Fast times at the Race 4 Time (or, my blog’s first race report!)
As I alluded to in my last blog post, yesterday morning I got up at 6 am to head north to Wilmington, DE and run a race. It was the 4th Annual Race 4 Time 5k right along the riverfront, meaning it would be a legitimately flat, fast course. It also had a $2,500 prize purse, with the overall male & female winners getting $150 gift certificates to the Delaware Running Company and 1st, 2nd, 3rd in each age group getting $75, $50, $25 respectively. Looking at last year’s results, the elevation profile, and seeing all the coin being thrown out, I figured it would be an excellent race to to run as my first actual race of the year (I did that 5k in Boston back in March with Jess but that was definitely not racing for me). It had been ten weeks of really solid training since that windy 5,000m time trial on the track at Sparrow’s Point and with phase I of training winding down (two weeks left!) I wanted another check-in on my fitness levels. I was coming off a 72 mile week and this would be my second consecutive 70+ but I did some schedule rearranging to give myself a day off and allow me to race with at least moderately fresh legs (or fresher than they otherwise would be at least). I ran that mile time trial on Tuesday which gave me a little insight as to what I could potentially run in the race.
I got a decent night’s sleep Friday night and woke ready for action Saturday morning. Jess had come in the night before to come watch and cheer which was sweet. We got on the road at 7am which was about a half hour later than I wanted but c’est la vie. Got to the riverfront at 8ish, changed into my Brooks ID uniform, picked up my number and timing chip, and put on my Brooks T6 racers. It was getting kinda warm already but not nearly as bad as it had been on Tuesday morning. Even still, I didn’t need to do a full warm-up as planned, and settled for about a mile and a half jogging the last stretch of the race course, throwing in some 1:00 pick-ups to race pace. Then I went to the bathroom, took in some Gatorade, and headed over near the start area. The race was running a little behind schedule so I did a couple more quick strides around the parking lot to stay loose, hiding from the sun underneath a shady tree otherwise. Finally, they had all the timing stuff up and running and called us to the line. I took a spot just off the front, behind a guy in a Salisbury track uniform and just ahead of a blonde woman. There were a few faces I recognized from my few years of experience running and racing while I was at the University of Delaware. After a minute or so of instructions, the air horn sounded and we were off!
My goal was to run MY race, not get caught up in what was going on around me like I did last November. I figured shooting for something in the 18:10-18:20 range was a realistic, if possibly cautious, goal. The course immediately turns right after the line and heads down and around the minor league baseball stadium. Immediately, the eventual winner shot out and gapped everyone else by about 30-40m. I’d lose sight of him in about 3 minutes. A pack of four formed behind him and then there was me and a taller, older guy in a New Balance singlet a few seconds back of them. I wanted to “steal” that first mile, getting through it as fast as possible without really overexterting myself. I saw Jess as we turned away from the riverfront and neared one mile. She confirmed what I was feeling, that I was running relaxed and strong. I hit the mile mark in 5:30 and around this point the heat and the sun started becoming much more noticeable to me. As we turned towards the riverwalk, NB guy went ahead of me and two miles started to seem like a loooooong way to go. I think the sometimes wood/sometimes concrete of the riverwalk helped give me something other than how much I was starting to feel the racing. I focused primarily on just staying relaxed and fluid, and not losing contact with the NB guy. As we wound our way along the river, I saw Jess again just before mile two and she yelled something vaguely threatening at me that I processed as, “You better not slow down now you sonofabitch!” Then again, that might have just been what I was saying to myself in my head. Who knows?! I went through two miles in 11:21, and was not surprised at all that I’d slowed some, although I wasn’t rigging or anything. As we turned off the riverwalk, all that was left was a wider loop around the stadium and then a long straight stretch to the finish near Joe’s Crab Shack. What remained of the race was essentially what I had run for my warm-up and that provided a big mental boost, knowing about what was left ahead. I started feeling a little better knowing the end was approaching and began to push harder. I went by the NB guy I’d been with for most of the race just as his teammate went by both of us looking very strong. I started focusing on a guy wearing a blue sleeveless shirt about 50m ahead of me, trying to reel him in. As we turned the corner, I could see the finish line off in the distance and began to really pick up my turnover. Accelerating, I pulled away from NB guy and saw blue shirt get closer and closer. I saw Jess right around the 3 mile mark (which I didn’t see), but can’t remember if she had said anything. In fact, I don’t remember much of this final stretch except that it sucked. I could see the clock getting closer and thought I saw it change to 18:00. A few steps later, I realized it was still 17:4x and I gave it everything I had left. I crossed the line, hit my watch, and stopped to let the volunteer tear my tag. Then a little girl took the timing chip off my shoe as I stood there sweating like a dam burst and trying to force the hot, saturated air into my lungs. Jess found me and I’m pretty sure I told her repeatedly that I was going to die, couldn’t breathe, and that my femoral artery had burst. Clearly, I had left it all out on the course as my mental facilities were shot. Turns out, I was just exhausted, dehydrated, and my right groin was a little sore from the effort.
I walked over towards Joe’s Crab Shack, where the post-race goodies and awards were held. Stopped to get a very disappointing massage from a guy who looked horrified at how much I was sweating, then headed over to the car. Took off the T6s and put on my Glycerins for the “cool”down, which consisted of about 2.5 miles of really easy jogging along the river and around the stadium. Finally I went inside the cool air-conditioned restaurant and nommed some bananas, a bagel, lemonade, and an orange. The awards ceremonies were worth waiting around for as it turned out I placed 2nd in my age group and 7th overall, with an official time of 17:47.5. The AG placing netted me a $50 gift card — my first race winnings ever! — which I proceeded to spend on a hand-held bottle and a tub of mountain berry flavored Accelerade.
All in all, I’m super pleased with the race. I did exactly what I wanted, running my race and giving myself an accurate idea of what my current fitness level is. Setting a 52 second PR and winning some coin was a nice bonus too! I’m looking forward to a summer of some low-key races scattered throughout some serious training and hopefully some big PRs when things start to cool down and I move into my serious racing phase this fall.
Til next time… RUN HAPPY EVERYONE!
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