale was short and tight so I had to do what I could- suck.
I began my finishing sprint well before rounding the final turn. I pushed as hard as I could and fell over the line with hands on knees straw sucking sweet O2 back into the void. It took me close to another sixty seconds to believe my watch: 18:50.
At first disappointment sank in with the luxurious moist air. How in the Halo did that effort just earn me a 18:50? What is that? Oh- six minute pace. Oh. Alright- on grass, on hills, on sick glue. No it wasn’t what I wanted and yes I’ve run a much harder and faster 5K XC race before, but the progress I’ve made in just three weeks is great. My coach has gotten me to the best possible shape I can be in with as little time as we have had to work with. Yeah!
All the boys blew away their last year’s times. It’s looking good! Now I just have to get rid of this cold and avoid the flu.