On the six-month anniversary of the Run for Dom blog we have a race report to share. It is truly amazing to me that we have had so many visitors, supporters and friends visit our blog since November. Thank you all so very, very much.
It was a very interesting race last night under all kinds of “strange” conditions. To be completely honest I had virtually no performance expectations heading into the race. Not only was the race during the middle of the work week on a Wednesday – it was held at 7:00 p.m.
For a morning runner like myself – who virtually NEVER runs after 7:30 a.m. at the absolute latest – the 7:00 p.m. start was the variable I was most concerned by. I know how much the 10:00 a.m. start effected me at Boston this year – I could only imagine what an evening run would do to my performance. There were quite a few other factors at play as well.
The course was sure to be slow as we had heavy rains in the area beginning at 2:00 a.m. Wednesday morning that lasted until well past Noon. I know this as our house sits just .67 miles from what would be the turnaround point on the race-course. Having run the trail several times a week for the past 3-4 years I am very familiar with how the course would fair under those conditions. Let’s just say I knew where the puddles of standing water would be.
Nutrition on Wednesday was another concern. Since I am a morning runner and typically do not eat much of anything before a run. Even for a 20-mile training run during the height of marathon training, I bounce out of bed at 5:00 a.m. and consume gels during my run, no pre-run breakfast. By 7:00 p.m. on most nights I have already eaten dinner and am pondering my evening snack. This late start time had me questioning what if anything I should eat prior to the race.
I decided to just have an “Elvis” – a light snack of a bagel with peanut butter and a banana at 5:00 p.m. two hours before the start. I was hoping it would provide me with enough fuel for the 3.1 mile race – but not make me feel “full” as I was trying to push pace.
Since the race took place on my “home-turf” I was curious if that would be a benefit or a detriment as I tried to hold a strong pace over the familiar course. Running for me, like most distance runners, is all about rythym. On training runs I typically get my leg-turnover to fall into a certain cadence and then simply let my muscle memory take over.
I questioned whether I would be able to run mile splits :45 seconds faster than my average pace on a course that I cover on just about every one of my run-days. Would I be able to sustain that effort, or would my body “automatically” fall into a more comfortable and much more familiar “slow” rythym.
Lastly, temperature. I was not worried at all about thunderstorms or rain as I actually enjoy running in the rain – but the forecast was calling for 85 degrees with 79% humidity at 7:00 p.m. That is “hot” no matter how you slice it and although I would only be running for approximately 20 minutes or so – the weather was certainly going to be a major factor when it came to my finishing time.
How would we deal with the above “variables”? Well, we were about to find out.
Because I like to break down every race into manageable bit-sized portions to keep me on track, I jotted down the following “splits” to bring me in at my goal time for the night:
I packed my race bag into the truck and headed over to the trail at 6:30 p.m. – just enough time to park, get my timing chip and do a few strides before changing from my training shoes into my race flats. I decided to go with my Brooks T6 Racers in a game-time decision as I wanted to see how they held up over the 3.1 mile course. To that point I had only raced in my flats in the Congress Avenue Mile a couple of weeks before.
Being my first time racing in the series, I wasn’t too sure what to expect, but there was quite a good turnout with well more than 100 runners ranging from teens to 60+ years in age. I did a few warm-up strides in my trainers then switched out to my racing flats, tied on my timing chip and got ready to roll.
Mile 1: I wanted to run a quick first mile, so I got right behind the high-school boys who looked very “runnerish” and tried to hang with them for the first half-mile. Without looking at my watch I felt like I was running at a nice comfortable pace and as we left the loop by the lake and headed up hill to the first mile check-point I thought I was running just about spot on my goal pace.
My Garmin sounded with a beep and I turned in my first mile at 6:24, just :01 seconds off of goal.
Mile 2: At the end of a mile of running I am usually just starting to work into a nice “lather”. Not too much sweat has accumulated on my running shirt and shorts and I am starting to “feel it”. Wednesday night was a much different situation however as I was already soaked to the bone in sweat.
I was going to have to slow down my pace a bit if I was going to have anything left to crest the uphill section of the course from the 2.2 to 2.8 mile point of the race.
I had hoped to run a 6:15 second mile – but knew that was pure folly in the conditions. I stuck with the effort I wanted to expend instead of fixating on my watch and at the sound of the beep at mile 2 I had turned in a 6:35 mile. Those :20 seconds would be unrecoverable in the conditions, but I was holding my place among the runners and had not been passed to this point. I was running a strong race and was anxious to see how I would fare on the climb to the top of the dam.
Mile 3: This was a mile that I had originally hoped to run in 6:45 – but again – given the conditions that was probably a bit too aggressive. I took aim at two young runners who I had been trailing by 100 meters or so to this point. I knew that this part of the course was one I had run many, many times in my training and thought that it was my best opportunity to close in on them.
I kept my legs churning, stayed tall in my strides and began to gain on the two runners ahead. I would reach and pass them long before we crested the top of the hill. As I finally reached the 3 mile point I glanced down at my watch and had turned in a 6:47 third mile. Strong split all things considered.
Finish: All that was left was the final .10 miles where I would pick up the pace and kick to a :36 second closing time. Just one second off of my goal for that final 1/10 of a mile.
Total time 20:23 which would amount to an age-group victory for me in my first race in the series and a 10th place finish overall. Not a PR for me, but all things considered a time that I am proud of for a Wednesday night.
With our “big race” approaching in 10 days I will have to skip next week’s Race #6 in the series – but I do plan on making it to the next few races after Holland, TX. Running these events will make my speedwork this summer much more enjoyable than running intervals and tempo runs on my own.
I fully expect my times to rise as the temperature here in Austin does the same thing. But these weekly races will certainly make me a much stronger runner at the 5K distance and provide me with a great opportunity to log a lot of “race experience” in a short period of time.
Besides, who doesn’t like taking home a blue ribbon on a Wednesday night?