After being cooped up in gyms, treadmills, and indoor tracks during the first few weeks of 2014, I was eager to get outside and see if all of the cross-training that I have been doing would have an effect on my race times. My times on a treadmill in 2014 had improved significantly from my race times from 2013, but it’s a lot easier to run inside on a treadmill in shorts and a tee-shirt than it is to run outside in the cold wearing more clothing and dodging other runners and ice patches.

I ran the inaugural Bay Village Snoball 5K in 2013 with my brother, and I was eager to run it again this year. My dad, stepmom, and brother live in Bay Village, and I spent a great deal of time there during my childhood. Unfortunately, I found out that none of them were able to run or spectate at this year’s Snoball. Because of that, I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it. However, when I saw that the weather would be good, I decided to sign up. I just couldn’t wait any longer for my racing season to begin!

After a nice shakeout workout at Fitness 19 on Friday, we enjoyed some Pizza Bogo and watched The Fellowship of the Ring. Sheila and I have a tradition of watching all three Lord of the Rings films during the weekend when our church’s young adult ministry goes out of town on a ski retreat. Sheila doesn’t like skiing, and I am afraid of getting hurt and losing valuable racing months.

I love this movie, but in the past it didn’t pump me up for a race like The Hobbit or the other Lord of the Rings films do. This year’s viewing was different. There’s a great scene in the movie in which Aragorn stares at a broken sword that he will later wield and ponders his destiny and future. As I viewed that scene, I thought about what I was going to do on Saturday morning and began to mentally steel myself to run a hard and focused 3.1 miles with absolutely no letting up.

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Such a powerful scene! (Source)

Heading into the race, my goal was to set a new 5K PR. I set a new 5K PR of 25:24 at last year’s Snoball, and based on my treadmill runs I was confident that I could improve upon this time as long as the weather wasn’t overly windy or the course wasn’t icy.

After a typical pre-race sleepless night, I sprang out of bed on Saturday morning feeling very excited. We made it to the starting line with about 10 minutes to spare. I found out on Friday that I had some other friends running the race, and Sheila and I bumped into our friends Kelly, Emily, and Pickles the Pup at the starting line.

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Although my times have improved over the years, I still often think of myself as the same back of the pack runner who started the 2012 Lakewood Summer Meltdown way in the back with the hopes of finishing the race in one piece. I’m not sure if that’s a lack of self-confidence on my part or a failure to truly grasp the fact that I have improved as a runner—or maybe I’m afraid of falling and getting trampled?—but in any case, I wound up starting way in the back. This was not what I had in mind when I made my race plan!

I always tell people that PRing a 5K is incredibly difficult because the short distance means that one needs to be focused from start to finish, and I began to think that I was going to lose my chance at a PR as I wove through the thick pack of runners in an attempt to get to the front. Making matters worse was the fact that my GPS watch didn’t locate a satellite in time and I was essentially running watchless. I had a vague sense of the lengths of the songs on my playlist, so I decided to use them to gauge whether I was on my intended pace. I’d post my playlist, but it’s mostly made up of the same Kanye West and Avicii fare that I suggest to everyone when they ask for good race playlist songs.

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Laugh at him if you want, but you can’t deny that he’s the most talented rapper out there! (Source)

Once I broke free from the crowd, I started to feel very good. There are a lot of great sprint-friendly straight sections of this course, and I was able to make up a lot of time during the first mile. I had a vague sense that I was in good shape to PR after about a mile and a half, and that put me in a great mental state of mind.

The second mile of the race felt pretty long last year, but it didn’t feel too bad this year because I was more familiar with the course. I’ve alluded to this before in previous race recaps, but the importance of course familiarity can’t be overstated. Because I had grown up in the neighborhood in which the race took place, I had a precise sense of distance and knew how to pace myself exceptionally well. When my brother was little, I used to walk him in a stroller down the street on which the end of this race takes place, and the fact that he’s now 19 and running cross country and track in college blows my mind.

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My brother and I at his track meet in January at Baldwin-Wallace University

I budgeted my energy during the first half of the third mile and really picked up the pace during the last half. I’m not sure why I didn’t take advantage of this knowledge last year, but I did this year, and I think that gave me a tremendous mental edge.

When I reached Bay High School, I started running much harder knowing that the finish line was very close. Because the finish line was the same color as the track, I couldn’t tell exactly how far I had left to go, so I just decided to let loose and run as hard as I could. I had hoped to locate Sheila, but I missed her because I was looking so intently for the finish line. She did snap a nice picture of me though!

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Eventually, the finish line and the race timer came into view. When I saw that I was definitely going to PR, I got a surge of adrenaline that carried me across the finish line!

Sheila met me shortly thereafter and I guzzled down a few bottles of water while stretching and taking in the post-race festivities.

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After hanging out briefly with our friends again, we hit up the post-race breakfast before heading out. On the way back to the car, I bumped into a new friend named Mario whom I had only previously known from Instagram. It’s fun to meet folks from the Internet in real life!

When we got home, I pulled up my time and saw that I had run a 24:12. This was over a 1 minute improvement from my previous 5K PR! I was honestly blown away, but I was overjoyed about the fact that all of the hard work that I put in over the past few weeks and the disciplined healthy eating that I’ve been doing as well had finally paid off. It wasn’t easy to hand over my Valentine’s candy to Sheila to hide because I don’t have the self-control to allow a bag of Mike and Ikes to stay uneaten in the house for more than a few hours, but it’s completely worth it when I see such a big improvement in my time.

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So grateful for a wife who helps me stay focused on my weight loss and running journeys!

I’m very pleased my performance at the Snoball, and I’m looking forward to another great racing season in 2014!