The (re)start line

And here we go again.

It has been too long, FAR too long since I last experienced a stomach inhabited by a butterfly infestation, the previous days meals turned liquid or the spike in my Type A OCD mannerisms leading up the start line of my next race. But as of this morning, it’ll all come back again.

The last race I participated in (noticed I didn’t say “run”) was the Shamrock Shuffle 8k way back in March, where I knew even before the race that my leg was not ok to run on, but did it anyways. Right after that poor performance I went down for months and months with a severely weakened right leg. Since getting back on the path to recovery from that period I’ve been hesitant to commit to doing any races as I know I’m not at the point where I want to be just yet, however, the big show (Chicago) is creeping closer and closer, and with a solid bank of effort in my stride now, I think I’m ready to at least make enough of a showing where I won’t feel completely demoralized afterwards.

In my head I was thinking more and more about seeing how a race performance might play out, so when a race flyer came addressed to me in the mail, the bug was planted. Initially, the flyer that came almost got tossed into the trash immediately, for it was advertising the Circle The City 10k, which was marred by controversy last year when the race director responded to a lot of prize money confusion by making juvenile, racist standards for prize eligibility for his future races. I vowed to never run another race by their management company and have held to that promise since then. So when the flyer came for the controversy-laden race this year, I was ready to throw it in the trash with even more vigor than I do the others, but I couldn’t help look at the specifics to see if they were messing with the bull by offering course record money again….they weren’t. I then looked further and noticed the KLA (the event managers) logos were nowhere to be found. Initially I thought this might be a deliberate attempt to distance themselves from last years problems, but I then considered that maybe they were dropped as organizers (something they have a decent track record for). I read deeper into the fine print and sure enough a new company had taken over the race! I was pretty stoked to see this as I really like races in urban settings, especially when they run through the very streets I’m on day after day. This particular course runs almost directly past my own house as well.

Anyways, I put the flyer aside to register at a later time, but as luck would have it I received a “Groupon” in my email today that allowed me to register for the race for only $12! Double score! I had no choice but to sign up now…and that’s what I did.

So now I’m 2 1/2 weeks out from this race and will be throwing myself back into the competitive mindset deeper and deeper, even if I don’t feel at my racing prime. The downtime I suffered from this injury really took powerful shots at both my fitness and mental game and I’m working hard to get them both back, and although I’d really like to know where I stand on both, the hard part is finding out by experience only…by actually racing. Workout success only means so much when it comes to racing, as everything seems to change when you toe the line. I’m hoping for the best, but I have my worries.

See, last year I had already put down about 4 15k trail races that proved to be pretty brutal efforts and that was on top of consistent training that had started 2 years prior. This time around I’m coming off a 3 month lull in activity and an even longer lull in racing fitness and mentality, so I just don’t know where I stand right now.

I don’t like going into races without a hefty dose of confidence as my base, as I take each and every race, no matter how insignificant, with utmost seriousness. The races are where I really work to prove my abilities and put everything, mentally and physically, on the line. Even in the middle of marathon training I try to prepare for races as if each one was my specific goal. So, this time around I have a lot of ifs I’m taking in. What if I’m not fit enough and completely blow up? What if my mental game is weak and I back off when things get rough? What if I get trounced, my confidence plummets even further, and..and then what?

Then again, going into the race without huge expectations and not a lot of confidence behind me does help take some of the edge off the attempt. I’m certainly not expecting a huge breakthrough at this race, but really just want a solid effort where primarily I run smart. I don’t want to go out too fast and I don’t want to have too much left over when I cross the line. I envision a slower than normal start and seeing how much I can pick it up as the race goes on. I certainly won’t be as wired or as ambitious as I was feeling going into the last 8k I did in Chicago. That effort certainly tempered my exuberance, in a good way.

Then again, I have a 32:28 PR at the 10k distance……that is really old. I’m tired of it. I’m a better runner than a 5:13 10k pace and although I wanted to prove that at last year’s race, I was beat down from training at that point and just didn’t have the legs to show it. Right now though, even with the high mileage, I’m feeling good and would like to take that record down if possible, but feeling good and BEING fit are two different things. I’m not convinced I’m better than a 5:13 runner right now….but anything can happen in a race, as long as I start slow and run smart.

And that’s really my goal this time around. I’d like to surpass my 10k pr, but I’m more concerned with determining my pace and progression ahead of time and seeing if I can stick with that….if everything goes well, the PR will follow.

Regardless, it feels good to be back in the thick of it and getting ready to put my race legs on. Starting August 7th I’ll be putting down some serious efforts in the build up to Chicago…let’s hope it’s filled with PR’s.

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