Chasing The 5k PR
Part 1 - Bursting Into Flames
Posted Tuesday, 7 February, 2006
Every so often my wife Natalie asks me to pull out my old running scrap books. These dusty, moldy relics contain some pretty interesting archives of newspaper clippings, and of course, some rather humiliating pictures of me in Daisy Duke running shorts or court jester running tights. Oh man, those were the days!
Those were also the days when I ran my fastest times - PR's in running lingo. Nowadays, Natalie (a.k.a. Scat) is the one piling up the press as she relentlessly presses on in her quest for lower and lower PR's. My aging legs (and a little spare tire) have long forgotten those records, so I'm more or less along for the ride. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy every adventure, and even offer my wisdom on everything from track intervals to race strategies. She doesn't ask for advice on running attire…
This past fall was especially adventuresome as we chased a 5k PR, a feat that proved to be rather slippery. The journey took some crazy twists and turns along the way… a rollercoaster ride to say the least.
We had high expectations, especially after a very promisingspring season in which Scat lowered her PR by over a minute. Since things were going well, we decided to extend her season with a couple of 5ks in early June. Unfortunately, these events turned into heat survival tests rather than PR attempts. One of the races, a very flat course with very little shade on Sullivan's Island in South Carolina, was so hot I thought I was going to burst into flames on the last mile.
Natalie suffers from a chronic asthmatic condition, which is exacerbated by heat and humid conditions. So, after the two sweat fest 5ks, we decided it was time to back off the intensive training and racing for a few months. When September finally rolled around, Scat was ready to rock n' roll!
Her first race was the Eastman 3k in early September. We weren't expecting a peak performance since it was early in the fall season, but she carved out a 3k personal best, even under pretty hot conditions. She was off to a great start!
Next up was the Pink Ribbon 5k in early October. With the announcement that this event would become a Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure next year, the adrenaline was flowing just a little quicker for this, the final race as the Pink Ribbon 5k. The location and the course had been moved in anticipation of larger crowds, especially for next year when the RFTC metamorphosis would be complete. I had the privilege of designing the new course so I took great pains to carve out something flat and fast.
Flat courses in Northeast Tennessee are a scarce commodity, so we decided to draw a big red circle around this race date. Despite the sticky hot weather that was lingering around much longer than Summer's scheduled check-out time, Scat's training was going pretty well. She was ready to knock out this 5k PR in short order!
The other thing that worried her live-in coach (me) was the fact that Natalie and I were co-directing and thus, very busy with organizational details. On race day I told her I would take care of things so she could try to focus on racing. As it turned out, I didn't do a good job on one of the things on my check-off list - the heat! We hit a record high 85 degrees that day which pretty much ruined our PR party.
As someone told us sarcastically when he showed up at the race, "Thanks for having this on the hottest day EVER!" With very little, if any, shade on the final mile, this race was a baked potato. Scat ran heroically, but succumbed to the oven over the last half of the race. No PR today.
So, it was on to Spruce Pine, NC the following weekend for another 5k. Scat was ready to run fast, and dadgum it, we were going to find another fast race. Pink Ribbon didn't go as planned, but most plans take detours along the way, right? The race literature for Spruce Pine said "It's Fast!" all over the flyer. I was skeptical, because there just ain't no flat spaces in Western North Carolina. Nonetheless, we traveled over the mountain early Saturday morning with high hopes.
The weather was a little cooler than recent weeks, so that was a good sign. The start was a blistering downhill, so things were looking up. Maybe I should say that more literally, because it seems like after that first half mile, we were constantly looking up - and running up! I crossed the line with my tail between my legs, and over a minute slower than I had run at a 5k earlier this summer. When Scat crossed a little later, and over a minute in arrears of a PR, she had that look on her face like, "I want to kill somebody."
I was just hoping I wasn't that somebody, but as her loving husband and live-in coach, it was my duty to try and comfort her. I failed instantly with my reassuring husband routine, and no amount of coach-speak could reason with her disappointment. She was so upset with herself she was ready to quit running totally. No matter how many times I told her it was a hilly course, it didn't seem to change her opinion of herself, and her prospects of ever running another PR. As she would put it, "I'm lower than a snake's belly."
So, she changed into her sweats and retreated into our Chevy truck for her own little pity party. I wasn't invited.
My good friend Terry was helping at the finish line, and I wondered over to yack with him awhile as the final runners were filtering in. He asked how the race went and I explained the situation and nodded over toward the truck.
He walked over to the broodmobile and knocked on the door. He's braver than me. The door opened, and Terry convinced her to get out and at least go to the awards ceremony. On the way, he related one of his tragic marathon adventures, one that almost even brought tears to my eyes. This seemed to at least make Natalie feel like she wasn't the only one who had ever had a bad race, and after an elephant ear and a diet coke from one of the vendors at the street festival, Scat was feeling a little better about life.
See you on the back streets.
End of Part 1.
Stay tuned for Part 2 - The 5k Quest continues with Wooly Worms, Vampires, Turkeys, and Reindeers. Oh my!