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I Know How You Feel, And The Special Misery Of The Time Trial 5k

I know how you feel.

No, really.

I am not a natural born athlete. I did not go to the athletic school. I did not play sports as a kid. I was that awkward child who started a dance routine from the wrong foot, throwing off the other twelve more coordinated girls, and pissing off the dance teacher. Three times in a row. I stayed mostly inactive throughout my undergraduate degree. I gained the Frosh Fifteen. I struggle with (sometimes debilitating) performance anxiety.

Some days are better than others.

I need your 5K time trial, says my coach. In running speak, a time trial means securing the fastest time possible for any given distance as a bench mark of performance.

Ok, simple enough. Warm up for few kilometers, then go all out for 5 kilometers, then cool down for few kilometers.

Yet, I dread this workout all week. I feel almost nauseous the morning of.

As I put my heart rate monitor on, and walk from my car to the local running track, my heart rate is elevated significantly more than the casual walk from my car would allow. My Ambit2 has trouble locating GPS signal at first, and I’m hopeful that it won’t find GPS at all, and then I would have to reschedule the workout. I would have to postpone. I would not have to be here.


Because I hate the 5k distance – a special level of suffering, feeling like you are about to throw up the whole time. Because I ran a really fast 5k last spring, and I know that I won’t be able to even touch that kind of time now. Because I lack running conditioning this year, held back by mind games and injuries.

And, therefore, I simply do not want to know how I slow I am. So, no, I don’t want to run the stupid 5k time trial, thank you very much. I’ll run a 6.5k trial, if you’d like. Mostly because it’s such a weird distance, that I have no idea what a “good time” would be.

I’ll run 5k uphill. So I can attribute my result, whatever it is, to elevation. I’ll run 5k with a 50lb bag, with a fever, dragging a canoe, or all three at the same time.

Anything, but a flat and brutally honest 5k.

The heat does not help. It’s the middle of the day. I start jogging around the track, desperately trying not to think how many laps the 5k would take.

2k warm-up done. I hit “lap” on my watch, and launch into a very elaborate mobility routine. High knees, butt kicks, Frankenstein walk, horsey kicks.

The barfy feeling in the stomach does not go away. I can’t really delay the misery any longer – few more minutes and I might as well start my warm-up all over again.

I glance at the watch, and walk to the nearest white line on the track. My mp3 player stops. I try turning it on again, but the battery is dead. I take it off and walk back to my bag to drop it off. I take a sip of water and look around.

I walk to the nearest white line on the track. Again.

“Maybe I should do some stretches”, a thought crosses my mind. “Yes”, I say to myself sarcastically. “And then some push-ups, and then some burpees. And then we will go home. Excellent plan.”

Getting angry and calling myself on my own bullshit helps. I throw the mp3 player to the side, start my watch and start running. As fast as I can (which, given the heat, is not very fast).

It starts to hurt almost immediately. Not the physical acute pain of an injury, but rather the pukey scary pain of “oh my god, there is no way I’d be able to keep this up for entire 5km, who am I kidding? I hate running. I don’t even know why I am doing this. Why am I doing this again? I want to stop. I really want to stop, I think I am going to stop now”.

Right about here I wish I could start writing about how it gets better once I pass the 2km mark. How after a certain point, it’s “all downhill”. But sometimes it does not get better, and the run, the workout, the race sucks the entire time.

And you hurt, and you curse, and you hate your coach. And you don’t do as well as you can, as well as you want, as well as you “should have”. And you get it done any way.

I know how you feel.

YOUR TURN: Is there a particular benchmark workout that you dread? One mile time trial? A half marathon? A 1 rep max of a backsquat? Fran?

Hugs, SOLO

photo credit: Running track via photopin (license)

*This essay was written in the summer of 2013.


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