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#23 – Two Races in One Day

1 July 2007

Many running events host multiple races at the same time, e.g. a 5K and 10K taking place simultaneously. When registering we’re forced to choose which distance suits us best for that particular weekend. The Reeds Lake Run, however, offers a twist on the usual 5K or 10K option: runners can do both!

Intrigued, I signed up for both races and then had to figure out a plan. The 5K starts at 8:00am and the 10K at 8:45am – both start and finish lines are close to each other. I decided to run the 5K as hard as I could, then run a relaxed 10K just to see how my body handles back-to-back racing.

Perfect weather dawned over the course as my wife and I walked through the host downtown of East Grand Rapids prior to the race. Temperatures were in the mid-60’s under a sunny sky as Amanda took up a position to photograph the start:

Right off the bat there seemed to be a lack of energy in my system; I can’t explain why and before the race I was reminding myself that this feeling could be deceiving. Unfortunately, the body doesn’t lie. I clocked a 6:45 first mile and two facts were foreboding: 1) I’ve run faster first miles in a 5K, and 2) I felt as exhausted at mile 1 as I usually feel at mile 2! It was going to be twice the suffering just to finish, knowing that my time wouldn’t be what I’d hoped for. Somehow I talked myself to continue pushing hard, hoping for a second wind.

No such luck. Practically staggering across the finish line, I glanced at my watch to see that I’d finished in 21:37, the second-slowest of my four 5Ks thus far this year. As you can see in the image above, I was really desperate for oxygen at the finish! Looking at that photo at least everyone else is in pain, too. 🙂

Not nearly as much in pain were the race winners:

Wow are they fast! They had half an hour to recover for the 10K (the winner of the 5K wound up winning the 10K! Unreal.) while I had just 23 minutes. I walked to the food table and drank a cup of Gatorade and chatted briefly with Amanda before heading off for the start of the 10K. Clearly I’m feeling much better by the time the horn sounded for this second race:

The enjoyment of the first two miles of the 10K was such a contrast to the suffering of the 5K! I ran a 9:30 first mile and a 9:00 second mile, not by intention; I was just “going for a run” and happened to notice that was my pace. Since I’ve never run a race before without trying to run my fastest, this was a new experience. I was able to look around and take in the surroundings – the mid-morning sun over Reeds Lake, runners chatting with their buddies, spectators sitting on their lawns as we ran past their driveways.

Speaking of spectators, the residents of East Grand Rapids do a great job. One house had set up their own aid station; a couple folks were holding their garden hose at the ready in case any runner wanted a shower (I took them up on the offer both times!); a high school rock band was performing in a driveway! My memory has some vague memories of these things from the 5K, but I wasn’t able to really enjoy or appreciate them until I ran the 10K.

Running two races was an experiment for me and around mile 5 I began to realize one of the effects: my legs started to feel numb! Not tingly, but I was having trouble commanding them to move any faster or slower – it’s as though the control system for my leg muscles simply crashed. Somehow they continued to function on autopilot until the finish, when my ego was threatened.

Amanda had told me beforehand that she planned to record a video of me at the finish. Cruising down the home stretch I spotted Amanda in the distance when I heard three young women behind me start to encourage each other: “C’mon, let’s pass some people!” “Let’s sprint, go go GO!” Afraid that Amanda’s video would show me getting passed by three gals at the finish, I found the adrenaline necessary to accelerate into a sprint of my own and carry it across the line; the women were safely well behind. 🙂

(You can see the resulting video on my personal blog.)

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