On the good side, taking a few days off seems to have calmed the noise coming from my right hip. There isn't much pain during normal day-to-day movement. Unfortunately, my right Achilles is acting up again. I've been doing the "Little Old Man Shuffle" when I awaken until it warms up enough to walk regularly. Walking down stairs is another challenge.
What set it all off was The Run for the Trees 5K yesterday. After a week on the road with little sleep and zero miles logged, I didn't have high expectations. My first goal (set soon after finishing 3rd in my age group at 7:33/mile in my last 5K) was to run faster than 7:00 per mile. Aggressive. But over the past couple races, I EXCEEDED my expectations, so I felt bold enough to aim high this time. Given the results of recent workouts, and tightness in my hips and my right Achilles during those workouts, I figured that would be a stretch. My backup goal was to run faster than I did my last race, which a 7:33 per mile pace. My third level goal was to at least beat 24:00.
Beating 24 is deeper than just beating the clock. Beating 24 also means winning against my strongest competitor - the younger me. My number when I played football in high school was 24. It's how I defined myself as an athlete. "I am 24" is what goes through your mind. It would be more appropriate to say, "I was 24." I've always viewed myself as an athlete, but I didn't do anything truly athletic for several years. More time was spent sitting on my ass at a desk than pushing my body to see what it can do. While that has changed over the past couple years, I'm still chasing 24. I'm still learning how I can push my body and train my systems to work efficiently to cover more ground quicker and quicker, and do it without causing injury. And doing it while accomplishing more and more professionally and at home.
I arrived at the Run for the Trees 5K in Winter Park, Florida around 7:00 for a 7:30 start. I ran this race once before in 2008 with my son when he was 7 (which means we walked more than we ran). I had fond memories and hopes that he'd be with me. That didn't happen this time. I ran it solo.
The starter announced that over 1,500 people signed up this year. I stood in a packed crowd about 30 yards from the start line when the horn sounded. For much of the first mile, I used a lot of energy zig zagging around slower runners - something I avoided last race by starting at the very front of the pack. This route had something you don't see often in Florida. Hills. Not REAL hills, but inclines. The route is a point-to-point with spots where you do go up. The race was smooth, but there wasn't a sense of strength I had last race.
The route meandered through Winter Park with the occasional resident sitting in their driveway on a lawn chair sipping coffee and waving. The last quarter mile is a wooded stretch on Genius Drive, an unpaved, sandy road usually closed to the public. The signature element of this stretch are the peacocks you don't notice at first. In fact, I didn't notice them until I heard one squawk loudly overhead, then saw another one cross the path. At that stage, I was more focused on my breathing, form and pace to notice much around me.
The final stretch is a cobblestone private drive lined with multi-million dollar mansions. By this time, I was BEAT, but found enough in the tank for a final push to the end. I ended up running 24:03. So while I did beat 8:00 per mile, I didn't beat 24 today. I pushed with what I had, and am confident I did what I could with what I had. The bright spot today was a comment after the finish. With about a quarter mile to go, I passed a girl wearing a Boulder Ironman tank top and matching visor, pushing herself hard on the sandy trail. At the finish line she caught up to me and said, "When you passed me, you reminded me I need to focus on my form. You have great form." So I have that. And that's a good thing since I've been focusing on putting things together the right way. And that includes form. That alone wasn't enough today, and it never will be, but hopefully it'll get me where I need to go in the long term.
The week ahead will be focused on getting the Achilles straight, strengthening the core (with a focus on hip mobility), and balancing another week where I'll be traveling for work. NYC, here I come!