An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Exceeding expectations.

A little on a whim, I ran a 5K road race yesterday morning. A small-town affair, run by the Cross Fit gym. South Sound Titans 5K Fun Run (South Sound Titans is a swim team). BuDu Racing was doing the chip timing, and my wife was there as their employee. I didn't really decide to do the run 'til Thursday.

My wife had asked me if I had a goal for the race, and I told her I'd be happy with anything aaproaching 7:00 pace per mile. In my head, though, I was thinking maybe I could do well in the race anyway. I looked over the race Facebook site, and checked out the people who'd checked in saying they'd be there... Didn't look like a fast crowd, and I think there were only 3 other guys on that list... And then I had to laugh at myself for "checking out the competition"...

The last two races we'd timed had winning male times in the low 20's... which kind of shocked me -- where were all the fast guys?

My plan going in was to just start at a pace I thought I could handle for the whole distance, and just see where every one else was off the line. If I was in the front group, I'd go with it and see if I could kick it in at the end. If the front group was disappearing down the road, I'd just let them go and pace it in.

We arrived at the venue at 7:30 for the 9:00 start, got the start/finish area set up, got my daughter involved with a few things so she could feel helpful, and then I got ready to run.

I decided on wearing the Merrell Trail Gloves instead of the Altra Insincts, more for the lighter weight. I was on the cusp with that one, as I thought I might want the cushioning of the Altras, this being a 100% road course, but I also figured it was only 5K... How much damage could happen?

The course was essentially a 2.5K square, with a turn around and retracing back to the start. Four lefts and a u-turn, then four rights and the finish.

With the start, I was in the second row, seeing a bunch of young kids up front. Always interesting, as often there are a couple fast ones in there, and some that will sprint off only to die in a hundred yards or so. When we were sent off, three guys headed out fast -- one kid, one BIG guy (firefighter or military type) and one that looked like he might be fast, but was hard to judge. I stayed with that pace, and it felt pretty easy. The big guy was the first off the pace, then I got past the maybe-fast guy's shoulder, but the kid was still out there, and wasn't slowing down. I stayed at his 5 o'clock for a while, and it took almost a half mile before his form started to break down just a little bit.

I passed him at about the half mile mark, which put me in the lead. I checked my pace at the mile marker... 6:09! It kind of scared me, but I was still feeling decent, though I knew my pace would drop off some. I just hoped it wasn't too much.

At the turn around, I waved off the guy handing out water, took the u-turn easy, took a split at 8:44, then got back on the pace. I had about 50 yards on 2nd (the maybe-fast guy), and the kid still hanging on to 3rd another 15 seconds behind him. I kept my form tight, making sure I didn't let my stride open up, and kept my footfalls on the foreward part.

After the first right on the way back, we hit a head wind... I know it hurt my pace, and I had to remind myself that every one was feeling the same wind. I pushed on, and hit the 2 mile mark at 12:48. Two more corners, and a half-mile to go, it felt like my form was deteriorating a bit, and I felt like I was slowing down, so I was running a bit scared as I didn't know how close second was. I think the tail wind must have helped me, because I finished at 19:54 (19:51 chip time) for an average pace of 6:24 (meaning my pace picked up from mile 2, or else the markers were off).

So I broke 20 minutes, which was way ahead of my expectations, ahead of my stretch goal, and the fact that it won was (1) a bit shocking, (2) a big boost for myself, and (3) a bit troubling, because it means that the fields are pretty soft. But I can't complain...

Several years ago this would have just been a normal training pace. Today, I'm just happy I can run at all. That I can still throw down some "fast" miles is icing on the cake.

That kid held on for 3rd overall. Awesome!

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