Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Last weekend I ran the Lyons River Run 5k in Lyons, Colorado. I opted for a small town 5k race, as I’m still struggling to get back into good condition and form following a series of nagging injuries. While my preference normally goes to longer endurance events, the idea of racing anything at all was vastly appealing, just to get back in touch with my competitive drive. Plus, speed work is a critical component that has been missing from my run training – I’ve been lucky just to make it through a few 45 minute runs free of any pain, regardless of my slower than usual pace. A 5k race seemed the perfect testing ground to gauge my current speed, get a reality check on the work that lies ahead and, most of all, to test the health of my regularly rebellious calf muscle.
I was also inspired by a friend – a highly successful professional triathlete whose past year’s racing plans have been significantly compromised due to injury. He and I figured that we were both ready to get back out there, despite knowing that neither of us was likely to set a new PR. Instead, we wagered against one another. We each named the time we realistically thought we could run that day. For me, the magic number was 24 minutes; for him it was 16 minutes. Thus, allowing for an 8-minute handicap, the loser would treat the winner to brunch.
Well, I can tell you that those 3+ miles were some of the toughest I’ve ever run! I’ve completed numerous marathons, half marathons and even Ironman triathlons, but that 5k almost did me in. I was panting and pushing and struggling to get through, and watching my pace drop steadily from sound of the starting gun. But I also loved being back in race mode, that perverse mix of pain and pleasure that keeps us endurance junkies coming back for more. I knew I wasn’t quite ready to race physically, but mentally I needed to be back on a racecourse pushing myself as hard as I could on that particular day. It so happened that as fast as I could go was 24:11, just a smidge over my projected time. As for my friend, he struggled with his own out-of-shape demons, also crossing the line just past his anticipated time in 16:21. And while he’s obviously a much stronger runner than me, fit or not, I won the wager by a whopping 10 seconds, earning bragging rights until our next race.