Race report: 2018 Hootie Hustle 5K

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      Still catching up on my race reports. This is the second of four that I hope to get out fairly quickly.

      Hootie Hustle was the first of 3 races in 4 weekends. I wouldn’t normally do this kind of schedule but each race has a lot of meaning to me, starting with my hometown event.

      I came into Hootie Hustle with a lot of determination. After winning the first 3 editions of this race, I finished third last year with a performance I was not happy about. I was determined to do all I could this year to win it or give whoever was going to beat me the best competition I could. I was running faster than last year. I ran over the main loop of the course many times this year so I knew the course as well as anyone who would be in the race if not better. I was fit, prepared, and focused.

      I went out on my warmup with a calm confidence. If I was the most fit person at this race, I was going to win it. No doubt. If I wasn’t the most fit, I knew my strategy to give myself the best chance to win. As the race was approaching, I saw one runner who I thought would be competition but I told myself I was going to win or go down fighting.

      As the start approached, I noticed another runner who looked serious. The only thing is that he was hanging out away from the starting area. He looked like he was ready to run but he was about 100-200 yards into the course. I wasn’t sure what this was about but I didn’t worry myself. I was focused on running the best race I could.

      At the start, I got out into the lead. There are a couple quick turns as we leave the track and get on to the road. I didn’t want to be trailing there because it could turn into a bottleneck. Once on the road, I settled in and I noticed that the unknown runner was starting to move. Apparently, he’s pacing a friend. Well, he’s behind me now so I’m not concerned.

      As we make a couple more turns, I continue to lead but I know this isn’t a runaway. I feel like I have more than one friend right with me. Down the state highway where they closed 2 lanes for the runners, I ease over to the left for the next turn and someone shows up on my left shoulder. I don’t even look but tell myself he can run with me if he wants but I’m not going to let him take over. I’m going to keep control at least until we hit the real climb.

      Into the neighborhoods still in the lead and then we start the real climbing. Immediately, 2 people pass me. One is the mystery guy, the other is the one I picked out as the real competition. This guy has his own personal pacer. Oh well, just a challenge to overcome. I let them take a bit of a lead but I maintain contact. I know that, when we get to the middle school a little before 1.25 miles, I want to be in contact. Ideally, in the lead since we’re sent to the sidewalk at the middle school, which means less room to maneuver and make passes.

      As we come up to the middle school, I don’t have the lead but I’m within contact. We are sent up to the sidewalk and I know this is my time to move. I want to push the pace through the middle mile, then use the downhill in the final mile to carry me to the finish.

      I get right up behind these guys then, just before a hard 90 degree turn, there is a little girl, probably about 3 years old, on the sidewalk. Just walking right down the middle of the sidewalk looking away from us. This really concerns me. I’m worried for her safety. She doesn’t know she’s about to be in the middle of a race. We’re running hard. One misstep and she could get seriously hurt. Fortunately, there are no missteps. I step off the sidewalk to give her some space and go around the hard turn off the sidewalk also.

      Once around the turn, I’m right with these guys and I take the lead. I’m pushing here because it’s my time to try to put the race away. As hard as i push, though, these guys are hanging right with me. As I’m doing this, I also notice that my left foot is hitting the ground in a strange way, kind of slapping the ground. Not like my right foot and not like I usually run. I don’t think of it at the time but I sure would later. Eventually, I can’t sustain so I back off a bit and regroup. I then make another attempt, knowing this is pretty much do or die.

      I then died. I didn’t really fall apart but I couldn’t get a gap and, when I couldn’t sustain, these guys got back in front of me. I did all I could to stay close, just hoping something happens, but eventually the competition got a gap on me and it was all but over then. Mystery runner also couldn’t hang with him. Down the hill early in mile 3, I gave it one last shot and caught mystery runner, tried to use him to my benefit, but just couldn’t sustain. I finished off as hard as I could and, looking at my pace, kept things respectable. However, I just couldn’t close the gap.

      I ended up finishing second overall in 18:21. Faster and one place higher than last year but not the time or place I was really hoping for. I can’t complain about either, though. I gave it my best and just didn’t have it.

      Garmin data (note: I forgot to stop the watch until apparently about 3 minutes after finishing): https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2961550872

      Unfortunately, I could barely stand on my left foot the day after the race and this was the beginning of some problems. My ankle was swollen and very sore. It almost felt like I twisted my ankle. I don’t think I did when I stepped off the sidewalk but I can’t say with certainty. However, in the following weeks, I did notice a very tight calf muscle and have some thoughts on several factors that probably came together to cause this issue.

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