Time to test the ankle. I pulled through 50km last weekend without injury problems. Some conditioning issues, but no injury concerns. This weekend it was time to test how I held up against some speed.
It was a last minute decision. My Dad told me the before he was going to run 5km at the Wellness Walk and Research Run in support of Olivia Newton John Cancer Centre. A great cause. With no other plans, I had to join in the fun.
Usually I pick the longer option. I tried something different and ignored the 10km, opting to run the 5km instead. There was a little bit of safety in this decision. I haven’t run faster than 5:00/km since May this year. If my ankle didn’t hold up, there would be less damage at the shorter distance. Of course I was hoping there would be no problem.
The morning was cold. I had to clear the ice off my car to head down. A Melbourne Spring morning. Cold giving way to a warm, sunny and clear day. For the 5km run, the numbers weren’t huge. The masses were turning up later for the walk instead. However, there were enough to make a good event. The mood was exceptionally positive. Such a feel good start.
I attempted to shake out the heaviness my legs seemed to be carrying over from last weekend. During the warm up I realised it wasn’t heaviness. My legs just haven’t run fast for months. They didn’t know what to do. Can’t change it now. Best not to worry. Chatting with my Dad passed the last few minutes. I moved to the front for the start. Even if I couldn’t stay there, I would see how I compared to the front runners.
Oliva Newton John appeared, shared some awesomeness. Then we were off and running.
I ran out. No checking pace. Just relying on what seemed to feel right for a 5km race. That feeling erred on the side of feeling a bit too fast. Surprised, I found myself in the lead. I could here footsteps right at my heels. No point looking behind. Aim for the lead cyclist. Run the lines well. Keep the cadence up.
This was a road race. No technical trails or slippery surface. Black bitumen flowed underfoot. It is a style of racing that clears away the distractions. It shows your weaknesses easily. This race did exactly that.
I kept the lead position for maybe the first kilometre. The road became a mild hill. I’d almost forgotten how a small gradient can be a big obstacle when the pace is high. My legs wanted to run the slope as an ultra runner. That wasn’t going to help. I forced the legs to keep some semblance of 5km stride in them. This certainly wasn’t my strong point. I was relegated to second place. My legs weren’t really hurting, but I couldn’t make them go faster. Interrupting my racing brain a realisation crept in. My ankle seemed to be handling the faster running!
With my fear covered, I now had permission to just race. I pushed the cadence and tried hard to toe on each stride. Run tall. Hips forward. It was a small battle against some bad habits that had crept into my style. For the most part I won that battle. It wasn’t a completely convincing victory. The mild climb crested and became a very mild down hill. I loved it. Gravity was again my friend. I focussed on keeping my body forward, and pushing quickly through my toe off. Feeling fast I gained a couple of metres back on first place.
Now about halfway. The remainder was almost completely flat. A few turns. Nothing hard. The course weaved through the buildings of La Trobe University. It had been many years since I last had a look around this campus. I was impressed in how much nicer it now looked… oops… where was I? Oh yeah, I’m meant to be racing. Not sure how long I was lost in other thoughts. Did I drop off the pace? Maybe a little, but hard to tell. First was moving further away. I couldn’t see any challenges coming up behind. Safe in second. But this is a race! Nothing exceptional comes out of being safe. A little over 1km left. Better make the most of it.
I know I put all my effort into the closing section. I felt like I couldn’t suck in enough oxygen. My legs developed the lactic acid burn I haven’t felt for so long. Despite this increase in effort, I didn’t really go any faster. I just stopped myself from slowing down. Which I am happy with. Across the finish. Aaron who took first place was waiting across line. He deserved the win. I was happy with my effort combined with the bonus of taking second place.
After crossing the finish I made my way back to find my Dad. It was quite cool to run a bit with him as covered the final section.
Most people will be touched by cancer in some way. I was impressed with positivity this event created in the fight agains cancer. It will be good to support the event next year.
I knew I’d missed racing. I’d forgotten just how much I love racing. Well off my fastest times (and I should be at this stage). Now I know I am ready to really train. No longer just building back from injury. Time to work out what goals to chase.