Well, today was the big race. The first annual Dawg Trot 5K, benefiting the University of Georgia Alumni Association. This was the race, on the campus of my beloved alma mater, that I chose to be my "comeback" event...my first race since suffering a heart attack almost a year ago. I had three goals coming into this race: 1. Have fun. 2. Finish. 3. Have enough left in the tank to be passing people at the end. I was so unconcerned about my finishing time that I didn't even wear my watch.
36:23. I wish I would've worn my watch.
There were a lot of factors involved in that unsatisfactory time...some physical, some mental. And it's not like I was expecting to lay down the kind of time that I was running a few years ago when I was fortunate enough to win my age group (40-44) in several races. After all, I was practically sedentary for six months after the heart attack. But bringing it home at 30-minutes-plus isn't acceptable for me.
Training went pretty well for the last three months. I realize I didn't do nearly enough hills...especially given the terrain on the UGA campus. And the race-day adrenaline that I was counting on to give me a little boost jumped up and bit me on my pert backside. The starter sent us off and the opening pace was like that of a hundred-yard dash (primarily due to the presence of many, many Run and See Georgia Grand Prix regulars...this was a field of greyhounds, man). I pressed way too early and wound up gassed by the first mile marker. Total rookie, bush-league screwup.
By the time I was able to recover my pace, I was well past the two-mile marker and staring up the formidable "Ag Hill," leading into the home stretch. That's when things got very mental. I reached for the reserve mojo and just couldn't tap into it. And I think I know why. I think I was afraid to push myself because I was worried about my ticker. Ultimately, I did manage to kick it somewhat around the the 2-and-a-half mile point...but I knew when I crossed the finish line that I hadn't left it all out there on the pavement. I knew I had held back.
So, that's why I can't wait to get out there again. There's a big race in downtown Athens next Saturday...but, from running it before, I know the hills are hellacious. So I think I'll try the race at Sandy Creek Park next Sunday. I've had some success there before and maybe the field won't be so hardcore with another big race the day before. Meanwhile, it's "on the road again" every afternoon next week. Gonna hit the hills and gonna push myself. Get past that mental block.
All in all, though? I had a blast. It's good to be back...ish.