Nick’s Race Roundup:
- LE 5K
- Expo 10k
- Foothills Sprint
- Xterra Tri Relay
- Johnson City Downtown Mile
Summer is a great time to jump into shorter races that are easier to recover from and are catch up with friends and revisit friendly local rivalries. Since the Flying Pig marathon a month ago, I’ve managed to squeeze in 5 shorter races and get to try some new courses and meet and race against some new faces.
The first 5k I ever won was the Law Enforcement Memorial 5k in 2015. The event didn’t run last year, so when I saw it on the schedule for this year, I was excited to do it again, even if I wasn’t in top shape. With the course moved to Cherokee Blvd, I knew it would be a fun course. It also turned out to be a hot and exceptionally humid Saturday morning. I lined up with some familiar faces and friends and anxiously awaited that point of no return, when the gun goes off and the pain begins. Through the first mile, I ran with one other young runner, who I didn’t recognize. By midway through the second mile, he was starting to drop me and gain some separation. I convinced myself to keep pushing an see what would happened (a survival strategy that paid off again in a few weeks), and by 2.5 miles in, on a steady incline section, he started to fade. With a strong push, I caught and passed him in the finishing stretch and came in at 17:41 for the overall win.
The next week doubled the distance to a 10k at the IT Company Expo race. The weather was slightly cooler this time around, but just as humid. The new course for the Expo 10k turned out to be a challenging course with some long inclines over a two loop course. I didn’t have a great day, fading early in the race, but managing to sneak into the top 10 with a 38:27.
A couple of days later the Memorial Day Foothills Triathlon returned to Lenoir City, and despite no bike or swim training, I wanted to test out whether I could survive a sprint triathlon. In the past I placed 3rd and 2nd at this event, so I wanted a shot at finally getting the overall win. With a really short swim, I tried to not lose too much time, not spike my heart rate right away, and get through T1 smoothly. On the rolling bike course, I was happy to hold 23.4mph (even if it was much slower than the same course last year), but I definitely felt the lack of bike legs when I got to T2. Regardless I came off the bike with about a :45 second lead. However, my legs felt wobbly as I began to run and my heart rate was high. I ticked off a 6:18 first mile trying to go a little more conservatively and to find my legs. I didn’t expect anyone to be running mid 5 minute miles, so I was shocked when shortly after, I saw Team Zen Evo’s Daeton Byers closing in on me. I held pace and he caught me at the turnaround at 1.5 mile. I matched his pace as he seems to slow a little as he took the lead and settled in around 10m in front of me for the next mile. I kept the gap steady and tried to think back to the Law Enforcement 5k. At 2.5 miles I decided to empty the tank and go for the win, and picked up the pace to under 6min/mile. I passed Daeton on the last small hill and turned to the finishing stretch and started my finishing kick into the finish for the overall win.
Equipped with a false sense of well being about my biking ability coming off Foothills, I jumped at the opportunity when a relay team slot opened up for the Xterra Knoxville Trail Triathlon with Kim Preston swimming and David Black doing the trail running honors. I hosed off the caked on Baker’s Creek Dirt from last fall and loaded up my bike and headed to Mead’s Quarry on a perfect Sunday morning. I’m no mountain biker, but I do enjoy the change in scenery from the road. At times I felt the flow of the trails and guided my hardtail Trek through banked turns, off drops, over bridges, and around rocks like I actually knew what I was doing. At other times I took lines so reckless and ill-considered I sent course marshals ducking for cover (sorry Alex). However, I managed to stay right side up and finished with my hands cramped around the handlebars and lower back muscles burning.
My latest racing adventure led me up the Johnson City for the inaugural Global Running Day Downtown Mile. Without waxing too poetic, I have a soft spot for mile races. This doesn’t mean I don’t dread them, by there is something special about the simplicity of a mile. It’s the yardstick by which every other distance gets measured, and one all-out, painful, lung burning mile is both miserable and magical. So, I jumped at the opportunity to go to Johnson City and represent The Knoxville Track Club in the Elite Mile race. Disclaimer: I am not an elite miler by any measure, but I managed to not be last in the men’s elite division. The weather turned out to be amazing. Mid 70’s with a good breeze. The course had a number of sharp turns that were challenging at mile pace, but overall this is a really cool race that I would recommend to any runner. When the gun went off, I knew I was running with some fast guys. The pack formed right away and I did my best to hang on to the back of the pack. We went through the first quarter under 1:10. At that pace, I wasn’t going to be hanging around much longer. At the half mile mark, I hear my split called at 2:30 and I was on an island in no-man’s land. My goal for the race was to get under 5, but given that I was still coming off back-to-back marathons, a gaggle of shorter races, and no speed work, I knew it might be an ambitious order. However, at halfway I tried to marshall my mitochondria to pump out all they could. It was already hurting at this point—Badly. I kept churning my legs and turned onto the finishing street with about 150m to go. I saw the clock at 4:40 and whipped my legs to turnover as best I could. With a few meters to go I watched the clock turn to 5:00 and then I crossed a handful of seconds later in 5:03. A little off my goal, but for where I am at the moment I was happy. Well, at that exact moment, I was stumbling around like a drunk man and gasping for air like I just narrowly escaped drowning.
The next few weeks look to have some more fun summer racing opportunities, starting with the Buster Britton Triathlon in Alabama this weekend.