The other day I went to a triathlon to cheer on some friends. It brought back a lot of memories of the times when I used to compete. Standing there lamely cheering, I sorted through my reasons why I don't compete anymore. They are still valid--I don't want to spend money to do something I can do on my own. Despite not being front of the pack, I get too competitive and down on myself if people are faster. I want to do a lot of things, not just focus on training for one thing. And so on. But this looked fun. There were all sorts of people, ranging from the very serious tri-suited to the ones who were sitting on cruiser bikes. I started thinking that maybe I should branch out a little and be on a tri team next year.
Why not the whole thing, you ask? Well. I could probably do the swim. It's only 500 yards. The lake temperature was 59, which is bearable. The trick is learning how to swim with a bunch of other people. Usually I am the only one out there. If anyone is out swimming in the lake and they see another swim cap, they make a beeline to talk. That's what it's like here.
I could do the run, though. With that in mind, I decided to do a baseline run of the course. It's a 5K. Easy, I thought.
I used to complete this distance in about 22 minutes. Not fast, but not too shabby either. I think I broke 22 a few times, but it's been awhile. But today I puffed along at a much slower pace. It wasn't a ten minute mile, but it wasn't a seven minute one either.
I guess I could be depressed about this. But that would negate the reasons why I run. Some of my best runs have been in places and in conditions where running fast is just about impossible. I lived near the beach in Florida for a year, and I used to love running on the sand near the low tide line at sunset, with the people at the steps clapping as I approached. They were clapping at the sunset (side note: why do people do this?) but I used to imagine it was for me. And then there have been all the trails: soggy and bear-haunted in Alaska, tiptoeing across slippery planks; navigating deadfall and rocks in Washington; running at 10,000 feet in Leadville; waiting out a hailstorm in a cave in Nevada. In my fast running days, I won a few trophies, but those aren't the runs I remember.
What I did remember is that 5Ks are hard. I don't really like them. I like endurance, effort evenly paced out over hours and miles. On my favorite trail runs, the fastest I can really go is an eleven minute mile. To do more is to invite face plants. And I like to look at stuff. The roads aren't really for me.
I don't think I'll change my ways. Don't look for me at the track anytime soon. I'll be out there on the trails, slowly shuffling along. Except for maybe one day in September, when the triathlon comes to town.