New Year’s Morning and less than 3 miles from our home they were running the 8th Annual Resolution Run 5K at St. Phillips Methodist Church. Just seven weeks before the Austin Marathon, I was not sure if I would have the chance to do any racing before the 3M Half-Marathon on January 30th.
But New Year’s Day happened to fall during a step-back week for me, and even though I was coming off a 21-mile long run last Sunday and a tough hill repeat session on Thursday, this weekend’s mileage was greatly reduced. Just 6.2 miles on Saturday and an easy 12-mile run on Sunday.
If I ran home from the race, I would be able to get my 6.2 miles in and do a little New Year’s Day Racing. Sounded like too good an opportunity to pass up.
The only drawback about the race was the start time of 11:00 a.m., which is much later than I am accustomed to running. Normally I just hop out of bed, dress, drink some water and head out for my run. Sometime around 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. and I’m out pounding the pavement.
A 5 hour later start introduces breakfast, bathroom breaks etc., all things that can play havoc with race day performance.
I wasn’t too sure about my goal for the race, coming in the latter stages of marathon training when I am a little bit beat up. But my legs felt pretty good on Saturday morning and I decided that I would let it all hang out. Shoot for a PR at the 5K distance if I could get one and cross off one of my 2011 goals before lunchtime on day 1 of the year.
Dawn and Landry were kind enough to drive me up to the race start at 10:00 a.m., an hour before gun time. This would allow me to throw a pair of my training shoes in my race bag, change into them after the race and run home to get in my 6.2 miles for the day.
At the church there was hot coffee, Round Rock Doughnuts and Hot Chocolate. There were also runners. A TON of runners. With just 10 minutes to go before race time, there were still more than 50 runners in line to register and pick up their timing chips.
The run attracted 575 participants this year, up 30% from last year’s race. It was going to be crowded out there for sure.
Instead of my usual 15 minute warm-up prior to the gun, I decided to stay indoors up until 10:55 and just do a quick warm up in front of the starting area to stay warm.
Conditions were just about perfect for racing. 49 degrees and sunny with a variable wind blowing around 6-8 mph. Shorts, Singlet and lightweight gloves were all I needed to be comfortable. Not bad for a January 1st race day.
Mile 1: I snuck into the starting area and tucked in just behind the first group of runners. Normally this would be the “leaders” area, but there were some slower recreational runners up front. Navigating the opening 2/10 of a mile was going to be a little tricky.
I’ve learned the value of getting off quickly in these short 5K races as the distance is not long enough to make up a lot of time if you post a slow first mile. At the gun I zipped to the left side of the course and pulled up behind the leaders. I was hoping to open with a 5:35 mile and settle in around 6:00 min./mile pace for mile two.
Down the opening stretch and through the first turn to the left my legs were churning quickly and I felt very light on my feet. My Brooks T6 racers felt fast and light. I knew my opening mile was going to be a quick one, but I was starting to get a little concerned that I got out too fast.
At the 1 mile mark my watch beeped with an opening split of 5:28. Ouch. Too Fast.
Mile 2: The course turned to the left and kicked off mile number two with an incline. Nothing like some of the hills we have been racing lately, but it was definitely enough to slow pace :05-:10 seconds per mile.
I was trying to lock in at 6:00 min./mile pace but could feel my legs getting heavy. Like most 5K races, the middle mile is the key mile for me. If I am able to push hard and hold pace here, the final mile will just boil down to gut-check time.
I had a pair of runners pull ahead of me over this section dropping me back to 8th place overall. I felt like the top 10 would be where I would be running given the field, so that was just about right. I knew I wasn’t having a great mile however and as my watch beeped at the mile 2 mark, my thoughts were spot on.
6:05. I needed to get it back together over mile 3.
Mile 3: There is something about the final mile of a race. 5K, 10K, Half-Marathon, Marathon – that final mile brings with it a certain rush. I like to tell myself that I can do just about anything for a mile, and that helps me push hard when my legs and lungs start telling me differently.
The course started to wind out of the neighborhood and back uphill towards the start/finish area. As soon as we came out of the clearing with 4/10 of a mile to go the wind that was blowing was directly into the faces of the runners. Not the final push that I was hoping for.
At the beep mile number 3 came in at 5:48 pace. Just 1/10 of a mile to go.
The Finish: As the finish line came into view I was doing math in my head. Our previous best at the 5K distance was 18:12. When I glanced down at my wrist I saw 17:50, 17:51, once again, it was going to be awfully close.
I heard some footsteps behind me and went into my finishing kick. It is always easier to “chase” than to “be chased” down the finishing stretch of a race. I had nobody to catch up ahead, but was determined not to give up my track position.
As I kicked to the finishing chute I heard the footsteps behind me quieting. I hit the timing mat with a time of 18:12. (5:52 pace)
Tying my 5K PR to the very last second.
Normally I would have been disappointed with coming so close to setting a new PR, but given all of the variables surrounding the race, my workouts and mileage this week, I was absolutely not “primed” and rested for a “big race”.
To tie our PR, finish 8th overall and 2nd place in our Age Group was a pretty great way to kick off 2011. The perfect way to start what I hope will be a great year of running and racing.
I even got a chance to hang out with Baby Landry post race and introduce her to some of our runner friends.
As for the run home, another 3.1 miles in 20:34 (6:38 pace), pretty solid way to wrap up our Saturday.
Sunday calls for a 12-mile Marathon Pace run, leaving just 7 more weeks to Marathon Sunday.
Look out Austin; we’re looking pretty good right now.