I spent a lovely morning and early afternoon at the Redhook brewery in Portsmouth on Sunday. The Runners Alley Redhook 5k is always one of my favorites--what's not to like about a fast-ish 5k that finishes at a brewery?--and I was just pleased to be recovered enough from my bronchial and sinus issues of earlier in May to even be able to compete.
My oldest daughter, Allie, and I arrived early so that she could babysit my niece while my sister worked registration, giving me lots of time to rest in the shade and soak in the pre-race hoopla. At about 10am, I met up with Mark Hudson and we jogged the course for a warm-up. After changing shoes and shirt and heading over toward the start for some strides, I bumped into Jim Johnson who mentioned that Bob Wiles and John Mentzer were there. I knew, then, the race would go out fast--as if the downhill start and strong tailwind wouldn't be enough.
I wound up going through that first downhill and tailwind mile in 5:26, probably the fastest mile I've run in a year and it felt pretty good. From there, though, it was a tough fade. I never really blew up, just gradually faded the rest of the way and every little rise felt like a mountain. I guess it's what I should have expected given my training or lack thereof lately, but it was still frustrating and a tough bit of medicine to swallow. Having that tailwind from the first mile turn into a headwind for the last mile and then having to go up the slight incline that we had come down at the start just added to the misery. The result (18:07 for 18th overall) was totally unacceptable to me, but in hindsight that's about as good as I had a right to expect. I was really sick a few weeks ago and really haven't very done much above a jogging pace since. As disappointing as it is, the truth is it was probably just the kick in the ass that I needed. I now start my 40's racing career the same way I started my 30's--trying to get back under 18 minutes for a 5k. This sport is beyond humbling at times.
After the race, Hudson and I jogged the course again before I went off to enjoy some free beverages and food and he and his wife set off for a day on the seacoast. My wife took Allie and the rest of the kids home by way of Kittery and my brother-in-law, Brian, and I sat on the patio taking in the sights and sounds, enjoying the warm day and planning out our summer of training that will lead to big things in the fall. The next big red letter day for both of us is the Baystate Marathon on October 17th, but there will be lots of races between now and then.
I won a $25 gift certificate to Runners Alley for being 3rd in my age group (hurray for being old!) so my entry was free. And I left Portsmouth more hungry to get back into some hard training than I've been in quite some time. As hard as it is to accept any number that starts with 18 when I so recently held out sub-17 as my primary goal for this Spring, there is a kind of freedom in knowing. When it's all said and done, this may very well turn out to be my most productive race in years.