Saturday, April 21, 2007
I ran in the Clean Air 5K today, a road 5K that goes from the Art Museum, out on West River Drive to Sweet Briar Road and then back. When I signed up months ago, it was 50% for the cause, free Ben and Jerry's ice-cream, and the party-like big-race atmosphere, and 50% for racing a good time. As the day warmed up to a sunny 55 degrees, I realized I over-dressed a little bit. But the main issue was that my quads were sore from the combination of leg presses, mile repeats, and change-of-direction drills during the week. I was disappointed that I wouldn't be fresh for the only 5K I planned to do, and one with such good competition. Once reality sank in, I lowered my expectations for this race, and was decidedly not nervous at the start. I was going to take what I can get today.
The strategy for this race was to run hard for the first mile, settle down with the pack I'm with for the second mile, and either hang on for dear life in the third mile or push up the pace for as long as I could. I was going to positive split but hopefully not fade until the third mile.
1,200 runners seeded themselves at the start. I lined up about 10 rows back, and it took me 5 seconds to cross the starting line. I ran the first mile hard as planned, and as I approached the mile clock, I saw that it was ticking at 5:something. Sugar plums! Too fast, even in my positive splitting world. Passed 1-mile mark at 6:10 (6:05 chip). I tried to stay the course and was committed to not speeding up just to pass people. Even so, by the turnaround (1.5 miles), I wanted the race to end. I was sure that I'd crash, so I slowed down a little for about a quarter mile. I tried to focus on what I'm feeling -- telling myself to keep it going, that people are cheering for me (they weren't, but it's great how my mind works), that I paid to race not to jog, and that to just keep turning over the legs, pump my arms, look ahead..... The self-talk gave me a second wind, but basically I was just hanging on. In addition to being tired and out of breath, my stomach felt empty. I passed the two mile mark, but didn't feel like looking at my watch and burdening myself with mental calculations in the last mile. I was passed briefly by a guy who seemed to be going strongly and consistently. I latched on and ran much of the last mile next to him, gradually picking off runner after runner, despite being out of breath. Kevin, the guardian of our top layers, cheered and took a picture then. With about 400 meters to go and the finish line within sight, I picked things up majorly -- one might even call this a sprint -- and made a mad dash to the finish. When I saw the finish clock at 19:0x, I was in disbelief, cautiously happy. I looked down at my watch to confirm. Wow... that was a road PR by at least 2 minutes. The official time of 19:07 averages out to be 6:09 per mile. Kind of shocking, given that I'd hung around that 7 minute mile plateau for so long. I had no idea what place I finished, but I knew to stick around for something. As it turned out I came in 4th among women and 1st in my age group.
I compared notes with other runners, and many people had fast times. I made my rounds at a goodie table, had the B&J ice-cream and an apple, cheered on other people, and then sat down on the grass to enjoy this beautiful weather with other runners.