You Might Be Competitive If…

Today’s story may be a little tricky to tell. But tell it I must. “Why is it tricky?” you ask. Well, because some of today’s characters are local – people we interact with a lot. They just might read this blog post and frown upon some of the things I have to say. So be it.

The Know Your Craft 5K

As Co-Chief Beer-Running Officers of the Thursday Triple C Beer run, Laura and I help out with the Triple C Know Your Craft 5K every year. And for helping out, we get race entries. Last year, we both ran it as part of a fast-finish long run, which is exactly what Laura did again this year. With my bum knee, there are no long runs for me these days, especially not ones with fast finishes, so I decided to run it by following my standard comeback-from-surgery protocol – run five minutes, walk one. But then something happened the day before the race.

Laura (and since I’m married to her, so do I) shares custody of her two boys (you may know them as the Dubs) with her ex and we get them from him every Saturday. This week, since we’d both be busy with the 5K, Laura asked him to just bring them to us at Triple C on Saturday morning. His response was along the lines of, “Okay, and since I’ll be there, I might as well just sign up and run the race.”

Does anybody see where this is going? If not, here are a few things to help enlighten you: 1) I am fiercely competitive – for example, just know that if we ever play ping pong, I will desperately try to beat you and will secretly be upset if you win. 2) Laura’s ex (here’s where things start getting tricky) um, could be described as a person who has, in the past, been known to, on occasion, shall we say, lack a bit of tact. So that if he were to, hypothetically speaking of course, beat you in a 5K, I have no doubt that you would hear about this for the rest of your life. “Remember the time I beat you in that 5K?” Forever and ever and ever, guaranteed. 3) The Dubs have apparently inherited this slightly-askew-since-of-propriety gene so that they would probably be asking a very similar version of that question for years and years, “Remember that time dad beat you in that 5K?” at least until they outgrow (oh dear god, soon please) this social awkwardness. Do you see my dilemma now?

I could not live with this. So I had a few options: 1) Bail and not run the race at all (clearly the smartest choice, but I was really looking forward to running!) 2) Stick to my run/walk plan and take my chances. Or 3) Run the race, abandon the run/walk bullshit, and make goddamned sure I beat that guy or die trying. Anybody care to guess which option I went with? Hint: I’m not known for making smart race-day decisions.

The Race

Laura and I drove to Triple C separately as she needed to get there super early to run her many extra miles with friends. I (having stayed up late the night before to watch my beloved Heels crush Indiana in the NCAA tourney) woke up later and rolled in a little after 8:00, just in time to catch Gucci (who had run some of those earlier miles with Laura and gang) before he took off. He accompanied me into the brewery where we filled up a cooler with water and Nuun tablets (aside: Thank god I ran into Gucci – that shit was heavy – no way I could’ve lugged it around by myself!)

As we filled the cooler, Gucci and I chatted and I told him about my dilemma. He tried to talk me off the ledge, “Come on, man. Just some regular Joe, doesn’t really run, jumping into a 5K? He’ll be lucky to break 30 minutes.” This calmed me down a bit.

Gucci had to take off and I had to warm up. I took a casual jog around the block, interspersed with a little walking to try to preserve the knee, just trying to get the rust out and limber up the ancient and infirm joints. Things felt okay and the knee didn’t hurt so there was reason for optimism. And soon enough, we lined up in the starting corral, Laura and I reuniting just before go time.

Tons of friends surrounded us. I waved to Theoden and Chad. I screamed, “Adam Mayes! JITFO!” and “Go Paula, JITFO!” and “Yeah, go get ’em Blair!” Stuff like that. Emily, who does the lion share of organizing the race, even to where she, unable to find anyone else, sang the national anthem. Then Jen Forsyth of Start2Finish counted down, “…3, 2, 1…” and we were off.

Laura’s prescribed strategy (from her brilliant coach) was to run somewhere around marathon pace, maybe a tad faster, so in the ballpark of 7:30 pace. I ran with her initially, my thought process being “Surely 7:30-pace is fast enough.” I felt fine, if not slightly more winded than I thought I should, for ~7:30 pace, and the knee held up. I chatted with Laura a little until the effort of running and talking was a tad much. We came through the mile in 7:18 and I thought, “That has to be fast enough. Just lock in and cruise.”

But my fit wife was a little too fast for me (you have no idea how many times I heard a spectator call out, “You’re letting your wife beat you again?” along the course) so I had to let her go early, climbing up the one tough hill, up Tryon Street, on the course. As she began to pull away, I told her, “I’m going to do my walk-break deal here” and slowed down, but then realized, “He could be right behind me” so thought better of it and continued to run.

And so it went. Laura continued to pull away, becoming a smaller and smaller figure on the horizon. I kept an eye on my watch, constantly thinking, “Surely this is fast enough.” Again I thought, “I really should walk some so my knee won’t be destroyed again”, thinking of some of my recent/prior setbacks. But then I imagined being passed by a certain someone. Had I known how close that certain someone actually was, not only would I not have walked, but I would have picked up the pace. Here’s a pic as we neared mile two. That person in the red circle is who I so desperately wanted to make sure I finished ahead of:

Somebody was much closer than I realized.

Once we hit mile two, I at least knew I’d finish. There was zero pain coming from the knee. I felt fine and knowing we’d hit the big hill again, picked things up a tad, just in case. If someone was stalking me from behind, I wanted to break their will.

But somewhere past 2.5 miles, as we climbed back up Tryon, I tired. I glanced back and didn’t see who I was looking for. So I coasted a little. I had no idea how dangerous that was.

We hit Griffith Street, home of Triple C, and I cruised. I had a little left in the tank so I could sprint if the unthinkable were to happen and I got passed – if it did, I would find out how fast I could kick on a bum knee.

I crossed the line and relaxed. I’d done it. We had started in the second row and I had made sure there was no ex in front of me so in order to beat me, he would’ve had to pass me somewhere on the course. And since that never happened, my mission was accomplished.

Laura was standing just past the finish line and I walked over to her. We stood and talked to a few folks for a minute when I saw the ex walk by, much earlier than I expected. “Wow. That’s a little too close for comfort, one to two minutes.” Or so I thought.

Laura and I jogged a little cool-down, running into Jeannette who jogged it in with us. We made our way back to the brewery and eventually managed to grab some 3C IPAs and settled in to enjoy Charlotte’s best post race. I grabbed my ice pack out of the cooler in my car and iced down the gimpy knee. Life was good – I was actually okay with what I think is my second-slowest 5K ever, the slowest being my first race back from my other knee surgery in 2006. According to my little race receipt, I finished in 23:00 even, or ~7:25 pace. All things considered, I’ll take it.

We drank a beer or two and Laura (AKA White Blaze) received her age group award. The other JITFO alums in the race ran great – Paula won the women’s race and Adam finished fifth in a LOADED field. I hung around and chatted with some of the crazy fast kids including Blair, the overall winner and now course record holder (14:47) and Jesse, who finished tight on his heels in second place.

I was perfectly content with everything until I went home and checked the official results. It turns out that the guy I had so desperately wanted to beat had finished a mere 6 seconds behind me! SIX seconds – that’s barely a blink. Holy shit! The margin for error had been sooooo much thinner than I realized. One walk break, a slightly slower pace, etc. – any of these things could’ve cost me. I was stunned – somebody was in better shape than I thought.

And last night, the knee swelled up and I limped a little and I asked myself, “Was it worth it?” And the answer is, “Yes, fuck yes.”


One Response to “You Might Be Competitive If…”

  1. Bethany Says:

    This is great! So was the race, I’ll be back again!

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