I’m happy to report that this morning I completed my third race in as many months. The race distance was 8K (53 yards short of 5 miles) and it really pushed the limits of my stamina. I’ve regularly run 5 or more miles over the last six months but usually at a comfortable (non-competitive) pace. I did well through most of the race but I did find myself questioning this whole running thing at one point. I’ll get to that further below.
Now that I’ve experienced racing a few times I know better what to expect. I arrived early to ensure a good parking spot and to allow enough time between check in and the start of the race. Despite my concerns about the planning (online registration was not enabled until the week of the race) the event was well organized and check in was orderly and efficient. I got my number, timing chip and t-shirt and got myself set up. I was alone so I stowed the non-essential items in my car and then did some stretching and warm up exercises. There were a number of people doing warm up runs but with the sun and the 65+ degree heat a warm up did not seem necessary. Most participants belonged to running clubs and there were many of those. Each club seemed to establish a base camp where they stood around and talked as we waited for the start. I was one of the odd men (and women) out but I chatted with a few people. I even showed another runner how to attach his timing chip and that made me realize that I’m no longer a complete newbie.
We began lining up about ten minutes prior to the start. I stayed on the sidelines where there was some shade as the sun was already bearing down at 9:05 AM. When I did get into place I was behind 30 or 40 other runners. Once the starting horn sounded we were off and, with the crowd ahead, it took me at least 15 seconds to pass the starting line. My plan was to start fast so I had to maneuver around some slower runners to get a clear area for running. I was pleased with my pace and very happy when I passed the display at mile 1 which showed 8:25. The course was balanced between hills and downhill stretches. I’d guess that overall it was balanced neutral to downhill. There were no killer hills but there were a few stretches where I had to put my head down and just push on for a distance. I was still tracking below 9:00/mi after mile 2 and, like the 5K in May, the time between miles two and three seemed to go very fast. I must have started to lose speed after the third mile because I had managed to hold off from being passed until then. I even passed a number of other runners after the second mile but as I headed toward mile four I got passed by at least five runners. I tried to maintain some speed on the downhill sections but I wasn’t feeling all that strong and started “borrowing” those stretches for recovery from the hill segments.
The last mile was the hardest and I seriously felt like I couldn’t maintain my pace too much longer. It felt a lot more like suffering than fun at that point. There were many people cheering as I got close to the finish and all the volunteers who were passing out water along the route were very gracious and encouraging. I felt slightly more energized once I saw the green field ahead that told me the finish line was close. Once I reached the grass I gave it everything I had and sprinted the final few hundred feet and noted that I had finished at 44:42 which meant that I beat 9:00 per mile.
Except I didn’t…
When I looked at the posted results near the finish line I was disappointed to see that I ran a 9:00 overall pace and it hit me that the 8K course was 53 yards shy of 5 miles! I started thinking about the crowded start and the fact that I probably would have beaten 9:00 if my starting position was closer to the line. But that’s an excuse, if I’d maintained the same pace for the last mile that I’d run for the first 4 I would have made my goal. It was my conditioning that prevented that and now I know that I have to train better for longer distances. I can only be grateful that it wasn’t a 10K!
Despite not beating 9:00/mi I’m happy that I came as close as I did. The post race experience was a blur. I remember having a banana, an orange slice and a bottle of water and I tried to keep moving to allow my heart rate to drop slowly. I was happy with the race I ran but I know where I need to improve. I’ve emerged a little more. So what’s next?