Today I ran the "Dulles Airport 5k". I really like this race, because it is run on a PERFECTLY flat airport runway. Having No hills takes out one variable that affects my time, so I feel I get a better gauge on my fitness. Plus, since I'm still not very good at "running by feel", the benefit of not having figure out how much faster I should go on the down hills, how much slower on the climbs helps a lot.
The course is mostly straight running (like an out and back), but instead of sharp turnaround; there's two big gradual "left handers" to get you pointed back toward the start line. Literally no time spent having to slow down, pretty nice. I would say it's maybe slightly faster than the track - since there are fewer turns; but then slightly slower since we are running on the hardest concrete man can make. The kind of concrete a commercial airline can land on - so no "spring" like on the track. And...the course is boring. No spectators are allowed on the course (airport security stuff), so it's very "quiet" during the race, just feet hitting concrete and heavy breathing. Then, the last 1/4 mile you get huge cheers as all the family and friends are lined up 2-3 deep to watch you finish.
This is the first race that "I've done before". Last year I ran it in 19:12, on almost the same day of the year, and it was my 5k PR last year (19:12). At the time I was ecstatic at the result. Last year was also my first year of racing (I did a total of 4 races last year, all 5k's). This year I want to beat it by 42 seconds. And since the course is flat, I feel if I can get the pace right, I can run a perfectly paced race and PR.
My training has "told me" it's possible to run in the 5:55-5:58 / mi range, which puts me at a "Goal time" of 18:30. So, that's the plan - every mile under 6:00. I do that and I PR. Now, all I gotta do is....actually run the damn race!
For whatever reason, I get more jacked for 5k races than longer ones....possibly because I have prior results to beat...but also maybe because I know the pain will be short. If I do it right, I usually don't start hurting until mile 3, and then I only have 6:30 or so left. And, I think I can handle the pain for that long. (At least that's what's going on in my head).
Unusual Race Awards: This is at an airport and sponsored by United Airlines. The top male and top female of the race win a pair of "Round trip tickets to anywhere in the 48 states, and a 2 night stay at the Dulles Airport Marriott". Pretty nice! This also means some VERY fast folks show up to win the tickets. There is also a 10k with the same award.....
The "Age group" awards a little funny. They pay to the "top 2" (not 3) in each age group. And, the groups are a little "off". For example, I'm in the 41-50 age group (not 40-49). Doesn't make any difference for me this year, I'm 49. But next year, I would normally be in the next age bracket up...but not for this race. Not a big deal...but "interesting".
Night before: Saturday races are always a little harder for me, since I'm working on Friday and I don't usually get home until 6:30 or so. Had a spaghetti dinner, a snack before bed, and off to bed as early as I can fall asleep. Last night it was 9:00.
Morning before the race: My lovely wife was able to join me for today's race. I appreciate her getting up way too early to stand around and watch me and others flail away for 20 minutes. For me, it's really helpful - I don't have to worry about bag check, where to put my keys, etc. Plus, having my wife by the finish line gives me the extra motivation to finish strong - and I get a nice big yell from here when I go by. Race started at 7:30 and is about a 30 minute drive from my house, and add in some extra time to park since we are going to an airport...... So, I set my alarm for 5:15. Woke up and immediately ate my pre-race breakfast of instant oatmeal with a little milk, and COFFEE. Ran around my neighborhood for a few minutes to get everything flowing..."processed said breakfast and dinner", and left the house at 6:00. Arrived, parked, and started my "warm-up" at 6:45.
Weather: Summer hasn't left the DC area yet. At race start it was 70F, 80% humidity, and dew point of 65F. Winds 7-10 MPH. The chart I found said to add 2%-3% to your race pace than it would be under perfect (55F, low humidity) conditions. (My PR of 18:41 was set in perfect conditions).
Start of the race: did my usual 2 mi wu, and around 7:15 I found my wife to change into my RC5000 racing flats to do a few strides and head over to the start line for the 7:30 start. As soon as I finished triple knotting my laces the race director announces a 15 minute delay because of a back-up at security check. shit you not. Just like waiting at an airport gate! Everyone made the "groan" in unison. So now I had an extra 15 minutes to wait....oh well.
I had the usual pre-race nerves. My "monkey brain" starts in - I felt like I completed my warm-up too early, and I'm cooling down, and I'm going to suck because the extra time waiting around is going to make my legs stale. And.... "that guy" looks fast / hope I don't fall down. Did I do any training for this? I've completely forgotten. Crap! I just forgot how to run! Then, I remember "deep breath, Grasshopper", I did train for this. I've done this before. Then....I start thinking..."why can't I go now?". Let's go!". Then, FINALLY - GO!
Mile 1: (5:45) I purposely lined up about two rows back from the front. My thought is this will help keep me from going out too fast at the start. There are a number of people upfront that "look like" they are going to kill it. I have a tendency to get caught up in that and go out too fast. I see a woman that I've seen a number of times in these races...she has always finished 20 - 30 seconds ahead of me and paces MUCH better than I do. Since I'm feeling like I've improved, I decide to line up behind her and keep her in sight, then at least I'll feel like I'm pacing well. She is my target, if I can stay close to her, I'm golden. Thru the Mile 1 marker I'm feelin pretty good! I'm about 5 sec behind my target.
Mile 2: (6:03) About 1.4 miles in, we make a big sweeping left hand turn and start heading back toward the start. From here on out I'm runnin by myself, and I know why I was feelin so good.....I was running downwind, and now, back into the wind. - and I'm huffing and puffin pretty good and realize I need to back off the pace some, my target is now pulling away, and I'm strugglin.
Mile 3: (6:06) Hurtin for sure now! Six more minutes. I can do it. I'm strong, I've trained for this! I can still see my target but I feel like I'm seriously slowing down. Do all I can, but don't blow up. We are on the same course as a 10k, so when I see the "Mile 6" marker I figure I have about 400m left.. This is encouraging, I'm in no shape to kick, but I'm trying like hell to NOT slow down.
Last .16: (:55; 5:44 pace). I don't know if the course is long or if my watch GPS is off. There weren't many turns and I think I ran the tangents. Oh well. Now I can see the finish line. Time for a big finish. Finally have spectators again, who are all cheering. I "think" I heard my wife, but I'm getting tunnel vision and all I can really hear is my heart pounding. Push hard! Move, legs, move! Use my arms, high feet. I have no idea what I look like, but in my head I'm Mo Farah at the Olympics in the last 400 of the 5k (not kidding!). It's mind over matter (in this case - mind over tired legs and lungs that have refused to work any more).
Total: 18:51. At first I was really disappointed with the time, but thinking about the weather adjustment (about 20 -30 seconds vs perfect conditions), and I'm starting to feel better. And - 20 sec better than last year in a little bit worse conditions.
Awards - I got first place in my age group and won a $25 gift certificate for the Marriott restaurant. I was 6th overall Male.
Improvement - it feels like my breathing / aerobic capacity was holding me back more than my legs. I think that means I have enuf speed, but not enuf aerobic development....sounds like more tempo runs for me!
My "target" finished about 28 seconds ahead of me (like always!) and got 1st place female and two airline tickets.
Side Note: Isn't if funny - the volunteers (who I really appreciate) always want to give me my medal and a bottle water about 15 feet passed the finish line. At that point, I'm delirious, can't see straight, and just looking for a place to lay down and figure out how to breath again. I usually do a sideways stagger, grab what they want to give me, mumble "Thank you", and stumble to a empty spot on the grass.
Next Sunday: 10k. Goal time is 39:15. Can't wait!