John Brewer
Beach Blast 5K Results

I finished 24th at 21:15, my mother at 33:54.

It’s done

That’s about how I feel after suffering through my first running race in seven years. I’m excited to have done it, but nothing about it was particularly enjoyable. It hurt early and often. I haven’t done any training that I haven’t written about here, so you know how little my body was prepared for this.

Fortunately, everybody woke up in time to head out this morning. Jessica and I loaded the boys in the car and took off for downtown Albemarle. We parked not far from the start line and I stood in line to grab my number. I was “warming up” in my jeans and fleece since I had neglected to bring proper warmups. I didn’t think I’d need them, but it was chilly—a perfect temperature for racing.

I lined up near the front behind a pack of kids I knew would dash out and die. I figured I didn’t need to get out fast anyways considering the way I felt and where my fitness is at. The blowhorn sounded and we were underway. I was in the top 20 immediately and for the first mile I was easily in reach of the front group. I knew I had no shot to pass anyone, so I was trying to hold my position as best I could. The first mile is relatively flat for Albemarle’s standards, but finishes right in front of my parents’ house after going up a long and steep hill. My legs were already feeling heavy and sluggish at that point, but I knew that was the worst of it.

Still headed out, away from the finish, at around 1.3 miles or so, I was passed by two fit female runners. I tried to fall in behind them and match their leg speed for just a bit and just a bit was all I could muster. The difference in leg turnover was shocking even to me at that moment. I did everything I could to run smart by hitting every tangent. Surprisingly, few were doing this, but I wasn’t going to run a step more than I had to.

At around the two mile mark, just before heading down the long hill on Pee Dee, I was passed by a kid, probably no more than 12. The results will give clarity on that point, but no matter, he was moving really well. He looked fresh and he kept moving up. I did my best to let my legs open up going down the hill and tried not to think about the final hill on the course.

The final hill is no steeper or longer than the one on my street, but coming when it does, it packs a killer punch. Short strides was what I focused hard on, but this was easily the most painful part of the race. Someone at the top was shouting, “Earn the downhill. Earn the downhill.” Given that the remainder of the third mile was downhill, this was a good sentiment. But I felt as if I’d already earned as much downhill and uphill as I could handle.

I finished somewhat strong. I didn’t pick up any spots and I failed to hold off one runner who went back and forth with me a bit in the final tenth, but I finished with all that I had in me and confirmed that there was nothing more to do other than train more. I was completely spent and I crossed the mats just under 22:00. That is probably the slowest 5K I’ve ever run. The only hesitation is because I can’t remember how fast I ran the first ever 5K I ran in a road race the summer before sophomore year of high school. This will serve as a baseline.

One of my favorite interactions with my college coach was talking to him after I’d run a poor race on the track. I started to apologize for the performance with what I thought he’d want to hear: “Coach, no excuses, I just ran crappy.” He responded unexpectedly by saying something along the lines of, “Excuses are good. If you have no excuses, then you just suck.” It’s not to say of course that anyone wants to hear those excuses, but it means that you need to be introspective enough and smart enough to analyze your race and understand the things that prevented you from performing at your best. When it comes to analysis of this race, the list of excuses is long. Poor, almost non-existent training, a cold that still has me blowing my nose, a baby boy who, at three months, has decided to sleep like a three day old, and a vacation that while fun, has been lots of work. There you have it.

We walked together, Jessica, Sam, Ben, and my mom to the YMCA park about a half mile up the road from the finish and I showed my mom the ins and outs of doing a cooldown. After having clocked in at 33:55 or so, we both needed to flush out some lactic acid. We did strides on the grass after running two loops around the park and finished up with stretching. It’s pretty fun talking shop with my mom with her so new to running at the age of 59. With some confidence, encouragement, and diligent training, I think she can break thirty minutes on this course and perhaps run faster. It’s only her second 5K.

So where do I go from here? I have no idea. I’d really like to run more and get back to where I can run under twenty minutes easily and try to push breaking eighteen minutes again—something I did as a junior in high school. Those seem like rather attainable and modest goals even after today’s struggle. I’m only about ten pounds above my collegiate race weight and I’m 28 years old. No reason I can’t have some good days again.

Life intervenes

Shocking, I know. But It’s Tuesday and I haven’t run in three days. One day off was intentional, but not three. I ended up spending all of Saturday and the majority of Sunday finishing up my final project to graduate and so, just like that, the weekend was gone. Yesterday, I had to mow the grass and take care of some other stuff. Sometime Friday night, coincidentally, I also started feeling sick. I’ve got a cold which brings mostly just congestion, but also a slight feeling of being run-down. Hopefully I’ll get some exercise in today, but preparations for travel with two kids will need to start as well. It didn’t take log to remember why I am so out of shape. Still, I am invigorated by the idea of being done with school.

Rolling hills mean pain

I ran the route I’d intended to run the other night when I took a wrong turn. It’s a little over 5K and it’s full of rolling hills. On a bike that means one thing and running it definitely means another. It felt the same way each day has felt to this point. It hurt. I didn’t come close to finishing without walking more times than I’d care to admit. I feel like I’m running with boots on, and in reality I am probably wearing a ten pound weight belt. The humidity isn’t doing me any favors either.

I think my plan for the rest of the week is to get in a short (even shorter) and slow (even slower) run tomorrow and take Sunday entirely off. My calf muscles are flamed up and I think I’ve run more than enough miles in one week for someone who hasn’t been exercising regularly in over two years. I’m still excited about running in a race next week, but I’ve created enough mental images of failure to last me for a while. I am a long way from respectable.

Lungs and Legs

Right now, I have neither. That is to say that both are hurting. I went to the track at Fort Belvoir after work today mainly to try and get a sense of pacing. I have no clue how fast I’m running, but my guess was slow. I was right. I ran four laps from lane two at around 7:00 pace. I was trying to run at a pace that felt reasonable for 5K. My legs were slow and heavy from the moment I started and never really improved. The heat of the day wasn’t helping either.

After finishing up the laps, I ran two long loops in the grass around the fields outside the track area. In total, my guess is that today was about three miles. To finish up, I ran five good strides in the shade. It was surprising to me how good they felt.

Fortunately, The Stick arrived from Amazon a day early and I put it quickly to use on my quads and calf muscles. After walking around a bunch trying to keep the baby happy this evening, my legs feel a lot better. I’m hopeful that tomorrow might be enjoyable or at least not the struggle that today was. 

Gotta start somewhere

The title says it all. After being away from running or cycling for so long, the only thing to do is start small and see how the body adjusts.

On Tuesday night, I went for my first run, one of the smallest possible loops around the neighborhood (Cottage-Bowling Green-Stonewall). It was 1.65 miles and it was not easy. There’s not much to note about the run other than I did it. Everything about my body seemed to scream out.

Last night, I went for run number two. This was supposed to be 5K in distance, but I turned on the wrong street and in my exhausted haze in the dark, I didn’t realize it, did a loop on Yeonas that ended back on Cottage headed away from the house. Once I realized it, I headed home immediately, but I’d already extended the run and my body was having none of it. I had to stop and walk a couple times coming back and had a killer stitch in my side, but I got in a total of 3.75 miles.

At this point, there’s nothing ideal about my training. I’m not eating, sleeping, or preparing well. The only thing I’m doing right is getting the miles in. Needless to say, my quads are incredibly sore.


I’m days away from finishing up a Master’s degree in computer science and when I finish, it will be a huge load off of my family. I started work on the degree in February of 2010, not long after my first son was born. Along with Sam’s birth, starting that degree was the end of anything that resembled training, and really, it was the end of exercise save for a few random activities.

So why am I back writing? Well, my Mom ran her first 5K while attending a conference in New Orleans a few weeks ago and she’s caught a bit of the running bug. So she asked if I’d run with her in the Beach Blast 5K in my hometown of Albemarle, NC. Once I saw the route, I couldn’t refuse. The first mile mark looks to be literally right outside my parents’ front door. The course is entirely on roads that I have run countless times. So I’m very excited to race. The problem is how badly out of shape I am.

I’ll write here some and we’ll see how long this or the running lasts. Given the demands of work and two kids, I’m not that optimistic, but for the moment at least, I’m excited to be sore again. I have no idea what I can do in a 5K with less than two weeks of training after no serious exercise in two years. We’ll just have to see won’t we?