Race report: 2019 Hootie Hustle 5K

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      I owe this community 3 race reports. Here’s the first, hopefully the other two won’t be far behind. As much as I’d like to skip to yesterday’s race, I’ll do these in sequential order. It just seems right that way.

      First up on this fall’s racing schedule was the Hootie Hustle 5K, my hometown event and a fund raiser for the Slinger High School scholarship program.

      This year was the 6th running of Hootie Hustle. I’ve run every event, winning twice, finishing second twice and third once. This year, though, I had my most difficult summer in decades.

      A little background, I’ll try to keep it brief. In April and May, I was in great shape. I was hammering workouts at paces I hadn’t been able to for years. I ran my first half marathon in 14 years and exceeded expectations. I was gearing up for my usual 5 mile/2 mile double at Walleye Run and had one more big workout to go. As I was running that workout, I felt some tightness in my left hip/upper hamstring region. I questioned whether I should cut the workout short but was too stubborn to do so. In my last half mile repeat, with about 100 yards to go, I paid the price. It seized up, I hobbled through the finish, and my summer was drastically altered. Just a strain but a string of bad decisions, starting with the ones made in this workout, cost me a lot.

      I tried to keep running but, within about a week, I realized I was just being stubborn. I pulled the plug and hit the bike. After a few weeks, I was working back into running but didn’t practice enough patience and strained my right calf. A few weeks later, in early July, I was on a family vacation in Colorado. Trying to soak up the enjoyment of running in the mountains, I again failed to practice enough patience and the right calf gave in again. For the remainder of the trip, the extent of my working out was hiking, climbing mountains, and rafting. Not nothing but not the running I was planning to get in addition to these family activities.

      Finally, I made a more patient comeback in late July and this time did the things I’m always telling others to do. My first week of double digit mileage was a 12 mile week on the week ending July 28th. I then went 25, 35, 40 before running the Hootie Hustle on August 24th.

      On the morning of the race, I felt some level of confidence that I would run decently on muscle memory but I knew I wasn’t in race shape. It was going to be a struggle and I wasn’t going to have a result I was really happy with. My hope was that I cold battle for a podium finish to keep my streak of top 3 finishes alive but I knew it would take a monumental effort to do that.

      At the start of the race, I was somewhere in the top 10 but this is with the usual fast starters. I knew I would be somewhere around fifth once things settled in. As it was, by 1/4 mile in, I was in fourth, just behind third. My hope was to stay close to third through the uphill stretch to the middle school at about 2K, then pass into thid and push through the middle to create a gap. However, the hill was wearing on me and I couldn’t maintain contact. As I watched third get away from me, I did see that second was dropping back from first a bit. Maybe he was my chance. I believe around a mile, the pass was made and second became third, my new target. However, he was still far enough ahead that I knew I wouldn’t be catching him by the middle school, where I wanted to. My best hope now was to catch him by the 2 mile mark and hope I could do enough damage early in mile 3 so it didn’t come down to a kick.

      I kept pushing and felt like I was making up some ground but not enough. The lead was shrinking but ever so slightly. I needed a bigger move to get into third. However, while my breathing was incredibly controlled, my legs just didn’t have it. I just couldn’t get them to go faster. The engine was running well below capacity but the chassis just couldn’t support more power.

      By the 2 mile mark, we were pretty much locked in. I was doing all I could to find an extra gear, using the downhill as well as my legs would allow. It just wasn’t doing any good, though. I just couldn’t close the gap any further and that’s how the race ended. My bad decisions over the summer left me unable to find the gear that would propel me into the top 3.

      I ended up finishing 4th in 19:38.

      Garmin data here.

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