Hearing your alarm go off at 6:15 on a Sunday morning is never the first thing you want to wake up to, but on race mornings its just something you have to deal with. I rolled out of bed and went to put in my contacts. “Man I feel like a retired senior citizen this morning!” hobbling to the bathroom like a penguin, body aching from the culmination of the workouts throughout the week. Do I really have to race today?
Typically on race day I am giddy with excitement, really chomping at the bit to get things started, but this morning was different. I had a 10k road race in beautiful Alki Beach in Seattle. It was a crystal clear day, and in the middle of April in Seattle that is a rarity, so I started to feel like the stars were aligning for me. The course was a pancake flat bike trail that runs right along the Puget sound, and on a clear day (which it was) you could see the Olympic mountain range nearly 100 miles away. It was a picture perfect day for a race.
I decided to get in an extra long warm up in, nearly 5k, because I was so tight and sore from everything I had done throughout the week. Boy did that make me nervous. Shuffling along the outskirts of the course I thought to myself “I am in for a real treat here!” I felt as terrible as I did when I crawled out of bed. Near the end of the warm up things started to loosen up for me and I slowly became a little more optimistic with how things were going to play out. Got in a nice solid stretch session and put on my flats, and pulled out my brand new coveted Evotri jersey! I was so excited to put that thing on and get the first race in. My semi optimistic outlook on the race quickly skyrocketed off the charts when I pulled that thing out of my bag and put it on!
The starter ushered us into the starting chute and we were underway.
The last 10k I ran a month and change back didn't go so hot, I went in with the mentality that I was going to break everyone early and run away with the race. I went out in 5:10, cracked hard, and finished in a 36:35. I was disappointed, but for my first 10k ever it was a good starting benchmark. I came into today’s race with the mentality that I am going to take the first mile out very controlled, looking at about a 5:40 first mile and see how things go from there.
I came through the first mile in 5:36 feeling unbelievable. 1 mile down 5 and change to go, and I don't even feel like the race has started yet! I kept pressing on, trying to focus on keeping my form together and the cadence up, maintaining that pace as long as I could. I came through mile 2 in 11:06…BAM!!! I was feeling great and couldn't believe it! I was starting to breath heavier now, but didn't feel that the pace was too taxing, so I kept on ticking along.
(Grinding out the last mile and a half en route to a new PR in one BA jersey)
The course was set up for a 5k, but the 10k runners were asked to do 2 loops of the course. So when I hit the turnaround I was sitting at 17:27, still feeling unbelievable. There were a couple 8 year old kids at the turnaround ushering me to the cones, and I gave them a few high 5s and a smile as I passed by…they loved it.
At this point in the race I was all alone, and had at least a 90 second to 2 min lead. I kept my eyes on the road in front of me and told myself, maintain this pace till the turnaround, and at that point give it everything you got! I came through mile 4 starting to feel heavy, but mentally strong, knowing I had a great race going. All of my miles up to this point had been between 5:35 and 5:50, a very consistent and well executed race. I couldn't let this one slip away!
When I hit that turnaround, I knew it was now or never. I made a quick glance at my watch and saw that breaking 35 was not out of the question, but it was going to take some serious work. I started to lengthen the stride a little bit, really using my upper body to pull me through this final stretch. Gutting out every stride, every deep breath, every pounding beat of my heart I made one last charge, with less than 400 meters to go I could see the finish line and knew that sub 35 was mine!
I crossed the line and immediately was congratulated by spectators and volunteers, as well as other athletes who had run the 5k. I walked around for a couple minutes to recover and get my hr back to normal, then changed out of my jersey and put on some dry clothes. At that point it started to hit me…I had snatched a convincing W in my first time racing in the Evotri jersey, and man was that satisfying! Not only was it a convincing W, but I set a new PR (34:47). An unbelievable beginning to my journey with Evotri, and I am stoked to see where it takes me next :)
(Conversing with the Volunteers post race)
As I was changing a few other racers came up to me congratulating me, and I shared the love back with them, asking them how their day went and if they were happy with it. Its humbling when you go to a local race like that, less than 100 people racing, and you are looked up to as a hero for being fast. It is very cool to see how excited they are to come up and talk to you and just have a normal conversation. Quite honestly though, at the end of the day, we are all the same. We all put in hours on top of hours of hard training, there is no external incentive for us. We do it because we love to. It is our passion. We share the same love for endurance sports. 99 times out of 100 the person who wins the race is going to be just like I am. An everyday individual just doing what he loves, and he would love to meet new people, hear exciting stories, peoples backgrounds etc. I challenge you to do that next time you are at a race. Whether you are in my shoes, or the person who wants to chat with the winner post-race. It's a very small world out there and you may just meet someone very interesting.
One of the athletes that came up to me after the race was a younger guy, 20 I think, and his parents came up with him. His mom started to talk to me at first and then I realized that he was deaf. His name was Taylor, and we chatted for awhile and I found out that he was an avid xterra triathlete and wanted to get into road triathlons and half irons. We chatted for well over a half hour about past races we had done, how we got into the sport. A very interesting and intriguing conversation that honestly could have gone on for days. Near the end of the conversation he thanked me repeatedly for talking to him and giving him some of my time to just chat. Again, I was truly humbled. This kid is over the moon excited to talk with me (an average every day guy, who works 45 hrs a week and fits in training in the small cracks of free time) when in all reality he is the one who is the true hero. As most of you know I have a blind friend, Aaron Scheidies, that I have been training and racing with for the past 4 years, who has really taught me a lot about life lessons and how to hold yourself in society. I have been very blessed with the relationships I have formed in my life and I am very excited to continue to get to know Taylor over the next couple months I am here in Seattle, and continue to stay in touch over the years. When I found out that Taylor moved to the town next door to where I live I asked him if he would be interested in training with me, and the look on his face was priceless. He had one of the biggest smiles I have ever seen in my life.
That to me is far more rewarding than any trophy or medal I won at a race. To make a difference in a person’s life, and to show interest when the majority of others do not. To see the joy brought to their faces just from a short conversation. If I never won another race, but instead had the reputation of being the most friendly, motivating, inspirational athlete, local or nationwide, I would be a happy man!