Today I raced the "Redskins Draft Day 5k". This race starts in the parking lot outside the Redskins football stadium (actually in Maryland across the river from DC) and ends on the 50 yard line inside the stadium. It sounds kind of fun to run onto the field from the player's tunnel and be on the big screen TV (for about 2 seconds). I've always been "sort of" a football fan and it does give me a "kick" to be on the field.
But really, the selling point of the race for me is; 1) It fits well in my schedule, with my goal race two weeks away; 2) It should be pretty flat and may give me a chance for a PR; 3) it is the closest race around this weekend I could find.
Small race downside: It's a little over an hour from my house.
BIG race downside: the race START is 11:30. What? I didn't notice this when I signed up. Never thought to look at the race start time, because it's always around 8:00, right? I've never had a race start after 8:00 before, so I need to modify my preparation. Up side, I can sleep in!
If I want to beat my existing PR of 18:41, I need to run very slightly faster than 6:00 pace. So, that's the plan: 6:00 pace for the first two miles...maybe 2.5 miles, then pick it up (if I can) at the end to come in between 18:35 - 18:30. The race ends on the 50 yard line of the Redskins field, so I figure the adrenaline of being on the field, and being on the big screen, will give me a little extra emotional push to finish fast. Plus, the Redskins cheerleaders will be at the finish line to help me gut it out. Can't deny it....I do have the Y chromosome.
I was able to sleep in, which was nice and I got the best sleep ever the night before the race. Had a normal breakfast, processed, and left the house about 9:00. Arrived at the stadium at 10:00, way ahead of schedule, but better than being late. Parked and spent a few minutes walking around the course, chatting with people, etc.
11:00 did my warm-up routine, 2 miles of easy running, 4 strides and I'm ready to go. Luckily today is overcast and cool for this time of year, temp at the start of the race was in the low 50's.
At the start line I was next to three George Mason University cross country team members, so I knew my chance of a top 3 finish (only overall Top 3 get an award) was out.
The course was super wonky. We basically ran back and forth in a section of the parking lot, then at about 2.5 miles we went into the stadium ran along a concourse (where you would buy food if you were there for a game), down a ramp....literally back and forth down a ramp...then a bunch of tight confusing turns, then finally into the tunnel to the stadium and onto the field to finish on the 50 yd line. There must have been about 20 turns of 90 degrees or more.
It was pretty hilly as well, and since we were going back and forth in the lot, that meant up hill - turn - downhill - turn - uphill, etc.
To be fair, the race was not announced as a sanctioned course, or as the highlight of the day. It was only part of a larger day of Redskins activities, there were autograph signings, people tailgating (I don't know why), folks buying game tickets, etc. The course was also not announced as sanctioned, etc. There were bands at two spots with drum line playing music, a couple cheer zones, and an obstacle course (thankfully this was optional), and I was able to run right past it.
So, how did I do? Well, I don't really know. I will swear the course was long, and since I was inside the stadium for 1/2 a mile, so no GPS for the watch. My total time was 19:52, which is pretty slow for me, but the last 1/2 mile was quite technical....and like I said I think the course was long.
- Mile 1: 5:52. A little too much adrenaline, and slightly more downhill than up. Not feeling bad.
- Mile 2: 6:03. (thru 2 miles in 11:55). Pretty much on plan. But I am starting to get gassed. Oh yeah, and the mile markers are seriously off. For a lot of this mile I ran next to a guy pushing a stroller. At some point before going into the stadium I got ahead of him. But, that was a first for me. Puts things in perspective...something I can remember when I start thinking I'm really doing something and I need shoes that weigh 1 oz. less.
- Last 1.1: ? My watch stopped working at some point during mile 3 because we went inside the stadium. Then, when we came back out onto the field I was in a different spot. My watch says I ran mile 3 in 6:35, then the partial of mile 4 at 10:00 pace. So, who knows?
So, I'll chalk this up to an experience running a funky course with an 11:30 start. I did get a side stitch toward the end of mile 2, which hasn't happened in other races which start earlier in the morning. So, I'll have to figure out how / what / when to eat for a mid-day race...if I ever have one again.
I got to run thru a helmet to start the race. About 1,000 folks behind me had to funnel thru this helmet to start the race. I was about 4th thru, so no slow down there. When the actual race started Redskins cheerleaders lined both sides of the course right after the helmet.
My goal race for this Spring is a 10k in two weeks.....stay tuned.