You walk under the announcers booth, stepping over dirty hoses. The smell of gasoline in the air. Passing behind the drag strip, memories from a past life squeal their tires to life after decades in hibernation.
I find myself calmed by the familiar smells. The scenery of a small city speedway. It’s surprisingly calming. The last time I am on a race track is in a 1982 Scirocco. Now I’m rocking a pair of Altra Torin v2.5’s — effectively racing in an 80’s Cadillac.
My first race. My first running race. The Greyhound Grand Prix 5K put on by runlAB at Castrol Speedway.
Right from the hop, I know the night is going to go well because Brendan Airey shows up with a fake moustache. It’s immediately obvious what is going on. Brendan is here to photograph my first race, a promise from over a year ago when I first started running.
Dressing like me, learning how to ride clip-less pedals only this week to complete the “Jody” ensemble, and a fake moustache are not part of the original promise. Brenden’s gone to great lengths for authenticity. Right down to a bag of Super Nibs — my shooting snack of choice.
I’ve spent a lot of time the last few months trying to learn my body, for day’s like today. Being an evening race, it’s is important for me to be fuelled right. More importantly, I get the timing on everything correct. Being a 5k, it’s over quick so I only need nutrition up to the line.
- 6:00 am — 2 x cups of coffee
- 8:00 am — regular oatmeal (660’ish calories 33g fat/53g carbs/26g protrein)
- 10:00 am — Just Right & soy milk (3/4 bowl)
- 1:00 pm — 2 x eggs/1 x toast/feta/natural pb/hot sauce
- 3-4:00 pm — nap followed by 2 x cups of coffee
- 5:00 pm — regular oatmeal (660’ish calories 33g fat/53g carbs/26g protrein)
- 7:00 pm — 2 x 100 calorie gels
- 7:30 pm — throw down!
At 11:00 am I rolled out, got my legs up, and iced them for 20 minutes as well. Helps take the edge off overall soreness. I really like icing my legs so much that I’ve now started taking cold showers to simulate the feeling. A story for another time.
Throughout the day I drink over 3.5L of water as per usual.
Up to this point, I haven’t toe’d an actual start line. In a race. With the intent of running it on the edge of my current fitness. And to be at Castrol Speedway couldn’t have been scripted any better. I have a smile on my face the entire warmup. I can’t wipe it off. It’s stuck.
I feel good during the warmup. I don’t feel amazing but honestly don’t know what that would even feel like. I know to simply trust my process. Do my track warmup. Light static stretching of my achilles and calves followed by a 2-3k jog, dynamic stretching, another light jog a little later with some strides. Just time everything and I’ll have all the jam I need off the line.
Another benefit of a regular track workout. I have a tried and tested warmup routine. I suppose this helps with the nerves too.
I’m not surprised, but a little intrigued when I find no nerves while standing on the start line. Mile2Marathon long sleeved traded in for a Mile2Marathon singlet. Huddled in with the two or three others that are going for sub-twenty. The “horn” sounds and the pack explodes over the line all at once.
I give myself a few hundred meters to burn off steam, and go with the sub-twenty group. After initial surge of 3:30/km, they settle, then settle again, and coming out of the first turn are already slowing my cadence.
It feels slow. I don’t need to look at my watch, I dump them.
I make the split second, and likely race saving decision to open the pace up making a push for the pack pulling away ahead. The headwind down the backstretch at the end of lap one is going to be brutal, I can’t do it alone. If that means running a faster pace 200 meters into the race, I’m gonna risk it.
The gap seems large already, but I’m confident I have the stride to close it.
Holding a steady 3:50/km pace through the tailwind section of lap one, I catch two runners as we turn right to start heading back to the start line. The staunch wind in our immediate future.
My push pays off and I tuck in behind Kelly for the whole backstretch. The pace dips slightly slower than I want, but I know the energy saved will pay off, so I stay behind her as long as I can wait. Before we even cross the line to finish lap one at 2.4km…I can tell Kelly is fading, and I again decide immediately to jump in front to pull her along, but she drops.
I am now staring down 2.6kms of solitude on a wide open raceway…and then Brendan comes zipping by.
So focused on racing, and my strategy, I forget all about Brendan after an initial pose for the camera after turn two where I am clearly enjoying myself. But here he is. Biking up ahead and squatting into corners. Jumping over tire fences. The whole time imitating me on course, but at the same time, entertaining me as the meters clip by.
Right there, in the middle of my first ever race, and a 5k PB going sub-twenty for the first time — it hits me. This is what it’s like for all those racers that I’ve shot over the last two years. What a wild experience.
But now it’s time to put in work. One kilometre to go. Two turns, a chicane, and a brutal wind literally wanting to stand me up. This is the part of the workout that counts. That last segment of the progression. That last two hundred of eight hundy repeat.
Where it stings.
When I look down at the watch I see I am going sub-twenty. Muttering “every second…every second…” peaking at a measly 3:25/km pace across the line. Not my best kick by a long shot, but I’m well under twenty, so who cares.
Worth. Every. Step.
Laying on the ground. Shit eating grin. It’s done. 19:43 my official Strava PB. It’s not a chipped timed race so we are going with that. I soak it in for a few minutes letting the *track lung* fade in my chest.
I get up, and prance around congratulating every single runner, and thank them for being out there — including my photographer.
I can’t thank Brendan Airey enough for photographing my first race. He made a special night, surreal, and did it with that incredible style that only he has. All of these amazing photos are his. Either from a digi-cam, or printed from the disposable, then photographed by me. Ugh, so amazing on so many levels.
RunlAB put together an unbelievable experience hosting a 5K on a race track. The timing was perfect for me for my first race. It was the fitting location for my first race, 5k PB, and first time under 20 minutes. I can’t stress enough how cool it was. Do not miss the next one. Thank-you for making my first race unforgettable.