Fidelis 5k Race Report - Not as Mean as I Thought

I tend to think of myself as a grumpy competitor. Simply put, if you're in front of me during the race, I want to put you behind me. But maybe that's not always the case.

After last week's Chicago Marathon, I took a solid 5 days off from running. Because I've been on an amazing streak of no injuries, I hadn't had a break that long in over a year. But with 2 marathons in the next 2 months, it seemed like the smart thing to do.

But the problem with being a diabetic athlete is after a few days of not working out, your blood sugars start to creep higher. By the 4th day, you're doing a lot of correction boluses and by the 5th day, you either need to correct constantly or - if you're a pumper like me - be prepared to redo all of your basal rates.

Or... jump back into running full stream with a 5k race on the 6th day.

To be clear, you will never find any coach that recommends running a marathon, taking five days off and running a race right away. It's dangerous stuff, to be sure. While your legs might feel fresh, they're also confused, stiff and all around wondering why you must abuse them so much.

To soften the blow, I did a nice long 2.5 mile warm-up, and noticed immediately that I had some serious hamstring stiffness. Again, a smarter man might've opted not to race, but I'd paid my $25 bucks and already had the t-shirt. Well, I told myself, I'll just slow down if it feels bad during the race.

During the warm-up, I ran the last mile of the course and knew that it wouldn't be a fast day anyway, as a stiff headwind would be blowing in our face for the entire last mile, aside from the very last 100 meters of the course. Judging by the wind and my stiffness, I figured a sub 20 minute day, at best, would be the most I could hope for. I also hoped to have someone to share the wind with on that last mile.

The race started with a fast downhill mile and I settled in behind a small pack of high school cross country  runners around 8th or 9th place. I made a move on the boys going up a small hill and found myself temporarily in 4th place until an older man came by me breathing hard. I've ran enough 5k's to know that if an older guy is breathing hard when he goes by you, he's probably got a lot of race experience in him and knows that you can run a 5k without blowing up. I tried to go with him, but his pace was just a bit swifter than mine.

As the race turned into the last windy mile, I realized that I was probably in serious trouble. The older guy was working the wind with a young kid, and I was a good 20 seconds back. Meanwhile, looking over my shoulder there wasn't anyone close to me. I was in no man's land, not close enough to draft off the pair in front of me, but looking at my watch as the wind blew harder, not looking assured to break 20 minutes at all.

And then, just as I'd resigned myself to a breezy boring finish, the kid surrendered to the wind and started walking. Suddenly, 4th place sounded a lot better than 5th and I picked up my pace, hoping I'd catch the kid before he started running again. I went by him and heard him struggling to catch his breath. And that's when I surprised myself.

I can't promise you I would've done what happened next if the walker were anywhere near my age group. I can't even promise you I would've done it with someone this young in another race. But for some reason, I yelled, "Let's go! Tuck in behind me!"

The kid wheezed, "Thanks!" and he lumbered behind, safely in my draft.

Just like that, my race had become fun again. Within 200 yards, I knew the kid had stayed close, as I felt his shoe clip mine. I also knew that with a marathon a week prior and a balky hamstring, if the kid was with me when we turned the last corner, there was a better than average chance he'd outkick me. If I was going to beat him, now was the time, so I pushed the pace harder and harder while the kid stayed out of the wind. Forgetting the time, now, I did everything I could to drive the speed against the wind. If the kid beat me, I thought, fine - but he's going to have to earn it.

We made the sharp left turn out of the breeze and I heard the crowd cheering. I tried to turn on one last gear but it wasn't there. The kid came by me on the left and I was heard myself shouting, "Go kid! Go!" And he did. We both got recorded in 19:58, but he was clearly a step ahead of me.

I don't know what his story was, but his joy at his time was immense. I heard his family yelling, "You're back, Ian! You're back!" Back from what, who knows. I told the kid, "Nice finish!" and walked through the chute with a smile on my face.

I walked up to the older guy who bested me and shook his hand. He mentioned the kid and complained loudly how the boy had no pride and had drafted off of him for that entire windy mile. He also told me I shouldn't feel bad that he'd beaten me because he'd been a 2:19 marathoner "back in the day."

"Nah," I assured him, "I've been beaten by guys a lot older than you." I limped away, hoping my hamstring would forgive me in short order.

Time: 19:58
Place: 5th out of 170
First in Age Group, 2nd Master


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