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Last Saturday, I experienced a rocky run in racing in the Cornhusker State Games 5k Road Race in Lincoln. I knew recovering from my back injury that this race would be a challenge. In fact, I almost did not enter due to injury/recovery. However, I decided to run this race simply to finish so as to not aggravate an already sore back and glute muscles. Sometimes our bodies get tired and break down a little bit. When that happens, it is very important to treat the pain and inflammation wisely and to ensure that we are getting adequate rest, recovery, and relaxation. This means rest, ice, compression, and elevation. It also means rolling the area with foam rollers and balance (aka medicine) balls.

To be safe, I deviated from my normal routine and only walked with Misty (our dog) before the race. Then I ran a slow mile near the course just to warm up. The heat and humidity were definitely a problematic combo on this day. Temperature was around 81, humidity was probably above 85-90%. I’ve learned that we have to slacken our pace a bit to be safe when running in heat and humidity or problems arise.

I spent a little time observing nature at Holmes Lake to try to stay relaxed, enjoying the breeze and watching the ducks swim at the lake and a kayaker who paddled by as a I watched the ducks.

So glad they moved this race to Holmes Lake, it was formerly held at Fallbrook neighborhood in northwest Lincoln (not a bad course but too much pavement and maybe a little more hilly). The new course presents at least a mile or two on limestone and dirt trail going around the lake. There is a little pavement, including a short stretch running south on 70th Street.

After the national anthem, the race director lined us up to the start and gave us a two-command start (ready and go). Last year, I know they fired a gun for the start but that was the year that Nebraska hosted the State Games of America here. I kept reminding myself, just run the race to finish. It was a speed test in a sense to see what speed I coul run after struggling with a back/glute injury for weeks.

The first mile of the race went pretty well, first mile split was 7:26. To accentuate the positive, the first mile was the best part of this race by far. But I could tell I was having to push pretty hard with effort and exertion to make that pace happen. My body felt tired, weary, exhausted. Having trained in the mountains the week before, the elevation training did help me in this race a little but the lack of humidity in Colorado last week was a poor preparation for Nebraska-level humidity during even a short race. Even with my back and glutes taped with KT Tape, there was still significant pain and cramping, especially on my left side (interesting that the pain has moved from the right side where it originated to the left side).

Maybe the weariness of the 980 days into a runstreak took its toll. Although I didn’t formally taper for this race, I did run slowly and less than normal leading up to this race. I could tell my body was just not handling the race stress very well this day. My heart rate was in zones 4 and 5 for much of the race, very unusual.

Yes, I recommended that they move this course to Holmes Lake (i’m sure others did too). Why? Because this gives us an opportunity to run around the lake, experience some softer limestone surface, and some plain old running on dirt. For trail runners like me, that just makes running so much easier than constantly pounding the pavement…literally.

If you are interested, I did review and rate this course on and gave it 4 stars out of 5. My biggest complaint about the race was something I had no control over: heat and humidity. The hills weren’t that bad, especially compared to challenging Colorado elevation and hills at 8000+ feet.

So how did the race end? I ran a 25:21, good for sixth in my age group (6th of 11). I was 78th overall out of 174 runners, including a happy 72 year-old man that I met and spoke with after the race. I noticed that the bronze medalist in my 45-49 age group was someone I ran with in a group run on World Running Day and was happy that it was someone I knew.

I didn’t run a great race, but I didn’t run a terrible race: it was somewhere in the muddy middle. Sometimes mediocre races happen, especially when we are trying to recover from and shake off pesky persistent injuries and/or battling fatigue, heat, and humidity.

What did the race teach me? We can’t medal in our age groups every race every year. Injuries and weather conditions can interfere with our ability to do that. Sometimes we just have to dial down the effort to not risk further injury. I had decided before the race that I wasn’t going to do anything to endanger my quest for a 1,000 day runstreak. I’ve come way too far to abandon that so quickly. It just wasn’t my day and that’s okay. We all have good days and days that challenge us and teach us valuable life lessons that we can redeem later. It was one of the life lesson days for me.

Nevertheless, it was a fun experience and I’m glad I ran it. I was reminded by this race that my strength is really in longer distance races (10 miles or longer) and that 5k is really tough for me from a competitive perspective. But running is much more than competition. Running is a pathway to a better life, to better health, and a transformational lifestyle. Looking at the big picture, the race was a valuable learning experience for me. There will be other races. And running goes way beyond just running races.

Let’s run and have fun!