Finally, back at the races!

Oh man, what a feeling. Today I ran my first race in nearly five months.

I was overdue, brother. Waaaaaay overdue.

This has been the longest stretch, by far, that I’ve gone without a race, in years and years. I guess a leg injury will do that to you. Especially one of the worst kinds of leg injuries, an iliotibial band flare-up.

In the last few weeks, my leg has been feeling better and better. I’ve been running slowly almost every morning, about three miles.

Yep, I felt ready for a short race.

I chose an old favorite — “Hit the Bricks,” a five-mile road race in Zionsville, Indiana, about a half-hour west of my home. I ran this race last year, finishing in 35:01, or 7:00 a mile. That was good enough for a second-place finish in my age group.

But that was last year, when I was healthy.

Today, my goal today would be much more modest. I just wanted to finish in one piece without collapsing, and without climbing into an ambulance.

And if I could finish faster than a 9-minute pace, I would be happy.

I went to bed last night excited. It’s been so long!

I woke up today before sunrise. I felt as giddy as a marathoner on the big day. I gobbled down a light breakfast and hopped in the car.

After driving in the dark for 25 minutes, I arrived at the race site in time to watch the organizers set up the finish line.

Then I went inside the high school and checked out the course map. (You can see the map is from last year, but it’s the exact same course, a mix of roads and a bike path.)

I went inside the high scool, plunked down my $23 and got a packet. After pinning on my number and attaching my chip, I headed over to the starting line. It was a small field, maybe 100 runners and walkers, plus another 40 or 50 for a sister race, a three-miler.

A few minutes after 8:00, the race director counted down from fiv and then we took off. I started my watch. We trotted out of the parking lot, down a neighborhood street, through a subdivision, around an elementary school, and then onto the bike path.

The weather was nearly perfect: cool temps, cloudy skies, and a slight drizzle.

I was still carrying my camera, so I decided to take a few shots while I was running. (Yes, while running. That might explain the blury shots.)

After a few miles on the bike path, we headed back onto the roads. This time, the surface was brick — hence the name “Hit the Bricks.” The town was pretty quiet — very little traffic or hustle and bustle.

I was running a little faster than I expected. I had been hoping to do a 9-minute pace — nothing too radical, following a long layoff.

But my mile splits were better than I hoped.

Mile 1 — 7:51

Mile 2 — 7:50

Mile 3 –7:44

Mile 4 — 7:33 (downhill)

Mile 5 — 8:12 (uphill)

At the finish, I hit my watch and noted the time — 39:11, for an average pace of 7:50 a mile.

Yahoooo! I finished in one piece and beat my goal time by more than a minute a mile.

Look at that smile. I look like I just qualified for Boston. And to tell the truth, that’s about how happy I felt.

Yep,  it felt great to be back on my feet. Sitting around for months, icing my leg and doing stretches, has been no fun. Being back in the action is just the medicine I needed.

Then I wandered back to the building. I noticed that the race organizers were an efficient bunch. The first wave of results were already posted in the window.

I felt this was a big turning point. Now I can pick out a few longer races over the next month or two.

Then I noticed another sign in the window.  Yep, I’m optimistic about the rest of the season.

********************************************************************************************************

Like father, like son

After my race, I changed, grabbed a banana, and headed back to my car. It was time for the second race of the morning.

But this time, I would be a spectator.

Son #2, Jake, was running a 3K with his middle school, at a big county meet about a half-hour away, at Ben Davis High School.

By now, the skies had opened up, and things were getting very wet.

I arrived in time to lots of umbrellas and a soaking race course. The school tentswere filled with water.

I watched the girls race get under way, then waited patiently another half-hour for Jake’s race to start.

 

Finally, it was time. The boys gathered around the starting line as a cold, heavy rain fell on them. I’m sure they were shivering, and couldn’t wait to get started.

Finally, at 11:00, the gun went off, and the boys got moving.

Go, Jake! Pass that kid in blue!

Now finish strong, buddy!

Jake did finish strong, setting a new PR by about 10 seconds, finishing just under 13 minutes.

Then we dried off and drove home. We were all smiles and good cheer, looking forward to the next race.

I really don’t know which of us was happier.

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One Response to “Finally, back at the races!”

  1. David Krahulik Says:

    Forgot to look you up yesterday at Eastwood. (I have a 6th grader running for Westlane). I will look for you at the township race next week. Glad to see that you are running again.

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