I’m not from Wisconsin.
I live here now, but I’m not from here. The only phrases I’ve heard that include the words “sweet home” are “home, sweet home,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” and “Sweet Home Chicago.”
Two of those are songs. And one of those refers to my original home.
Up until January, I’d never ever heard the phrase “Sweet Home Milwaukee.” But then, at the Icebreaker Indoor 5K I ran, there were several fliers for the Sweet Home Milwaukee 5K a few months out. I didn’t know of any April or May races I wanted to do, plus I knew stair season would be over. I pondered the race for some time. It had a cool long-sleeve shirt included in the registration, plus the course was entirely set within Veteran’s Park on the lakefront, which really looked cool.
I debated whether or not to register all the way up until the week beforehand, though, because it was sort of an expensive 5K. Especially after missing early bird pricing. But I ultimately figured why not? So, “Sweet Home” Milwaukee, it is, I guess!
The week before the race, everything seemed like it should be a good race: the temperature was in the high 60s and I felt pretty good. Then I registered and everything turned to crap.
Pretty much right away, the forecast for the Sunday race turned to clouds, colder temps, and even rain. Over the course of the week, other days’ forecasts changed, but Sunday’s never waned from rainy with a high of 49.
Also, for a little background, about a month ago, I went for my longest outdoor run ever, a 6.5-mile run around my neighborhood. I left that run with some hip soreness. Not a good sales pitch for longer-distance running. And most runs since that run have brought the hip soreness back. Not all, but most.
In following my new trainer’s plan for my running — a return to more sprint-based/interval-based workouts with occasional longer runs — I ran six 400-meter intervals at a 5:30-min/mile pace the Tuesday before the race. My hip came away a little sore. Not the worst it’s been since this started, but noticeable. It went away pretty much that night.
That day, I also noticed the start of some neck soreness. This was the start of the third bout of neck soreness lasting a week or longer that I’ve had dating back to one night late last summer when I slept funny. This one didn’t start out bad, but it got progressively worse each day. Thursday was the worst.
I actually went to the doctor on Thursday. Most of the pain that day was concentrated in the area between my shoulder and my neck. My doctor said it was a muscle strain and prescribed some muscle relaxers (which I’ve taken very sparingly).
Between my hip and my neck, I figured I should just rest for a few days, hoping I’d be up to running this expensive race I had just signed up for.
Saturday I felt pretty good. I even tried a brisk jog the length of the underground parking lot at my apartment. Not a perfect feeling, but I felt good enough to try running a race if I had to. I hoped another night’s sleep would help even more, knowing that my shoulder/neck would likely tighten up in the colder weather.
Well, it didn’t feel any better the next morning. About the same, though. So the race was doable. But I wasn’t expecting much out of myself, mostly because of my physical condition. Not only that, but between the letdown of stair season ending and the uncertainty of whether I’d even sign up, I took a few, well, liberties with my normal eating routine in the two weeks beforehand. Then, the day before the race, I didn’t hydrate nearly as much as I prefer to.
So, basically, I was sore, my diet was off its usual track, and I hadn’t worked out for almost the whole week (and actually took a couple extra off days the week prior).
Stephanie tried to tell me I’d be really fresh for the race. I sort of kidded her about that comment, though my old trainer used to urge me to take more than one day off before a race (I always only took one day off).
Anyway, we get to the race, where it’s drizzly, and 40 degrees with probably some sort of lake effect windchill. It was cold.
But then the race started. I don’t know what happened exactly, but I finished in 20:23, which ranks as my second-fastest 5K ever. I finished 14th overall, 13th among all males, and 5th among men 30-34.
Once we got moving my neck/shoulder felt fine, and I just went for it. I must’ve ran the first mile in just over 6 minutes, as at that point I had just fallen slightly behind two guys keeping a 6-min/mile pace (I heard them talking about it as they looked down at their GPS’). I didn’t feel too burned out or anything at that point, though, so I kept pushing.
What must’ve helped, though, was the course was flat, and for much of the start, we were running with the wind.
I started feeling my hip a little around 1.5 miles in. And then at the Mile 2 marker, we hit that wind we had originally been running with. I know I slowed down at this point. Maybe a third of the way through the second mile, I intentionally slowed down, but DID NOT walk, and counted to 40, then resumed my faster pace.
I invented that trick (or I invented it to myself) during the Rock N Sole 5K last year. If it’s not a real thing runners do, it works for me. The 20:12 I put up at that Rock N Sole 5K still stands as my personal best.
There was another turn around that led back to running with the wind for a short moment before the finish. The last 0.1 mile was segmented off nicely from the rest of the course. The Mile 3 marker was right at a turn, then there was a straightaway to the finish. On the straightaway I started gaining on what would be the second-place female without exerting too much extra effort. But when I realized I was gaining on her, I started running as fast as I could. It was the one time in the race I was concerned with passing someone. I did reach the finish before her.
When I saw the clock at the finish, I was pleasantly surprised. I knew I could run that fast of a race again, but I didn’t think that given the conditions leading into that race that I would do it then.
Finishing faster than I expected made up for the crappy weather. In nicer weather, though, I think it’d be an awesome race to run. Running on the lakefront would be even better.
* * * * *
* Stephanie set a new PR, eclipsing her previous best by 9 seconds!
* The finish medals were shaped like the state of Wisconsin. Even though I’m not from here, I like the state, so I thought it was cool.
* WSME 91.7 FM was DJ-ing the race, and before the start, there was some song with a crazy/funky bassline, some other weird horns or synthesizers or something, and a female soul singer. I regret not asking the DJ what the song and artist was. I’ve been looking for some new jams for a while now and that sounded like the jams I need in my life. I emailed the radio station to see if they could help me out, but so far no response.