After a tough week of training, Saturday morning arrived and it was time for a ride out to Georgetown, TX for the 2nd Running of the Harvest 5K. The race is held at San Gabriel Park, where the out and back course follows the path along the San Gabriel River.
15 days prior to our signature Fall Race, the small 5K race was just what the Doctor ordered as I wanted one more “race day” prior to IBM. Despite a flat course and cool temperatures, I knew that this was going to be a tough race for me as I had a really pushed the limits this week.
Tuesday morning’s “Dress Rehearsal” for IBM was only 4 days in my rear-view mirror. Those 6.2 miles at 6:24 goal pace were followed up by 10X Hill Repeats on Thursday. Even with an off-day from running on Friday, I knew my legs would not have the snap in them that I hope to have at IBM.
That said, I knew that I really wanted one more race on the calendar before the Uptown Classic. I had not raced since the NOCC Balance 5K the day before Landry was born, on August 28th. Hard to believe that she is already 5-weeks old, time really does fly as everyone has been telling us.
Dawn was going to bring Landry to the race as well as to our post-race breakfast at the Monument Café in downtown Georgetown – so I had a lot to look forward to after the 5K.
I drove out to the park and checked in at the volunteer table. Bib number 60 was passed over to me, and I picked up my chip from the official timers. 154 runners had registered for the event, which was a slightly smaller field than the first running one year ago according to the Race Director.
I did a few strides, warmed-up with a light 1/2 mile jog and returned to the truck to change into my Brooks T-6 racing flats. The low-key event was good on the one hand, as this really was a “tune-up” race – not the time to do anything crazy.
On the other hand I could tell that I was having a hard time finding that race day mojo. It felt more like a training run to me than a race.
I chatted with a few runners, looked for a “rabbit” in the crowd to chase but I could not find any young guys that had that “runnerish” look to them. I edged to the front of the starting line and with a toot of the horn we were off.
After 20 strides I was out front and leading the pack onto the course. The granite trail quickly transitioned to a concrete path after only 2/10 of a mile, which meant it was going to be a hard unforgiving course over the 3.1 miles.
Without anyone ahead to chase I tried to settle into a comfortably hard pace. My leg turnover felt strong, but not like it had previously at the Cougar Classic or the NOCC Balance where we posted identical times of 18:12. I was searching for that “gear”, but couldn’t seem to lock in. At the 1 mile sign I glanced down at my GPS and we had posted a 5:56 first mile.
To have a shot at a new PR I would have to get out at 5:45 at the bare minimum over the first mile. The 5:56 split while not terribly slow, definitely meant that a PR was definitely not in the cards for me on Saturday. Just keep pushing I thought to myself as this event really was about running a smart solid race and continuing to train those legs to churn quickly and confidently.
I looked ahead to the water stop at the 1.25 mile point and I was still running out front. I could hear the second place runner’s footfalls behind me on the cement path and guessed that I was between :03-:05 seconds ahead of his pace.
Without someone to chase I felt my pace slowing. It is challenging sometimes to know if you are truly slowing down, or if the fatigue at this point of the race is playing tricks on you and it just feels that way. I had the feeling that I was running somewhere around 6:10 per mile pace, but as I approached the turnaround point I had to slow down further to virtually come to a full stop and head back the direction we had come from.
I reached the turnaround point at the 1.55 mile mark and got a peak at the runner who was closing in on me. My estimate was just about right as he was running approximately :05 seconds behind me.
We reached the 2-mile mark and I glanced down at my watch. I had posted a 6:16 2nd mile, :21 seconds behind what I would consider my “perfect” 5K pace for that part of the course. I was still running in first place, but I knew that wasn’t going to last.
With 6/10 of a mile to go the second place runner (Scott) pulled alongside me and I let him slide past. I had found my rhythm a bit on mile number three, but I was just lacking that killer instinct required to hang on to the lead.
I’m not sure if it was the fact that I was fatigued from my week of training, that I was mentally on a “tune-up” run rather than an all out “race” or if I simply didn’t have the “Eye of the Tiger” on Saturday, but I was perfectly content running my final mile at my pace and letting Scott go on for the win.
Mile three came in at 6:03 pace, showing me that I was still running strong. I had trimmed :13 seconds from my mile number two split. It was too little too late however. I kicked for the final 1/10 of a mile with my pace dropping to 5:17 and came in just under 19:00 minutes at 18:56.
2nd Place overall, 1st place in my age group.
I was feeling kind of “blah” about the race when I walked up to Scott to congratulate him. He ran strong, closed hard and deserved the win, no doubt about it. I remarked how I just couldn’t put the hammer down over mile 2, that something was missing. He told me how thankful he was to have me out front to set the pace for him and that it is so much easier to “chase” than to “be chased”.
I couldn’t agree more. One of the things I love about racing is how I feel like I learn something each and every time out. What I learned today is that if I am ever fortunate enough to find myself out front again, I will need to tap into that intensity necessary to keep pushing pace and chase after the win. Mental toughness is a big part of distance running, I feel like I came up a bit short in that department at Harvest Fest.
Just as I was shaking the cobwebs loose and starting to appreciate the beautiful morning and a solid if not spectacular effort – my whole perspective changed. Up on the hill I spotted Dawn and Landry who had arrived in time to see me finish the race.
This was Landry’s first ever race with Mom and Dad, so automatically it became my favorite.
She slept through just about all of it, but that’s o.k., that’s pretty much her job these days. Sleep, eat and fill diapers. Pretty good gig if you can get it.
We stayed around for the awards ceremony and I was able to take Landry up with me to receive our Age Group Award – Landry got the loudest applause of any of the runners there – which truly made my day.
So now it’s on to IBM. Just 14 days to go. It will be the first “short race” of my running “career” where my finishing time truly does matter. If we can break that sub 40:00 minute mark we will have earned our spot “up front” with the elite amateurs at the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston this spring.
I’m hoping to race well at the CRBR as I’m sure Keith, Garris and Fuller will be there to cheer me on.
To get there we will train hard this week, then back off quite a bit in the week leading up to IBM in order to rest those legs and show up absolutely primed for a huge effort on October 17th.
Between now and then I think I better start listening to Survivor a lot on my training runs and maybe watch Rocky III re-runs a few times to get back that “Eye of the Tiger”.
Dom, if you have a spare moment, make sure you stop by in two weeks and give me a swift kick in the rear if I start easing up on that course. Starting with tomorrow’s 15-mile training run, it’s time to go to work.