Sunday, July 31, 2016

Race report: Anchor Run 5K, July 31, 2016

I ran the "Anchor Run 5K" in Odenton Md today, finishing in a time of 20:22, which was good enough for the female win.  And also top master, male or female (just had to get that in there).

The obvious question for all of my local friends was: why Odenton?  (And also, where the heck is Odenton?).

Answer: Odenton is near Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County in Maryland, and not too far from Annapolis.  Like anyone who lives in Northern Virginia, I have a unconscious bias where anything in Virginia is "close," while anything in DC or Maryland is "far." (excepting Georgetown.)  Odenton was actually only a 40 minute drive for me, slightly closer than Leesburg, Virginia (where I sometimes drive to race).  It just seems further since it's closer to Baltimore than to DC.

The other reason is that I wanted to race, I wanted to race on Sunday, July 31 for multiple scheduling reasons, and I wanted to race no further than 5K, since it's been pretty hot and humid recently.  That left me with one option - the Anchor Run.

I had naive hopes when I registered that the course  might be fairly fast - Annapolis is flat, right?  But those hopes were shot down (a nod to the Naval theme of this race) when I played with Map My Run and confirmed that no, this race was not flat (Annapolis ain't flat either).  But what the heck, I really wanted a race, not a time trial, so hills were fine.


I showed up at the race start at 6:30 am - perfect timing to grab my bib and head out for my warm-up jog.  For 5K races, I usually just jog the course once - I need a three mile warm-up anyway, and I like having some idea of where the course goes.  The first mile of the course was fairly easy to follow, and well signed, but then the race turned right, into a park with a nice collection of bike trails.  I very quickly got confused as to where I was, and rather than muddle my way through and risk missing the start of the race, I just turned around and retraced my steps to the start area.

Per my normal warm-up practice, I inserted 90 seconds of hard running into the end of my warm-up, with the goal of elevating my heart rate up to something close to what I'd be holding during the 5K race.  I've found that I race short distances much better when I do this, finishing up about 10 minutes before the start.  I'm a runner who always struggles with the first rep or lap of a workout, and so I like to get that first lap out of the way before the start of the race.  Since there was a big hill heading towards the start area, I did my hard run up that.  It got my heart pumping fairly nicely.


A few drills and strides, and then we were off.  The first few seconds of the race were a mad sprint through the parking lot, before a sharp pair of turns that routed up onto a narrow paved trail, and then a sidewalk.  As is normal (and expected) I was dropped massively during this first mad dash.  I reminded myself that 5Ks could be lost in the first minute, but never won, and hung back, letting the chaos burn itself out ahead of me.  This resulted in me going out a bit more conservatively than I would have liked, but the alternative was to try to elbow my way through people on a narrow path, which would have done nothing but burn energy.  So I waited.

Eventually the sidewalk got a little more spacious, and there was room to do some passing.  So I started patiently working my way through as I was able.  Another woman had sprinted past me at the very start of the race, but I was able to pass her here, along with a few others.  A bit later (about 1200m into the race) the course routed us around a traffic circle in front of a school.  By that point, I had already put about 30 seconds on her, with no other woman in sight.  And I was still holding a fairly conservative effort.  It sounds obnoxious, but at that point I realized that I had the overall female win in hand unless I did something monumentally stupid.

The problem with a racing strategy of "don't do something really stupid" is that it's not conducive to fast running.  If I know I have the female win in hand, I tend to shut down and just cruise.  I need competition in order to race well.   Especially when it's hot, and I'm racing a 5K, because I despise hot 5K races.

So I mentally flipped a switch and decided I'd target the overall masters win, male or female (a category I just made up on the spot.)  Fortunately, I had two older men running near me, with another a little further down the road.  Game on.

As we continued past mile 1, downhill, I patiently stalked my potential victims.  One of them surged ahead, and I let him go, but kept him in my sights.  Shortly after the first mile marker, the course took a hard right turn into the park and the bike paths.  It was nice, in that it was a flowing downhill and shaded from the bright sun.  It was also not so nice, in that the bike path was fairly twisty, curving around trees and other stuff.

I'm a very good downhill runner, and so normally I can milk long downhill stretches for a nice speed boost, before defending my turf on the uphill return.  However, the winding nature of the bike path made it hard to really get rolling.  The path was also a bit slick in places from the previous evening's heavy rain storms, meaning I had to slow down to negotiate each twist carefully, bleeding momentum.   But we all run the same course (hopefully), and so I just kept at it, managing to edge my way past male masters buddies/foes 1 and 2.

(I'll take a brief pause here, to allow all of my technical trail running friends roll their eyes at my kvetching about a bit of mud and some turns on a downhill asphalt path)

A bit after mile 2, we exited the park, rejoining the roads for the climb back to the finish. The good was that I now had a nice straight, fairly open path to run.  The bad was that it was uphill, and fairly steep.  But I could see my good buddy, male master number 3 (collect them all!), and so I got to work on him.

By the time I hit the top of the hill, I had passed him, and now it was just me and the finish line.  I mad the right turn into the parking lot, only to realize that the course required me to run PAST the finish arch to a set of cones, before doing a 180 and running back to the finish.  Not nice.  But many courses do this or some variant, so good to get the practice.

For the record, this is reaalllly mean.

As always, I ran this one watchless, so I didn't know my time until I saw the finish clock.  I was slightly disappointed to see it ticking past 20, but not terribly surprised.  I think I'm actually in really good shape right now, but between the hills, the difficulty of the course, and today's hot and humid conditions, it wasn't realistic to expect a fast time.  I thought I ran pretty well for the course and the weather, and it's hard to get too upset about a win.  Plus the race was managed very well, with enthusiastic volunteers manning the course to keep us all on track through the park.   Not all races are well managed or affordable, so it's nice to run one that is.


Splits per my Garmin were:

Mile 1: 6:32
Mile 2: 7:46 (1.17 miles according to Garmin - pace of 6:39)
Mile 3 plus last bit: 6:05  (.91 miles according to Garmin, pace of 6:39)

What's interesting here is that the second split is where most of the elevation loss was, and should have been my fastest split by far.  And yet I didn't run it any faster than the final split, which had a significant uphill in it.  I think this reflects all the speed lost on the bike path through the park, which was most of that split.

Other notes:
Dorky photo of me
after the finish.
Cuz why not.

  • I ended up 7th overall (out of about 250), top female, and top masters male or female.  So yay.
  • For the female win, I received a gift card to a local running store.   Normally this would be problematic, since I don't live in the area, and the running store didn't open until noon today. But fortunately, Brian and I are headed back that way next Saturday, so hopefully I can sweet talk him into a quick visit to the running store.
  • According to the emailed results I received, the air temp for the race was 82, with a "feels like" of 89.  I honestly don't think it was that bad.  But hey, never reject any excuse that has an appearance of legitimacy.  [Wunderground says temp 76, DP 74, which sounds more reasonable]
  • Breathing was great.  Never an issue.  No hanging over the side of the fence when I finished the race.  Awesome.
  • Caramel Machiatto GU in the morning pre-race.  Lotsa water before and after.

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