5-Mile Thanksgiving Day Road Race
November 27, 2008
29:58 (6:01 pace)
36th overall of 2600
12th age group M30-39 of 344
Feaster Five, a Thanksgiving morning 5 mile road race, had been on my schedule since my triathlon season ended at the end of October. With complete focus away from the bike and swim, it was time to turn toward running fast. And so I set as a target the Feaster Five, which was far enough out to get in some quality runs and even races to show me, exactly, where I was compared to last year when I clocked 30:32.
The way I train and race is always to the best of my ability, where I ignore actual paces and finish times and instead go by effort in giving it the very best I have on that day in those conditions. And so I was surprised when, minutes before the race would start, standing way up front by the starting line, a friend asked what my goal for the race was. Where normally I respond about racing to my ability, and perhaps giving a number at what that would equate to, this time, before that could happen, a number – a finish time – popped into my head.
I wanted to break 30 minutes for the 5 miles, something I hadn’t done since back in 1992 at a Shamrock Shuffle in Rochester, NY. This time goal wouldn’t change how I’d race, but it would give me a target for which to strive. But I also knew that I would have to lop over 32 seconds off last year’s time. Could I do it? I was curious to find out.
The other reason I was excited about this race was because Heather, my wife, the Ironmate, was also registered. She had been steadily logging miles, establishing a solid base, and running much faster than she gives herself credit. I wanted to see how she would do, too. For it was her first race in nearly two whole years! She claimed she wanted to do 10 minute miles but I knew she was far too strong for that. I figured closer to 9’s. Could she do it? I knew the answer to that.
And so after warming up with several pickups until I was able to hit top speed, I wiggled into the starting line three rows from front. Before long, the gun sounded to start the race.
With a net climb of over 200 feet from mile .5 to 2, I knew the first splits would be on the slow side. I felt confident in my fitness that in spite dipping into the red zone I’d eventually recover and punch on for a fast next 3 miles to the end. And so that’s what I did.
In the early stages of Mile 1, my legs felt sluggish. I knew this meant that I either did not warm up enough or I stopped the warm-up far too soon before race start, which could be the case since temperatures were hovering in the mid-to-low 20’s.
By the time the tough climb at half mile in came, my legs were feeling better even though it seemed I didn’t have as much “pump” and power to them. Up the hill I went, passing few, but already settled into race position where, I knew, there would be little passing except for those who went out too hard.
Mile 1 (6:15) came in a bit faster than expected. Just as I wondered if I took it too hard, I knew that the only way to nab sub-30 minutes over 5 miles would be all-out. ‘You will recover beyond mile 2,’ I told myself. And so I trusted in my abilities and kept pushing at the same effort, now breathing even harder.
The climb continued, all the way to near Mile 2 (6:11), with me in position behind what appeared 3 high school track friends.
Mile 3 (6:08) was an eye-opener with several switch-backs through residential neighborhoods. Not only were there a few rises I hadn’t remembered from last year, but I also couldn’t get my breathing under control. I refused to dial effort back and decided that the next miles had to be better, because with so much climbing in the first two miles, the course I knew would drop over the last few. And that’s the time to get more efficient in running style in attempts to get breathing under control. And so the pain of holding onto pace continued.
Mile 4 (5:41) was it! I was now flying, on edge, running as fast as I could but with breathing on edge of being in control, which is where I wanted it. With no inclines to throw off pace and require a spike in my steady energy output, I knew I was good to the end. And so I got efficient and started passing people.
To this point I knew the lead female was on my shoulder. I heard her breathing, heard her footfalls, and heard cheers from the spectators: “First female!”
She was the only one who passed me. On the final mile, she went by me as we both went by 4 or 5 others. But as we approached the last climb to the finish, I gained back all that space minus a stride.
With this blazing Mile 5 (5:41), I knew I’d be close to the 30 minute barrier, but I had already started preparing myself for not getting it, for I couldn’t imagine, on that day, overcoming the first two slow miles.
To the top of the hill the first female and I went. When we streamlined the right hand turn onto the final straightaway toward the finish, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The clock was ticking in the mid 29’s… 29:45… :46… :47. I would get my 29 minutes!
Just then a volunteer jumped into my path. “Over!” he shouted pointing to the side of the finish chute. “Get over. Use the side.” Seeing up ahead two people holding a finish line tape, I knew it was for the first female, and so I knew my role – off to the side. In my mind I envisioned the tape was for me, for breaking 30 minutes, with a finish time of 29:58.
After crossing the line, still in a bit of disbelief of breaking 30 minutes, it occurred to me that this run may have been my all-time PR – or maybe equaling it – over 5 miles. I ran a sub-30 minute 5 mile race back in 1992 when I was in Rochester, NY, but memory tells me I got it by a second or two.
In short, the first three miles hurt. I was red-lined the entire way but was finally able to breath easier even though running at same effort once the terrain started declining. Short races hurt but they’re over so quickly.
Next it was time to attend to other matters. And so I went back to the final hill to wait for Heather. As I waited, I eyed the clock, knowing she would come in at a little over 46 minutes. I figured 46 because I knew she’d come close to 9 minute miles, but I also knew she started farther back and, as a result, would take a minute to cross the starting line.
Sure enough, just as the clock meandered by 46 minutes, up the hill Heather came, on target, running fast, looking strong, and all the way to a 45:26 finish time, good for a pace of 9:09!
Well done, baby!