This was my first race back since Grandma's Marathon in June. I'm not a fan of 5Ks. Or August races. Or August 5Ks. But racing is one of those things that needs to be done regularly, or you get rusty.
How rusty was I? Well, let's look at the splits....
Mile 1: 6:52 (admittedly most of this mile is uphill, but come on...)
Mile 2: 6:27
Mile 3: 6:12 (downhill)
Last bit - 46 seconds
Um...yeah. I'm a huge believer in "start slow/finish fast", but I think I overdid it a bit here. Keep in mind that 6:52 is slower than half marathon pace for me.
Granted, going out carefully was my strategy for multiple reasons. The Leesburg 5K course starts on a downhill for about a third of a mile, then has a fairly significant climb for the next mile, before leveling off and then gently descending back to the start. I a) run best with a negative split by effort and b) cannot recover from oxygen debt once I'm in it. Thus, the last thing I wanted to do was to blast the hill.
Additionally, I know that when I haven't raced for a while, I sometimes go out faster than I should, and pay for it at the end. I wanted to avoid that mistake today.
So when the gun went off and everyone surged on the downhill that started the race, I hung back and let them flow past me - a huge mass of people. With the solid mile-long climb ahead of us, I figured many of them would come back to me. After we turned and began to climb, I held my same effort level. For about 30 seconds, people continued to pass me. Then the tide started to shift, gently but inexorably, and I stopped being passed and started passing people.
I held my controlled effort until I hit the first mile marker, at which point I upped things a bit (and felt a bit of sympathy for those who were wilting this early in the race). I was still fairly in control - I wanted to be able to make full use of the downhill on the way back - but my increased effort meant that I was pushing through various groups, and picking off women right and left (didn't care about the guys that much).
This second part of the course involved a hairpin turn and also a loop through a high school parking lot that was marked with cones. Things got a bit tricky here - like trying to pass slower drivers while winding through a construction zone on the highway. Or like trying to do a workout on a very crowded track.
I also found the route through the high school a bit confusing - there were cones, but it was never clear to me which side of the cones we were supposed to be on. I just did whatever the person ahead of me did, and hoped it was the right path.
Another tight turn out of the school lot and we were headed towards the trail - we'd make a right turn there and take that nearly all the way to the finish line. As we turned onto the trail, I dropped my version of a hammer, and passed the last woman/girl in front of me. At that point, there was no one left ahead of me (that I could see) to chase, so the last mile became a hard solo push. It would have been nice to have someone ahead of me to focus on, but I guess the flip side of that is that it's better to be ahead of others than behind them.
I hauled ass down to the last turn, which was followed by fairly steep hill to the finish.
I have to admit, I love it when shorter races have steep uphills at or near the end. I'm not a very good uphill runner, but I am very willing to hurt pretty hard at the end of a race. And while hills in the beginner or middle of a course reward the runner who is good at running uphill, a hill at end of the course benefits the runner who is willing to close his or her eyes and hurt like hell while counting to 10 repeatedly.
When I turned the corner, I just forgot about the previous parts of the race and imagined I was doing a hill repeat workout - up and over - worry about oxygen after you're done. And then I was done, and started worrying about oxygen again. And remembered that I really hate 5Ks.
I was a bit disappointed when I first flipped my watch and saw the time - it had felt like I had run much faster. And then I checked the splits and realized that I had, except for the first mile. Ah well. As pacing mistakes go, I'd rather make that one than another. And that's why we run rust-busters, right?
That time was also good enough for 4th overall female. In a race where the top three get cash. D'oh. But such is life. Knocking the rust off and getting out of my marathon pace comfort zone was the primary goal of this race, and I did that, so woo.
- At race start, the temperature was 69, dew point 62. That's not bad for an August race in Northern Virginia.
- Left my house at 5:45, and got to Leesburg around 6:25. Arguably a bit early for a 7:45 race, but I needed to register, and also knew that parking could be tight. This was about perfect timing - I found parking fairly easily, but traffic started to back up and snarl about 5 minutes after I arrived.
- Warmed-up by jogging the 5K course once, and then did some drills, an extended stride, and a few shorter strides.
- Allergies and air quality were bugging me pretty badly. Oddly enough, I didn't feel like they affected my race at all. But despite using my asthma meds pre-race, I really struggled to catch my breath post-race, and during my cool-down jog an hour later I felt like I had a tight band across my chest that wouldn't let me breathe (even checked my sports bra and heart rate strap to confirm they weren't too tight). First frost can't get here soon enough.
- I'm amused by the fact that I've broken 40 for 10K in the past few years, but not 20 for 5K. Probably part of this is that I need to run a fast 5K course in cold weather.
- I met a reader post race! And Scott was not only nice enough to introduce himself to me, he also had a great race - breaking 20. Excellent!
- I got an age group award, which consisted of a gift certificate to a running store (honestly, the best award besides cash) and a cowbell. Cat is not quite sure what to think of cowbell.