My face was numb. As I tried to talk to my wife, Stephanie, after I cross the finished line she said "it was like you had a stroke." I was talking, but my facial muscles sure weren't moving much. We quickly went inside the Vienna Fire Department, a partner of that day's race, to warm up.
Just 19 minutes before that I toed the start line in what was probably the coldest race I've ever participated in. Wind chills were in the mid-teens - I think around the start time it was 15 degrees. Nonetheless, a fairly sizable crowd of runners came out to run either the 5k loop or 10k double loop of the 11th annual Vienna Turkey Trot. I ran the 5k.
But, as much as the cold was front and center on my mind as I went through my warm-ups, my thoughts also zeroed in on my left calf, the site of some nagging on-and-off soreness/tightness over the past month or so.
After about a month off in October, the month of November was suppose to be a slow re-entry into training and starting to set the foundation for my training build for Boston. But, this whole calf thing has really thrown a wrench into my running plans. My workout on Tuesday this past week was my first after about two weeks off from running.
Nonetheless, my calf was feeling pretty good after about 20 minutes of warm up and a little light stretching to complement the foam rolling I've been doing on an almost daily basis.
After a best attempt at the Star-Spangled Banner by a kid I didn't envy playing a brass horn, I took my place at the front of the pack. Judging by the race results from last year I knew I had a decent shot at another podium but it would be tough having been out of training for a bit. This was also at the very beginning of my training block for Boston (and next year's triathlon season), so I went into the race hoping to take a baseline of where I was. I won't lie though, the Whole Foods turkey awarded to the first overall male and female sounded pretty awesome.
I couldn't have been more happy when the start gun went off and to finally start moving. My hands were really the only cold thing at this point (despite wearing gloves), though I felt my legs start to stiffen a little at the start.
I didn't go out with the lead runners, who seemingly sprinted off the start line. I settled into a small disperse second wave not too far behind. Judging by how fast the lead runner ran the first 400 meters, I knew I couldn't keep pace. Oh well, so much for the turkey. He ended up running a 5:15 pace.
The first mile I felt pretty good. Not sure if it was the slight downhill grade or the fact that my legs were warming up (I may have been one of three wearing shorts), but it went by pretty quickly. I was somewhere in the 5 to 9th place range at this point. I focused more on simply keeping pace with some of the runners around me.
The course was a fairly standard out and back, but knowing I was running slightly downhill the first half meant only one thing, an uphill second half. Coming up on the turn around, I ran in a small group with two other runners. One of them, obviously in a bit better shape, would pull in front on a a few of the uphills, while I acceleratd on the downhill to draw even.
The turn around was at the worst spot. It was right after about a 75 yard downhill, meaning, of course, that right when you rounded the cones, you faced the challenge of a hill straight away.
I steadily climbed that hill and tried to push as hard as I could on the second half. I definitely felt some fatigue in my quads from being a bit out of shape.
The order of runners was pretty much set after the first quarter mile and remained that way most of the race. With about a half mile left, the women's overall winner passed me. I was able to pull ahead of the guy I had been jockeying with earlier in the race, though.
The last quarter mile was a downhill. I was so happy. I let gravity help me a bit and gave it whatever I had left. I crossed the finish line, and tried to catch my breath. My wife came up to me to see how I was doing. I tried talking, but my facial muscles didn't move much. They were pretty numb. We quickly hurried inside to warm up and congratulate some of the other runners.
I finished exactly at 19 minutes - good for 8th overall and 1st in my age group of 20-29.
It wasn't close to a PR, but I was happy considering where I am in training. Time to start building.