My Hoppiest 5K

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Mud runs are one thing – you run, you jog, you swim, you climb, you jump, you vault, and... you stand around, even, waiting your turn to tackle an obstacle where there’s a crowd.  They may be 5k or longer, but they’re still not “running.”

I don’t like running.  Never have.  But I’ve found, of late, that running is actually pretty effective at burning off calories, and my primary motivation of any exercise is not to reach a desired weight or amount of strength, but to eat what I want to eat without getting fat. 

Running has been problematic.  One aspect is vision.  I sweat enough that wearing glasses is pointless, so I’m essentially running in a blur.  When I’m on a treadmill, that’s not a problem as there are no potholes, sticks, or curbs.

The other main issue is heart rate.  I watch all these other runners, and they just run and run, like wound up watches.  Tired muscles weren’t the issue; it was my heart rate that soared.  So, I measured it.  And then I went to the keeper of all medical knowledge, the internet.  And I find that... sheesh.  I better not run that much, because collective wisdom says my heart will explode.

So, then I went to the doctor, got a referral, and went to another doctor for a heart stress test.  Judgment: “No problem.  Go run.”

Prior to the Good News, I held back the duration on a treadmill.   It’s a great excuse to call it quits and go do something I’d rather do.  But there was still improvement.  Before my first mud run, I started running for 30 seconds and walking for 4 and a half minutes.  That gradually increased to the opposite of that and more.  But I never ran a full 5k on a treadmill (meaning, jogging... but without slowing to a walk) because of my concern for my heart rate. 

The next trip after the doc’s good graces:

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5k is 3.1 miles.  At my “training” pace of 6 miles per hour, that’s a mile per 10 minutes, and somehow or another, I managed to do the above.

And that left open the possibility of actually running a real 5k, with no mud or crawls under barbed wire.  And that was a nice idea, which I put off... and put off... and then I finally decided I wanted to do it, but only if I could torture someone else in the process.  Welcome, Tom.

And so it was that we signed up for a nearby 5k, The World’s Hoppiest Road Race (and After Party).  The “hops” refer to beer, and the race was partially sponsored by an Irish pub.

Well, how different can running on a road be than a treadmill? 

I tried my neighborhood.  Aside from the visual fog, there were 2 main differences, pacing and hills.  Without the steady pacing of a machine, I really had no idea how fast I was running.  But I learned pretty quickly that I was running quickly... quickly out of breath up the hills in the neighborhood, which is about a 1.7 mile loop.  After walking at three points, I still made it back to the house in 17 minutes, meaning I timed at my 6.0 pace even after walking a fair bit.  Slow down, me.

That’s frustrating, enough so that I only did it a few times, and twice with my dog, who only pulled me faster rather than slowing me down.  Thanks, Maddie.

Whatever, the 5k race quickly arrived.

Registration:  No problem.  The official T-shirt was light blue.  Meh.  But even though it’s given at the start of the race, I earned it (and, of course, paid for it...).

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Then, I waited.  We got there early, after all, and as it was a night race, the sun began to set.

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There were a whole bunch of kids, too.   I didn’t expect that.  Then everyone lined up and waited for the start.  Tom and I hung to the back, not wanting to impede all the flow of the many gathered who were somewhat serious about it.

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And, from that point, there’s no pictures of the race.  No mud, no barbed wire, etc.  What would be the point?  

Observations:

1) I like running outside.  It was a nice cool evening, and a breeze in the face adds to my endurance substantially.

2) I pretty much like running at night.  I’m running in a fog, and it doesn’t make much of a difference, other than avoiding the heels of those in front.  There was one street without streetlights, split with traffic pylons.  I heard the expletives of others who stumbled across these, but they were somewhere else in the fog.

3) If you live in a neighborhood with a race going through it, why not hang out at the end of the driveway and encourage the runners?  Many did.  This actually was an encouragement, because when you’re breathing hard and want to back off... you don’t want to do it with people watching.

4) It’s much easier to pace yourself in a race than running solo, because you can just find someone who seems to be going at the right speed and follow them.

5) I later retraced the route.  I ran 1.7 miles before walking up a long incline.  I won’t apologize for it.  But I wonder if I’d have done better if people were at their driveways in that section.  Oh, well.

6) At the last major turn of the race, a Milton Police officer, guarding the streets as they do when roads are closed, said something along the lines of “Great job, you’re almost there!”  Officers on duty have a choice to just stand there, or participate in their environment to some degree.  I appreciated it, and managed to run the rest of the route, actually accelerating when I understood that the haze of the finish line was closer than I had thought.

And, so we finished.  I finished at 32:23 (actually less a minute as we were a minute or so delayed being at the back of the crowd).  Essentially, that’s about my 6.0 mph training pace.  Tom and I weren’t competing, necessarily... but I won.  Because I’m a competitive person.  But Tom won the “run the whole way without slowing to walk” notion to which I had aspired, though at a slower pace.  Damned hill.

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Afterwards, we cashed in our race token for a free beer.  Many others did as well.  Thanks, New Belgium.

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The “After Party” also included a band and twirlers with fire. 

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And, that was enough of that!  But, I did it.

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