I ran the Red Rock 5k this morning. I was worried about how my calf would hold up given that I only strained the calf a day and a half ago. I have had these issues for years, but I have never had a race so soon after developing pain. My primary concern was messing up the leg badly enough that training would be hampered in the last few weeks leading up to my fall marathon in Santa Barbara on November 12th. However, there was $500 on the line for first place here, with money going 5 deep, so I still wanted to run (I also didn't want to waste the entrance fee I paid).
I was really careful in my warm-ups to start out slowly, stretch out the muscle, massage, and perform some light skipping exercises to try and stretch the muscle dynamically to prepare myself to race without hurting myself worse. I also wore some tight soccer socks to give my calf just a little bit more support than normal.
Most importantly, I was praying to my father in heaven asking him to help me not hurt myself any worse. To be honest I do do not even know if God cares about how well I run. In the grand scheme of things running pales in importance to so many other aspects of our lives. But still the same I found myself praying last night and while I was warming up, asking my heavenly father for help.
Even then, I doubted that my calf would hold up the way I hoped. I worried that it was going to be really painful and that I would mess up the entire culmination of the marathon prep that I started in June. I wondered, where is my faith? If I do not believe that God will help me what good are my prayers? I then resolved to trust in the Lord and have faith that things would work out. A few minutes after making that resolve I suddenly felt a very peaceful feeling come over me. I knew that it was an answer to my prayers, and while I was still unsure how my calf would hold up during the race I knew that everything would be ok, and that whatever happened was the will of the Lord. I continued to feel some slight pulling and nagging in the calf throughout the rest of my warm-up, but I knew that everything would turn out okay.
I stepped to the starting line a few minutes prior to the start of the race, and I looked around to see where my competition was. I was shocked to see only one other runner who appeared to be fast, and based on his jersey I knew he was a local. Where was all the competition from the Flagstaff based runners? The last time this company put on a race with prize money I placed eighth, and I had figured that with half the prize money we would see half the competition, meaning that 4 or 5 fast guys should be here from out of town.
The race started, and I took off at the front of the pack. From the time that I started the race any discomfort that I had been feeling in my calf previously was gone, and I knew that my prayer had been answered. No one made any attempt to go with me either... confirmation number two of the answer to my prayers (it is harder to hurt yourself if you are not pushing as hard in an attempt to beat faster runners). From here on out I was able to focus on running hard without doing anything silly, rather than on competing with other runners. The race starts off downhill for about 2 minutes, at which point you start to head uphill, followed by a super steep grade for about 20 seconds. Once I crested the top of the short but steep hill I was greeted by a nasty headwind. Where did that come from? There was no wind during my warm-up, and now two and a half minutes into my race and I am getting blasted. I was glad that no one tried to hang with me at the beginning of the race because it means that no one was close enough to draft off of me.
The runner in second place was attempting to stay as close as possible, but as I went around a corner near the mile mark he appeared to be about 10 seconds back. 10 seconds in elite runner terms at the mile mark of a 5k = game over under most circumstances, so I knew that I was mostly running for time from here on out. The problem was that running for time was mostly worthless because the wind was still beating against me. On top of the wind, the course was constantly rolling up and down. It has to be one of the most deceptively slow courses that I have run in a while. There is semi constant uphill to break up momentum, followed by downhill so short that it doesn't help you at all. I ended up going through the mile in 4:59, followed by a 5:16 for mile 2 (10:15 total). During the third mile we hit a long sustained uphill stretch just before the 3 mile mark that was not fun, but my pace only got marginally slower during this mile as I hit the 3 mile mark in 15:35 (5:20 for the mile). I crossed the finish line in 16:06 (official time of 16:07) with the second place runner coming through with an official time of 17:01.
So in sum, I am extremely grateful that I was able to run the race without any pain, and I know that my father in heaven was watching out for me. As a bonus, I won $500 dollars for placing first, which is exciting. I have no idea how to quantify my performance, because the course was slow, it was windy, and there were no elite runners to gauge my performance off of. Nonetheless, I am happy with how things turned out.