Saturday, April 30, 2016

Arbor Day 5K 2016

At the beginning of each year, I peruse through all the different ultra races and marathons that I am interested in running that year and try to strategically place them throughout the months as to allow for adequate training and recovery between each of them. Afterwards, I like to sprinkle in potential 5K, 10K and similar races for speed training and the break up the monotony of lonely long distance training (which normally I really enjoy, but it’s something special to share the road/trails with some other likeminded folks (as in other crazies).
The Arbor Day 5K has no entrance fee and the award for every finisher is a free tree in order to promote planting, nurturing and appreciation of trees in the Brookings area. And did I say the entrance is free? Nothing better than getting up at the crack of dawn in the clammy cold and bust your lungs for 3.1 miles.

nusual for Brookings races, we were absolutely lucky with the weather. The morning before, I went out for a run on the course to remind myself of all the turns and inclines/declines (not many, we’re on the prairie here after all). It was raining sleet sideways and overall a miserable experience. The day after the race presented us with 29mph wind, which would likely diminish the enjoyment of the exercise.

Registration time with a beautiful sunrise in the distance
As I said, the weather was great. 38F and 4mph. Last time I ran this race, I clocked a 21:35, which I have since improved a couple of times. I achieved my current PR at the indoor 5K earlier this year: 19:38 (6:19min/mi). That was my goal to beat for the day. However, I had looked up the pace I needed to run for a 18:59 (6:06min/mi), just to be prepared in case my legs felt good.

I bumped into Tim, who runs most of the Brookings races and we discovered that we were each interested in running the Lean Horse 100M. It’ll be fun having raced him in everything from 5K to 100 miles at that point.
After a very brief pre-race meeting, the race director guided everyone to the start/finish area and we lined up. The anxiety grew and everyone was staring down at their watches, getting ready to hit START on their adventure into anaerobic exhaustion.

First 100-200 meters
Without much hesitation the GO was given sharply at 6:30am and we were off. The first 100-200 meters are a mirage of someone's ability, as most people go off too fast. I was no exception with settling in right behind 2 former college runners and next to another guy who looked faster than me. Since Tim was behind me I decided to not run by feel, but check my watch and my 5:30min/mile pace was not well advised at this point in the race. I deliberately shifted a gear down and settled in right at 6:06 pace and saw Tim flying by me almost instantaneously. There wasn’t a lot of strategy in this 5K. Unlike marathons and longer races, you don’t need to worry about nutrition and fluids. Pacing should ideally be even throughout and thus, the mental aspect only comes in ones the lactate builds up and your legs and lungs beg you to slow down. That point was still a couple of miles away, so I simply focused on my strides and tried breathing as evenly and calm as the conditions allowed (running hard in 38F does hurt a bit in the lungs if I may admit).
Fast forward to the last mile and I was in good shape. I was keeping my pace even, but felt that I didn’t have much left in the tank for a final kick down to the finish line. When I finish other races with a strong kick (going back to high school track even), I always wonder if I should’ve gone faster beforehand and not saved those reserves. I had gotten closer to 4th place and tried catching up to him before the final turn. I knew he’d look over his shoulder then and once he saw me would take off. I didn’t get close enough to him to surprise and pass him. He was a good 200 feet away when he took the turn and as predicted, looked, saw me, put his head down and quickly separated himself from me again. I was now within the last few hundred feet and saw that the clock was in the early 18:XXs and thought that I could really get under 19:00. Not being able to move my legs any faster, I tried to make my strides longer to cover more ground with the same amount of steps and somehow crossed the line in 18:52 (6:04 min/mile) (on my watch, official results pending). 5th place and a 45 second personal best. My 8th consecutive race with a PR!

Not a bad start to a Friday morning.

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