MSL Race Judicata 5K – WIN

MSL Race Judicata 5K
Andover, MA
Saturday, May 7, 2011

5K (3.1 miles)
17:07 / pace 5:31
1st place overall
120 finishers
*Course was likely short; I don’t think I can run that fast.

Race Report

A few weeks before the Saturday of MSL Race Judicata 5K in early May, I received a note from the race director asking me if I was coming back this year to “defend my title.”

I couldn’t help but smile at my good fortune. “Defend” and “title” were pointed words; together they offered a happy tune that formed a perfect melody to my ears. I don’t win many races. And now I get a chance to defend a win from the previous year? I was in!

Only it wasn’t that easy. More directly, I wasn’t sure I even could be in.

My body was pounded, the left hamstring pulling and the joints sore. I was in the middle of three straight weeks of Hill Immersion, each week consisting of three quality hill workouts. It got to the point where I would require the day or days after one quality workout to get the hammy recovered so that I could get in the next. A 5K race, even if I won it the year before, didn’t exactly fit in. So after doing hills the previous Wednesday, it took all of Thursday and Friday, with Friday still iffy, to get it right.

But right it got. I made the call race morning. I was in. I was going to defend my title.

After spending considerable time on the foam roller race morning in attempts to smooth the body over, and after warming up on the opening mile of course longer than I usually would, my legs actually felt human again. They didn’t have that spark to tell me they were ready to hammer a speedy race, but they felt good and strong and fast enough. Most importantly, the hammy was quiet.

Before long I was on the starting line with 120 others. After instructions from good friend and race director, a guy in period costum aimed his musket at the sky. Bang! The race was started.

Off I went. Normally I am a slow starter and usually find myself back several places than where I would finish the race. Only this time, with the lack of talent in the race and with me being properly warmed up, I got out to a fast start.

But there was someone who got out to a faster start. It was the familiar looking face of a high school kid who I remembered from last year. He was young and still growing and getting faster, while I was older and, well, just maintaining, so I knew to keep my eye on him.

The opening half mile of a race doesn’t tell you much. There are always guys and especially kids, like high school cross country boys, who sprint way out front only to come back somewhere after a half mile in. Would this kid come back to me?

Just as I was debating about what to do about High School Boy, he started coming back to me. I was gaining momentum and speed and closed the gap by 3/4 of a mile and made the pass quickly. I couldn’t hear much noise behind me, so I figured it was just him and me in it for the win.

With the opening mile of the coruse a rolling net up hill, it wasn’t surprising to pass him on a slight up hill section — a strength of mine. Although I thought about passing with authority, I decided to keep my effort even and let it come naturally.

Naturally it did. High School Boy held my shoulder for a tenth of a mile before I pulled away enough for clearance.

Mile 1 came early in 5:32. By then I could barely hear HS Boy, so I knew I had him. Only, was there someone behind him? I wondered.

The course from there gets fast, very fast, with a long gradual down hill for over a mile. I lengthened my stride to long but still efficient and opened it up. Effort was to my breathing ability. I could not run any faster. I was leading the race and now not hearing anything behind me.

There’s comes a time in a race when you go from running scared leading the race to when you know that you have it wrapped up, the win secured. It is during that realization that you have to stay focused and stop thinking that way. Lose focus and the guys behind you will gobble up what you have. Stay focused, keep the pain level at threshold, and you will hold on. It is a distinct period in the race, and sure enough, I hit it not long after mile 1.

After deciding that I wanted this win, that I had to keep running hard, Mile 2 came in 5:22. By then I didn’t need to peer over my shoulder at my competition to know that I had this race. It was mine to lose.

On the return leg of the course, starting just after mile 2.25, is a long gradual up hill that lasts all the way to the finish. I knew to prepare for this. It can be tough when you’ve been running all out. I knew I would slow down some, and I hoped others would too.

In the middle of the hill was the first time I looked over my shoulder all race. As I was charging up, I passed a woman on the right side; she was pushing a baby stroller. I crossed the road to head for the tangent when I looked back.

Holy shit. Panic set in. There was movement behind me. My mind raced. Stay steady. Don’t slow down. Can’t see the finish line just yet. Don’t slow. Keep charging.

In a flash, my mind went from “the win was a lock” to “don’t give up the win.”

Rounding a bend in the road, the finish line finally came into sight. I used this opportunity to cop another glance back. That’s when I realized that I had the win rather comfortably. The green I had seen out the corner of my eye behind me in the first glance was the woman pushing the stroller; she must’ve crossed the road after I passed but before I looked back. Either way, she ensured that I ran hard until the very end.

With the clock ticking just north of 17 minutes, I crossed the finish line for the win. A title defended. That’s a first I will take any day, for these don’t come around all that often. It was a good day.

This is a really fun event. It is lowkey and down homey. It reminds me of how races used to be. You show up, run hard, hang with everyone afterwards, most people know each other, everything is all smiles, and there’s a nice cookout with guy playing and singing and dancing Jamaican music. Fun.

Splits (estimates)
1 – 5:32 (slightly rolling)
2 – 5:18 (fast down)
3.1 – 6:17 (down and up to finish)

2 Responses to MSL Race Judicata 5K – WIN

  1. Sarah says:

    Congrats, “title defended!”

    I enjoyed your write-up, feels like I was there

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