Beach to Beach 5K
Saturday May 15, 2010
Pace: 5:53 min/mile
4th Place Overall of 400
2nd Place M40-49
Hardware: 2nd Place M40-49 Trophy (1st place was 2nd overall)
Fresh off my first win ever of a small 5K road race and feeling confident that I could, with an extreme effort, go under 17:40 for a 5K, I started looking for a fun race for both me and Heather for the upcoming weekend.
I had been deciding between one of two races to sell to my speedy wife until I got talking to Jay (brewski) and Gina (OCG), both fellow Goons, who told me about a 5K in Marblehead. That sealed the deal. Marblehead bound we were.
Arriving an hour before the start, Heather and I found Jay and Gina and their friends near the registration table. After introductions we agreed to meet back in a few minutes for a warm-up couple of miles over the course.
During warm up, I learned that aside from being Goons, Jay and Gina and myself, along with my wife, had something else in common: lofty goals. Jay wanted a PR, Gina wanted to punch it hard, Heather wanted to beat her last 5K, and I wanted to go under 17:40 – a time that would be an all-time PR for me. I had been feeling so fluid in mind and body on the short distance stuff that I even joked that I was going to try to extend my winning streak.
Unfortunately I learned something else during those warm-up miles. There was a pace-killing hill just beyond the 2 mile mark, and on the return 1.2 miles on into the finish, there was a soul-searching head wind reminiscent of Eastern States 20 Miler (ES20) a month earlier. Those who raced the last 2.5 miles at ES20 know what I’m talking about. This stretch, with the wind, was that bad. And I knew it would not discriminate. It would take everybody down. Still, I wondered: Could I make a run at 17:40 in these conditions? I was willing to find out.
Before long I found myself on the front line of the race alongside Jay and a collection of others, including three, now four, and over there five guys who I knew to be fast. I would not win this race; that much was evident.
“Go!” The race started. Always slow to jump off the line, I got a decent enough start to find myself sharing the lead. With Jay pinned to my left shoulder, three, then four and five, guys pulled ever so slightly ahead over the first half mile. I was running strong, breathing hard but on the edge of control, and pumping up small rises as the course navigated through a neighborhood. I was in 6th place. The leaders were still in striking distance, with three together, another trying to hang with them, and the 5th place guy slowly coming back to me.
Just shy of a Mile 1 (5:40), I took over 5th place. There was no contest. Square ahead of me was 4th place, with the leaders slightly ahead but still within striking distance.
Mile 1 to 2 was an intense tail wind making for a fast runway along a half mile stretch on a causeway with water on either side. I was already dreading the return trip. During this section I closed the gap to the guy in 4th place. From there I bid my time before making a move.
Just after Mile 2 (5:41), I made a move for 4th place right before a hill – the one I learned about during warm-up. The hill was short but fairly steep. The move was calculated. Being strong on hills, if I took 4th place now, I’d open a gap too large to close on the hill. That was the plan, anyway.
After making the pass, the hill came around a blind corner. I charged up and, much to my surprise, the guy was going to fight for it. We hammered up the hill shoulder to shoulder, stride for stride, him even gaining a step, me closing back, up and over the hill.
The immediate fight for 4th place didn’t last long, although it would linger on over the remaining distance. On a downhill section I took over the spot with a purposeful surge. A gap opened. The gap became big enough that I could no longer hear him behind me. But according to spectators offering cheers, I knew he was right there, me in striking distance. I also knew that I couldn’t let up. He was that close.
Now on the causeway for the final stretch to the finish, going back against the grain of the rest of the race, the real fight had begun. With a wall of wind pushing, slowing, it was like climbing a hill. My stride went to pot. And to make matters worse, it was so windy that I couldn’t hear if the guy behind me was still there. With this on my mind, there was no letting up. I shortened my stride and kept the legs turning as fast as my breathing would allow. I got a mental boost when I saw Heather going the other way. She was smiling, looking strong, as sexy as ever. I kept the latter image in my head. It kept me focused.
During this point I could see the leaders up the road. Two guys were fighting for the top spot; both were out of touch, too far up. The guy in third had fallen off and, I noticed, slowly coming back to me. Over this stretch I was buoyed by the notion that I could catch him if I kept it up. I turned my attention from the guy behind me to the guy in 3rd place.
Over the remaining half mile of the course, I closed the gap more and more on 3rd place until, ultimately, I ran out of room, hitting the finish line in 4th place in 18:15. As I hunched over catching my breath, I turned back to see that the guy I had passed back at mile 2 to take over 4th was only seconds behind. He would tell me later that he was on my heels the entire way, which made me glad that I turned my attention to catching the guy in 3rd, for that probably secured a strong finish.
Not long afterwards, Jay came flying into the finish, followed by Gina, who finished 2nd women overall, and Heather. Impressive results from Jay, who coming off injury hadn’t raced in a long time; Gina who, god knows, doesn’t seem to even see the potential she’s about to realize; and Heather, who kicked ass on the time of her last 5K!
As for me, I’m slightly disappointed in the 18:15 time, but at the same time I am very pleased with my race. I gave it all I had, opened with two miles where I want (5:40’s), but couldn’t hold into the windy conditions. I’m proud of 4th place, and I’m still inspired to shoot for that 17:40.
This was a fun, low key race that once again reminds me how much fun races are. It was fun to hang with Jay and Gina, their friends, and fighting it out with a few others for top spots.
1 – 5:40
2 – 5:41
3.1 – 6:54 (6:16)
*Everybody in the race had 4 seconds faster by watch, but race results added 4. My watch had 18:11.