Kelly’s St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock 5k race report
Today I ran my first race race of 2011. Yes, I ran the 10 mile Club Challenge two weeks ago but like I mentioned then, that was far from an all out effort. Today was to be a completely different story. Since Richmond, I haven’t really raced. There was also the 10k in December that I did on a whim but I never got to that OMGI’MGOINGTOCOLLAPSEATTHEFINISH zone that I feel goes along with racing an all out effort. Today was the perfect day to do just that. While I had an idea of the kind of shape I’m in right now, I had no actual data to confirm this so I was kind of going in blind. I’ve spent a few weeks now getting my running legs back and have started doing workouts but not a whole lot yet. This race would help clear all that up for me and set my training for the season going forward.
The Kelly’s St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock 5k (what a mouthful!) is put on every year in Baltimore. It also draws a HUGE crowd of both runners and spectators because it immediately precedes the St. Patrick’s Day parade and a gigantic downtown-wide party (or so it seems). The course starts up on Charles Street and the first 3/4 of a mile run straight downhill towards the Inner Harbor. The rest of it is mostly flat. Needless to say, this is a PR course and attracts some of the area’s fastest studs. This was exactly the sort of race I wanted at this point in training — a good course to run fast on surrounded by really fast people to pull me to the best time I’m possibly capable of. I love the low-key local races, no doubt, but at those even though I’m not winning them, I’m usually up near the front and there’s rarely many people to actually race as things get spread out. Today I figured a top 50 would be a good showing.
The race didn’t start til 1:15pm so even with the clocks going ahead an hour overnight I was able to get a full night’s sleep, waking up feeling refreshed. Had my usual cereal but opted for the ginger green tea that sits best in my stomach. I spent the morning basically waiting to get ready — going to the bathroom a few times, getting my race gear together, playing Bejeweled. Around noon Jess and I finally set out to get going. We decided to park the car at the Whole Foods garage and jog our warm-up from there to the start about a mile and a half away. This way we’d be about half a mile from the car at the finish, be able to do our grocery shopping after, AND get free parking!
Jogging over to the start, I could see already how much of a zoo this was going to be. People were EVERYWHERE. Some were setting up chairs to spectate along the race/parade route, many others were walking around with the green race t-shirt on. It helped that the weather really cooperated today. It was sunny and warmish, mid-50s by the start I’d say. The wind was a bit brisk though which would become a factor later I figured. We got to the start area about a half hour early and I did some dynamic stretching and some drills. With about fifteen minutes to go I started doing some easy jogging with strides intermixed. I worked my way towards the front as the National Anthem was playing over the loudspeaker, finding a spot two rows back. Even in a race with almost 4,000 finishers, I wouldn’t be boxed or crowded.
The start command was given and just like that, everyone blasted off the line and began the downhill. Going in I knew a negative split would be a bad plan given how fast the first mile would likely be. I decided to take the mile out hard but controlled and then accept that the next two would be tougher, hoping I’d have enough mentally and physically to hold on. By the time we hit 3/4 and made a left, I was surprised how close I still was to some people I recognized as faster than I am. Still, I felt in control, sustainable. In most races I vividly remember a number of people I run around, some who pass me, some who I pass, but a lot of today was a blur. I know right around the mile there was a bigger guy who I had been behind since the start that I finally ran past. As we turned onto Key Highway and passed the mile mark, I heard 5:11 for the first mile. It didn’t register at the time but that’s the fastest I’ve ever run a mile. Normally, that would be a recipe for disaster but it felt about right here.
The next bit was ever-so-slightly inclined as we wound around Federal Hill Park. Here an older guy I recognized from a few Delaware races pulled past me. I decided to try to keep him close so I picked it up even though my legs were starting to fatigue. As we neared the turnaround I recognized a dude with a ponytail right in front of me as someone who I finished slightly ahead of at the Club Challenge. I took the 180 degree turnaround wide so I didn’t have to slow down much and was met with some wind. I saw Jess looking strong right before I hit the two mile mark. As I passed I saw 10:56 (5:45 mile) on my watch. A MUCH slower second mile but that was ok. NOW was where I needed to be tough and not slow down. The next quarter mile or so was the toughest as we were running directly into a headwind. It wasn’t that strong but it was persistent. I tried to stay close behind the guy in front of me but it didn’t make much difference. As we turned onto Light Street I kept reminding myself that I run this stretch often (albeit not in the street but still) and know exactly how far I still have to push . The crowds were cheering and that felt pretty cool but they were sort of a blur in the periphery. I finally turned onto Pratt and the wind was at my back for the last 600 or so meters to the end. I pushed. Hard. With everything I had left. I knew a PR was pretty much in the bag but I wouldn’t be satisfied with that anymore. I could feel the effort in my legs, each step became tougher but I pushed harder. I thought about the last few 400m reps I did at the park on Tuesday, how I was closer than that, how I could hold this. As I crossed mile 3 I didn’t look at the watch (turns out it was a 5:38) I just sprinted. There was a quick left and then a few more meters to the finish. I tried like hell to catch the young guy ahead of me. I ended up crossing the line a half a step behind him. Final time — 17:08, a 39 second PR!
I staggered a bit, almost fell over the volunteer who ripped my timing chip off my shoe, grabbed a water, and allowed the result to finally sink in. AWESOME! But wait, it’s not all awesome. At least not officially yet. You see, as we were making celebratory quesadillas this evening the official results were posted here by Charm City Run. I should be #26, right behind that 17 year old I couldn’t quite catch. But I’m not. I’m nowhere to be found. According to the results, I didn’t race. My legs beg to differ. I emailed the timing company tonight and hopefully this gets cleared up soon, I’m sure they deal with a lot of this, especially at a race this big. At any rate, I know what I did. Turns out I’m in pretty good shape, at the start of the season no less. With a few months of workouts ahead, I’m even more excited for where I’m headed.
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!
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