Saturday, April 12, 2008

Trinity Lutheran Step by Step 5K

5K, 18:57 official, 6:06 pace

I achieved a new PR today at the 5000 meter distance! It came as a slight surprise because I've been running a lot of miles over the past three weeks (including lots of hills, speed work and races) and I'm running on tired legs.

4/7/08-4/11/08 32.49 (so far this week)
3/31/08-4/6/08 55.60
3/24/08-3/30/08 58.74
3/17/08-3/23/08 18.28
3/10/08-3/16/08 31.16
3/3/08-3/9/08 17.18

This is a small race without chip timing or a certified course, and I probably wouldn't have even know about it except that this is one of the races that the Dynegy Running Club supports. Knowing it would be a smaller race, I thought I could perhaps score an age group top five finish, which is something that hardly ever happens for me.

I looked at the starting line and decided I'd use this race to practice my strategy. I wanted to run with the lead pack for as long as possible, even if it meant going out too early, just to be a part of the lead. When the gun sounded, dozens of kids took off and I tried to make sure I didn't trip on any of them. I remembered my lesson from the CCC10K (where an 8ish year old boy beat me), and wanted to make sure none of those kids built up too much of a lead. Within a quarter mile the rabbit appeared to be a lady who was doing her best to distance herself from the rest of the pack. She looked strong and fit. Since I spotted the likely winner, I pushed forward to run with her for as long as I could.

I caught up to her at the half mile mark as we went up the hill of an overpass. I own hills (or at least I tell myself that) so I used those 50 yards to catch up with her. I briefly toyed with the idea of running just enough behind her that she couldn't see my shadow and wouldn't know I was on her tail. But I saw my chance to pass her on this hill and I took the lead. One sixth of the way into the race, for the first time in my life, I was in the lead of a distance race.

My pace was faster than I believed I could maintain, but I thought to myself that having the lead for a few moments was better than never having a lead at all, so I pushed through. One mile into the race, at the water stop, I was still in the lead. I started to entertain crazy thoughts that I could win this thing, although I assumed one of the stronger runners was picking their moment to blow my doors off as they passed me.

At this point I hadn't looked behind me up, so I didn't know if someone was 10 feet away or 50. Since I can't hear well, I couldn't depend on hearing footsteps to know. I looked for shadows since the sun was on my back, but that would only tell me if someone was 5 or 6 feet away. The one clue I had that I was opening a lead was that the crowd would stop cheering as I passed. I interpreted that to mean that nobody was immediately behind me.

At the turnaround point, half way into the race, I tried my best to do a quick 180 degree turn so I could size up my lead. To my surprise, I think it was about 15-20 yards at this point. At this point I thought this race was mine to win as long as I was willing to work for it. I wanted to crush the person behind me with a quick burst so they would concentrate on taking second instead of thinking they could take first.

I pushed for at least a tenth of a mile, and then again when I hit the two mile mark after being buoyed by the cheers of my fellow Dynegy runners and the people at the water stop for mile two. With one mile left to go, I was feeling good from a cardio perspective. But it was here that I felt weakness in my legs for the first time. I wasn't going to let pain hold me back.

The last mile was difficult, but exciting at the same time. Each step brought me closer to the finish, but I didn't have any idea if my bursts were working or if I was being closely followed. In my mind, to look back would either signal weakness or perhaps pompousness. Either way, it would encourage whoever was behind me. Instead I concentrated on running hard and preparing myself for a huge kick at the end if it became necessary. I had enough left in the tank that I could really impress anyone who wanted to take away my lead.

With a little less than a half mile left, I picked up the pace to about a 5:50 mile. Now I was thinking about trying to break 19 minutes as well as win. With about a quarter mile to go my breathing became extremely labored, with two breaths in for every one out (as opposed to my normal aerobic threshold of 2/2). I knew this wasn't sustainable, but I also knew it didn't need to last more than two more minutes. I stole my one and only glance back for the briefest of seconds to see if anyone would challenge me for the finish, and I didn't see anyone. I looked forward and saw that the start line was gone and I had no idea where the finish line was. The pace car was gone now, and I didn't see any race personnel to guide me. But as I got closer I noticed the final turn, and the finish was only 25 yards away.

I crossed the finish line for a new PR and a first place overall finish.

Surreal moments/thoughts:
1) Not having anyone to follow. The only thing in front of me was the pace car, and at times it was a bit too far ahead for my comfort. I had to ask at two intersections which way the turn was because the last thing I wanted to do was lose because I took a wrong turn.
2) Having people cheer for me at the water stop and along the course as the first place runner. It just felt funny that their cheers were "fresh", that nobody had passed before me.
3) Telling my wife and in-laws that I won when they asked me how I did.
4) Thanks to Lynette, Bernard and Ravi, my fellow "Dyners", for cheering me along during the course. I used your support as motivation not to let you down by fading at the end.
5) A heartfelt apology goes out to the race administrators and volunteers because I could not attend the award ceremony. I realized it was poor form not to attend. But my in-laws came into town in order to drive to Austin for the wild flowers, and I had to hit the road as soon as I finished the race.
6) As I mentioned, this was a small race (maybe 100 people?). Most of the better athletes in Houston were either taking a break from a recently taxing race schedule, running other 5Ks that day, or riding in the MS150, a bike ride from Houston to Austin aimed at raising money for multiple sclerosis. So the field wasn't exactly stacked. But I still take pride in setting my personal record at this distance and it's exciting to wonder if I'll ever be able to contest any larger races as I continue to improve.

Garmin 1/2 mile splits:
2:57 (push to catch up to the lead runner)
3:04 (settle in and try not to die too early)
3:03 (at the 1.5 mile mark is where I saw to magnitude of my lead for the first time)
2:59 (my push to gain separation from my fellow runners)
3:06 (hills on Memorial slowed me down a bit and I'm feeling my leg fatigue)
2:58 (tried to finish this thing off with a strong finish)
0:48 (for .14 miles on the Garmin, 5:42 pace, didn't have to kick as hard as I was prepared to do)

TDLY - 2.65 miles, 22:24, 8:27 pace, Max HR = 171, Avg HR = 157. From the apartment to the outer loop of Hermann Park.

1 comment:

Kevin said...

A first place finish is a first place finish. You don't have to tell anyone how many people were in the race. Congradulations on the place and the PR.