Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Prehistoric 5K

We could go with the alternate title of "I Suck At Cherrypicking Races," but somehow that's even less catchy than the actual title. Rather than making blogger excuses regarding posting frequency, or that the race I am writing about was almost two weeks ago, let's just dive straight into the race report for the annual race at the dinosaur museum.

This event has taken place for many years, but numbers have dwindled in recent years. It's been different distances and has been held at different locations, but last year marked what I believe is the first time that both a 5K and a 10K were offered. I did the 10K last year with lackluster energy, marking my fifth race in six weeks, and finished second in the small women's field, getting pretty well pummeled by a collegiate runner who was unable to accept the non-advertised $100 prize. Meanwhile, the women's winning time in the 5K last year (also a $100 prize for that race) was well over two minutes slower than the slowest 5K I've run in the past three years. Sure, my legs could have been whapped off by a passing car on the hilly course, but barring that kind of calamity I should have easily been able to run faster that day. Though I wasn't out to pick a distance based solely on my chances, I did kick myself a bit for doing the 10K.

This year, there was no doubt in my mind that I would do the 5K. The main reason was that both courses were very hilly and tough, and I would still be working pretty hard in the shorter race. I thought the 10K would be a bit too much for me to handle just two weeks after my summer marathon. I half-seriously joked, though, that I was cherrypicking for the shorter race. We have a lot of expenses around this time of year with school starting soon, and it's really nice to be able to offset race registration fees whenever possible. I showed up at 6:30 a.m. on a very warm summer morning, registered there (this is a new trend...NOT planning things out and making gameday decisions on races), and did the usual hang with the usual suspects. I noticed that among the usual suspects was the woman who is two age groups older than me and who also routinely thrashes the field.

In the past, I may have been disheartened by this, because she's a couple of notches above me as a runner with a great finish kick to boot. The best I've done in the past is staying ahead of her for a mile in a 5K before she passed me, along with the other five women ahead to win the entire race. She's that good-her first mile is just for warming up and faking you out before the burn. This time, though, I thought-screw it. I had some cool new lightweight shoes that just feel like buttah (tried them on at the Boston expo, resisted the unconscionably high price for a long time, found a coupon that made them merely shamefully expensive, and got a pair). I didn't feel dreadful in the warmup, and the new shoes gave me a pick-me-up I'd never felt when trying to go fast. I just said "Screw it...when she kicks it up I'm gonna try to stick with her. Even if it really hurts." This is total fantasyland-think-I think my "closest" finish to her has been by about a minute, but hey, you've to take some risks to start making a little progress.

Lining up with everyone else, I thought "oh boy-I paid money to run a Personal Worst-worthy course!" Oh, and this was my second black tee shirt in as many July races. Really? Do other runners really like being as hot as possible in the hottest month of the year? But I digress.

We got our countdown and headed off down the road, which started out flat but then began to climb. Speedy 50-something was already ahead of me, but this was one of the first times that I was more or less right behind her at the start. This was good. Some very excited high-schooler struck up a conversation with her and she made small talk for a bit. Yeah, honey, wear her out with conversation! I checked my pace-it was brisk for this course but I was feeling strong today so I kept at it. At about three quarters of a mile, I actually witnessed the moment when she looked at her watch and kicked it up a notch. Now there was a ten or fifteen second gap between us, but I kicked it up too and kept it from widening further. I was energized that this wasn't a first round knock out yet. Mile 1: 7:04

The second mile runs down the main drag in a subdivision with some huge hills. This is a double-edged sword-they sure do slow you down compared to a flat road, but after a summer of twice-a-week hilly trail runs, I've had decent practice at running steadily uphill and carrying that momentum into the downhill with good turnover and a short stride. The speedy lady inched a little more ahead, but still wasn't on fire the way I've seen her. "Struggle" is certainly not the right word, but on the relative scale of how smooth she normally looks, she was working harder than I'd ever seen. I did my keep on keepin' on thing and ran like I had a chance even though I knew the gap was even bigger now. When we reached the turnaround I could see that I also had a little company. There was another high school girl who was close enough to overtake me if I let up, or if she could have a strong finishing kick. Mile 2: 7:49

That felt like a reasonable slowdown for those big hills as we doubled back for the big finish. There were two good hill climbs, and then a bit of a reprieve with the gradual downhill and flattening out to the finish. Somewhere around 2.25 miles, I got my last look at the competition ahead as she kicked it up another notch. I pushed hard to pick it up but my maximum output was just slower than hers. She went over one of the hills and by the time I crested it, she was long out of sight. This was MY race, though, and I focused on pushing ahead hard and keeping some distance from the third lady.

I hit the peak of the last hill, and passed this boy that I know to be the same age as my oldest daughter. They were in swim lessons together about eight years ago, and have done some of the same youth track meets in the past. Let's just say that when this kid mockingly said "He has TERRIBLE form" about my then 4-year-old son at one of those meets (just before we found out that he needed orthotics and some PT because of weak muscle tone and a severe inward roll at the ankle)-well, I needed to pass this little turd. So I passed him. And this made him think "this lady who older than my mom just passed me." So he kept trying to push past me and finally got a bit ahead with about three tenths of a mile left to go. Crap. Mile 3: 7:12. I kicked it toward that finish line with a time of 1:34 for what my Garmin measured as .21 miles (so, maybe a little long) and finished in a slow 23:39.

This was not a personal worst, but it was the second slowest 5K I've run since the first one without a kid to pace back in late 2007. On those hills, though, I'll take it. Even though that second mile was obviously going to be the slowest one for everyone, I have a history of big positive splits on the third mile. Rebounding in the third mile was a bit of a baby step forward toward better 5K racing. That high school girl wound up being a mere five seconds behind me, so if I'd allowed myself to be lame-o for even a second, I would have been back another spot. I did win my age group (Yay! A nifty dino trinket...seriously, I do like the plaques and medals they give at this event) but the overall win and the dough went to the Masters speedster. Oh, and the kicker....yeah, you guessed it. I picked the wrong race for big money with the winning time in the other race being several minutes off what I ran the year before. Ah well. Reminds me of a conversation in The Big Lebowski:

{insert awkward segueway here}

Speaking of bars-hey, remember that study where somebody gives me beer to drink, food to eat, and then has me do all kinds of lab rat tests? I'm in the middle of it-only we're not drinking at a bowling alley bar. More on drinking and running very soon.


Nanookie said...

Talk about a nail biter! Too bad about the speedster... but her day will come!

Amy said...

Great run in there, your 5K run is great!!!

brooks addiction