Monday, November 21, 2011

Race Report: Dash for Dad 5k

I haven’t made a serious effort at a 5k PR since last December.  I’ve entered a few 5k’s in the past 12 months, but treated them as fun runs, running and walking with friends.  I did run the St. Augustine Bridge of Lions 5k at my maximum effort, but give me a break, that was July, and my time reflected the hot, humid conditions.

So, on an almost spur of the moment decision, I entered the Dash for Dad 5k in The Villages, FL a charity race to benefit prostate cancer research and treatment.

I have run a lot of 400m intervals over the past few months and I hoped that all of that effort would reward me with a new 5k PR.  My goals for the race were to break through that 23:00 wall I’ve been slamming into and to try to clock a mile under 7:00.

This was a small race run near a retirement community and the competition reflected that fact.  100 yards from the start I found myself among the leaders in 4th place behind a young kid who took off like a flash of lightning and a couple that appeared to be running together.  Less than half a mile in, the Flash faded, slowed to a walk, and I found myself in 3rd place two steps back from the leaders.  My pace felt comfortably hard and I knew I had enough speed in me to take the lead for the first time ever.  I checked my pace though and realized I was already running too fast to maintain so I eased in behind the leaders.  A few minutes later we were passed by another younger guy who ultimately won the race and the threesome slowly started to pull away from me.

For most of the first mile I maintained a pace under 7:00 but as I approached the mile marker I saw the clock tick off 6:58…6:59…7:00 (damn!) and finally passed it 6 seconds later.  7:06, beating my fastest mile ever by 8 seconds but just missing that 7:00 goal.  Well there were still two more miles left in the race.

That’s when I heard Mr. Green making his move.  I’ll call him Mr. Green because he was dressed in green.  He spotted me warming up before the race, jokingly warned me not to run too fast, and took to calling me Mr. Speedy.  He even warned other people about me at the start line – “Watch out for Mr. Speedy over here.”  When I heard those footsteps behind me I knew exactly who it was. I glanced over my shoulder and there he was, 10-15 years my junior and built like a pro running back I leaned forward and vowed to hold him off as long as I could.

The turnaround for the course was at the end of a cul-de-sac. The turn was a little tight but much better than turning on a traffic cone as is often the case in these smaller races.  I held off Mr. Green until just after that turn.  As he passed I gave him a thumbs up and took pride in the effort that showed on his face.  At least I didn’t make it easy for him.

At two miles the first three runners were still in sight but there was no way I was catching them.  Mr. Green was close but I was struggling to keep him in striking distance.  My only hope was a small hill that I remembered in the first mile.  If I was lucky, Mr. Green was weak on hills and I might have an opportunity to catch him.  I looked behind me and the next runner was no threat.  I realized I had a lock on 5th place overall and a shot at 4th.

My hopes were dashed though as he held firmly onto his lead.  I didn’t gain any distance on him on the hill and as we reached the final stretch he started to slowly increase his lead.  I was really starting to feel the effort and I looked at my watch remembering that my real adversary in this race was time – that 23:00 barrier.  I was slowing down and I knew it was going to be close.

The course circled around toward the finish line so that the clock was not visible until the last minute.  I had to resort to repeatedly checking my watch.  At 22:23 I tried to judge the distance left, it didn’t look good.   22:45…22:55…23:00 (dangit!)  I finally finished the final turn and crossed the finish line 28 seconds later.

I had a good conversation with Mr. Green (his real name was Richard) after the race.  He told me that I helped to push him during the race.  I think I surprised him which makes me feel good.

So I finished with no PR and no 7:00 minute mile. On the positive side though I did run my fastest mile ever 7:06, it was my first top 5 finish in a race, first time ever running in the front of the pack, and I won a first in age group award.  So I’m still happy with how the race went.

Kudos to the race organizer Front Running Sports for well run race and to the principal sponsors Zero (The Project to End Prostate Cancer), The Advanced Prostate Cancer Institute, and all of the other sponsors.  The race went off without a hitch and the post race goodies were extravagant.  This is the second year for this nationwide charity race which is hoping to match the success of the Susan G. Koman breast cancer races.

So now for the excuses analysis - Why didn’t I hit my goals?

This was only 20 days out from the Marine Corps Marathon.  I feel great, but it’s possible I’m not fully recovered from that race.

I haven’t done any speed work since I started my taper for the MCM and haven’t done any serious training since the MCM.  I’ve been focused on having fun running in sandals for the past few weeks.

It was also a pretty warm day.  The temperature at the start was in the upper 60’s.  It was comfortable but not optimal.

I probably started out too fast and burnt up a lot of energy trying to hold off and then keep up with Mr. Green.  If I had run a more conservative race in the first half I might have had more energy for a kick at the end.

Lessons learned.  With 5k’s virtually every weekend for the next few months I think I have a pretty good shot at having a breakout race before spring.

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