I ran this race last year and enjoyed it, so I signed up for it again. Unfortunately, my knee has gone from bad to worse. It was getting to the point where I could run on it some and even got in 54 miles one week. But in one day, it went from improving, to the worse it has ever been. Both my patellar and quadriceps tendon have become pretty swollen, which isn't fun when you add in the mistracking issue. Since Tuesday, I was only able to run two miles but since I'm a cheapo and already paid $40 to race, I decided to give it a go. Besides, I've done much more stupid things than this, for far less money.
I gave myself about a 50/50 chance of starting the race and pulled out all of the stops for my knee. I took four Aleve about 1.5 before the race, watched some YouTube videos and did a botched up version of a tape job using some KT tape, put on my patellar tendon strap and for the figurative "icing on the cake", rubbed on the always minty fresh sports creme. I felt more like a yuppy runner than a blue collar one, so I decided to don some longer shorts to make me look not so ridiculous.
Normally before a race, I like to warm-up very well, especially for a 5k. Ideally, I'd run a 20 minute or so slight progression, along with a lot of fast strides to get my engine running and my legs ready to go. Too many people expect to just jog around for a few minutes and be ready to race. You can't go straight from first/second gear into fifth, so on the warm-up, you need to cover all your bases. However because of my gimpiness, I decided to just jog for a few minutes at a very slow pace. The knee didn't feel too badly and I even got in a few short, half-hearted strides. I then decided I was good to go (well, as good as I could be.)
Jacob Carrigan was there and it looked like he would be my toughest competition. He's been running pretty fast over the last few months and he put a whooping on me in a 5k a couple of years ago, so I was a little worried. I planned to put on my best poker face and bluff my way through the race, hoping he wouldn't try to battle me to the end. Unfortunately, I am usually a terrible poker player.
When the gun went off, a few kids from the homeschooler cross country team took off. Like their education, I decided to let them have a false sense of accomplishment before taking over. After about half of a mile, I was able to stay in the front until the end and ended up running a semi-controlled 16:18. I had to throw in some surges from time-to-time to stay ahead of Jacob but luckily the course had so many turns, it was easy to "hide" and appear a little farther ahead than you actually were. The knee actually wasn't too bad for the first mile or so but the last few minutes, it was on fire and the insane number of turns didn't help its cause.
I was glad I was able to finish and will rest my knee a good bit next week. Overall, I really enjoy this race. The course is very hard to run fast on but if you want to find a fast course, you have several options in the area every month. Running in the zoo is something that is unique and different, which is why I think they draw so many runners. And not to mention, they serve a pasta meal after the race and Blackstone is there serving some refreshment as well.
When I made out my original racing schedule, I had the Cedars of Lebanon Half Marathon as my next race, but I'll have to skip out on that. After that, I was going to try the Race Judicata 5k/10k double, which is probably also out of the books as well. Hopefully I can take a shot at running just the 10k there and be in semi-crappy shape at the Tom King Half Marathon in March.