I left work at 2:00 and picked Alice up from her volunteer job at a local museum. We both went home and had a nap in prep for the late evening start of our race. After napping, we had a little beef stir fry and then laid low for a couple of hours before heading out to the race.
We arrived with about an hour and a half to spare before the start. We got our numbers, chips and T-shirts, then hit the bathroom at a McDonalds and sat around for about an hour. We started our warm up as the one mile race was getting under way. We jogged for about a quarter mile, then did a series of striders, followed by another quarter mile jog. We arrived at the start about 10 minutes before the gun.
Alice tucks herself in about 10 rows back and I’m about 4 rows back, well aware that there were several sub 16 minute times in last years race. The only problem is that the people who are in front of me don’t look like they’re going to be running sub 25, much less sub 16. In fact, the guy with the bullhorn up front is telling the late arrivals not to push into the front of the pack, but to go all the way around to the back. This is problematic because the later arrivals are all the people who were out warming up. In other words, all fast people.
I’m standing there feeling a little off. My warmup didn’t feel as light and airy as previous races and really, I’m not much in the mood to race. I briefly think about just dropping back and pacing Alice. Then, I figure that I may as well race it.
The horn goes off and the start is chaotic. The entire row of people in front of me is lazily jogging along and it’s difficult to find a seam to dart through. Small seams open up and I squeeze through, often tip-toeing my way around. One seam closes around me and I throw my first ever elbow in a race. I’m somewhat ashamed at taking a little bit of pleasure in it. Eventually, the road opens up and I’m comfortable. I manage to get a glance at my Garmin under a streetlamp and seeing a 5:11 pace, I settle down and focus on my breathing.
As we continue straight down the road, I catch glances of the Garmin every so often. I’m maintaining 6:00/mile pace – right where I want to be. We head out onto the Dunedin Causeway and things get dark and silent very quickly. The road inclines as we head up a drawbridge. I’m running pretty much by myself and starting to think about the pace. I can feel some lactic acid building in my legs. What looks like a high school cross country team is striding along about 5 yards in front of me and I can hear someone talking them through the race. I focus on catching them as we climb the hill and finally tuck into the back of their group as we summit the drawbridge.
I can feel the metal grate of the drawbridge through the bottoms of my shoes as we cross and head back down. I’m comfortably with the group all the way down. I can’t see the lights of the lead police car ahead, so I know we’ve still got a while before we hit the turn around. This is somewhat demoralizing and I think about the building heaviness in my legs. As I stride along with the group, I finally spot the police car coming back toward us with the race leader close behind.
It’s not long before I spot the turnaround, but I’ve mentally checked out. I back off and let the group go. A young man and woman pass me, so I tag onto the back of them. We round the cone in the middle of the road and they get away a bit as I’m slow to accelerate after the hairpin. Eventually, I find my stride again and catch up.
The drawbridge looks far away and my head is just not in this race. I’m so focused on the discomfort that I just want to slow down to a jog and wait for Alice to catch up. I hear some breathing behind me as see a shadow creep up in the street to my side.
The shadow seems to accelerate as we approach the drawbridge. Finally, I spot a runner on my left shoulder in my peripheral vision. He’s pulling ahead of me as we start the climb of the drawbridge. I focus on the hill, regulate my breathing and climb the drawbridge. My acceleration and the incline of the drawbridge has an effect on him. He can’t hold the pace and falls back. We crest the drawbridge again and I look forward to the downhill portion.
I’m about 1 yard behind the young man and lady who are running together. I can still sense the guy behind me, but I can’t see his shadows anymore. We pass the 2 mile mark and I tell myself it will be over in no time. Just seven more minutes.
I have little idea of how I’m doing. I know I’m not going to hit my goal of 19 minutes, but I really don’t know if I’m on pace for even 20 minutes. Eventually, I get a glance of my Garmin as we return to civilization and street lamps. With about a half mile to go, I start counting my breaths. I know that 6 in and 6 out is about 1/100th of a mile, so I’m counting down my remaining distance.
Finally, I see the start in the distance. We round the corner and I get a look at the finishing clock. I’ve got 20 minutes. I speed up, but I’m not able to pass anyone. I cross the line in 19:55. This is what it looked like. If you squint, you can see me looking like I’m going to fall over backwards.
After I finished, I looped around to watch Alice finish. She didn’t hit her goal either. She finished in 25:17. In fact, we were both about 20 seconds slower than our previous 5K races in April. We were both disappointed, but neither of us was too disappointed. I haven’t done any speedwork since April, so to have lost only 20 seconds isn’t that bad. I think we could both use a steady diet of threshold pace runs.
My finish was good for fourth place in my age group: