(Hold on....it's that pesky football corner of my brain-we have to let it talk and then it'll go away)
Oh yeah baby. Go Wildcats! My husband and I are getting all itchy to plan a trip to Manhattan next year....not just our every-other-year K-State versus Colorado trip to Boulder. It's been a looong time and watching the game on television just isn't the same.
Okay. Sorry. Back to running and racing.
The race I ran yesterday has always been the most well-attended 5K in our city, and grows exponentially each year as it serves as the season-ending race for our Girls on the Run council, which has been adding schools and cities throughout the rural communities of Western Colorado since its formation ten years ago. When I chatted pre-race with SimonSaysRun (who heads up the program in her county, about an hour down the road) and asked many were registered this year, the number was at over 1100! The course had been switched up pretty dramatically from a year ago, and in my non-expert opinion, they were all positive changes. Lots of room to spread out for a cross country-type start, and sending us out onto a section of closed road mid-race without any two way runner traffic coming face to face and having to weave around one another.
So, despite questioning my own in intelligence for running this a week before my fall marathon, I was also really looking forward to the run. The weather was fantastic-sunny, dry, and about 50 degrees by race time. Honestly, I don't have any major creaks or pains going on lately, so it seemed like a nice day for some speed work. After the typical pre-race chatting with the usual suspects, I headed over and lined up kind of next to/slightly behind the men who would be duking it out for the top slots. The son of one of my early morning running partners lined up with me as well. He's twelve and runs a lot of the 5K's and occasional 10K, and this seemed like a good spot for both of us to get off without getting trampled by any "sprint and stop"-pers. Despite the huge number of runners (for our area), pre-race logistics were good, and we got off more or less on time for the 10 a.m. start.
I stuck with the strategy of go out hard, no holding back, and originally found myself the first woman if front behind the small pack of frontrunning men. This was a bit of a puzzler but I stuck with it. Not even half a mile in, though, a familiar runner comes around the side of me, and on past...it's the 8th grader with whom I had the really fun footrace toward the finish at the 4th of July race I ran this year. She was looking strong and I didn't just concede or anything but the more I tried to hang on to her, the more she pulled away right from the get-go, and it was clear she was just getting faster as I worked to maintain my pace.
Mile 1: 6:49
I'm having a hard time remembering where exactly that first mile ended in relation to hitting the road and going over the bridge, but when I turned to start heading over it I could see back from where I'd just run-WOW, was I impressed with the number of girls who were running at 7-8 minute mile paces. I expected to see girls there, but not the total sea of them moving along at that clip. This really motivated me and I figured if they could push that hard then I should also be trying to pull out all the stops, and tried to turn over the feet quickly as I made it down to the turnaround, and came right back up and over the bridge.
I could see now coming back that there was a good bit of space between me, and the next woman. I'm actually not a big fan of racing like that...one of the things I figured out over the summer is that I really love closely contested 5K races. It's just harder to race when there's not someone right there to race against. I did see lots of people I knew coming over the bridge the other way and got to high-five several of them, which was kind of a nice distraction from going over that stinkin' thing a second time. I knew I'd slowed down a little bit but wasn't crashing and burning either.
Mile 2: 7:03
The last section of the course was physically and mentally the most challenging section as you follow a dirt path for a ways, then run on the grassy field, then start heading slightly uphill on the way to the finish on a combination of grass and concrete path. I noticed my instantaneous streaming pace drop here on the Garmin as I came up a little hill on the path but didn't panic. I refused to get into mega-fade mentality here. I thought of Judy and of Katie when I got to about the 2.6 mile point (usually the toughest point for me mentally) and just said "COME ON! You're here, you're healthy and lucky enough to be able to do this-let's do this right." Though my legs were getting gooey, I managed to slow the fade and kind of regroup late in the third mile.
Mile 3: 7:28
I was really, really happy to see the finish approaching now. There was no 6:00 pace last sprint kick in me as I took two turns to get toward the finish and finally the chute, but kept hanging in there to go as full-out as I had today.
Garmin measured .17 for the last portion of the race, 7:14 pace, 1:14 time for the last split, Finishing time 22:34. Not the most stellar racing day in the world, but if I compare the last race I did over here across the combo of squishy grass, dirt trail and concrete (a 5K back in June) it was a bit of an improvement time-wise. Now that I'm thinking about it the next morning, I don't think racing it with more intensity than Pete Pfitzinger dictates for tuneup races-especially the week before the marathon (which isn't on anyone's training schedule but my own homegrown deal)-would have been wise.
Somehow this was good enough for second overall female, and first in age group. Honestly I wouldn't have expected more than an AG for that time with a race that big but I guess you race the course, and whomever shows up, right? That girl who won finished nearly two minutes ahead when all was said and done, with the third place girl thirty seconds back. Then there were a slew of women and girls who ran in the 23-25 minute range. When I checked the newspaper results today, I discovered that I was actually sandwiched by girls young enough to be my daughters in the overall standings, as third place was twelve years old. Yeah, Granny right here!
They didn't remove overall winners from age group contention, so I wound up taking my age group as well, and going home with two gift cards to a brewpub here that I very much like, but do not usually go out of my way to go to because they're kind of across town. I also chatted with the second place finisher in my age group (finished top-10 overall too). She was second overall at that smaller 5K last week, and kind of new to running and racing in the area. I'd been thinking to myself "I should really train with her sometimes" and she beat me to the punch post-race, saying "We need to run together!"
I don't necessarily get to train with other people regularly due to wacky schedules, but it sounds like hers is as wacky as mine. This looks like a good opportunity to train with a similarly paced runner when our schedules match up, and I'm looking forward to that. We seem to have the same temperament of pushing hard and getting into work mode during races, and switching right back to laid-back and not overly serious once the race is over. So, all in all, a really enjoyable day at the races. Great weather, and really positive logistical changes that made this ever-growing race go off very smoothly yesterday.