Personal Best 5 mile Race Report – August 7th, 2010
Going into this race it felt like I had more stacked against me than in my favor. The biggest obstacle was overcoming the negative mental state I was harboring from the last race I ran waaaaay back in March. That race was slightly less than 5 miles and marked the absolute beginning of my forced downtime due to my confusing leg injury. That race went pretty terribly considering the shape I was in at the time. Since then it’s been a slow process of recovery and now “building a better machine” to get me back to marathon race fitness. So, this first race back since then was an open book as far as my performance might go. I’ve put in some good efforts leading up to it, but putting it all together on race day is something entirely different. The last thing I needed was another blow to my already fragile race mentality. Chicago is too close to suffer anymore mental setbacks.
With small twinges of pain in my leg on race morning, the beginnings of my last injury, I certainly wasn’t 100% toeing the start line, but knowing the competition around me, I still felt like I had a pretty good chance of placing on the “podium”. More importantly, I wanted a solid finishing time above all else. Since the race was pretty small, only a couple hundred people, I knew most everyone up front and knew what to expect. Jessie Davis, one of my training partners, was going to shoot out front and stay out front most likely. My goal was not to go after him as I’m surely explode with the effort. There were other talented runners on the line, but I knew they had been out of practice and most likely weren’t going to pose much of a challenge if I had a halfway decent day. There was one runner, however, who I knew I was going to have to compete with and my competitiveness got the best of me when we lined up side by side. His name is Brad Mason and he has turned his running game around big time this year, where last year he was nowhere near us in practice, he’s now blowing by us during our final intervals. His turnaround is inspiring, if a bit worry-inducing come race day.
The front line was almost an unbroken strip of neon yellow Athletic Annex jersey’s. The countdown ticked off and at “one!” we simultaneously leaned into the open road that carried us deceptively downhill for the first 1/2 mile. Sure enough, Jessie went blasting out ahead at a pace so quick that I couldn’t even be tricked into thinking that I could hang with him…fortunately. I let him go out and tried to maintain a solid, but controlled speed towards the first mile marker. I was aiming to hit 5:10 before dropping the pace. Then, as I expected, Brad pulled up aside of me as a clumped handful of other bright jersey’s held onto our heels. Brad and I ran stride for stride down the street and although the pace felt slightly quick, I trusted we weren’t completely over the edge.
We turned up a quick incline at 3/4’s in and the pack behind us suddenly fell off as Brad and I pushed on ahead towards the mile marker, only making or losing a stride or two of ground between us. Still pushing a solid pace, but not too worrisome we hit the first mile marker and I pushed my interval button on my watch. “4:59” it read. Ok….too fast. Too fast, but honestly, I was a bit surprised that I didn’t feel all that taxed, which was a good sign for my fitness. I only hoped it was too much for Brad to maintain. With all the good workouts he has been having, I wondered if he got too overzealous trying to prove himself this race.
We weren’t done battling however, as we moved down the road towards mile 2 he made a few strides on me as I tried to recover from our initial mile. I let him get a few strides ahead, but never felt like I was falling off. Jesse was still moving out ahead just behind the pace truck as Brad and I followed and the rest of the field continued to trail off behind us. Before we hit mile 2 I made sure to reel Brad back in and pull off his pace, but surprisingly, as I pulled up next to him he drifted 1/2 a step back, then another, then another and as we hit an incline over a bridge he fell right off. I know he doesn’t push on hills and I kept the pressure on going up the hill, but I also know he moves on the other side and, sure enough, I heard his footfalls come right up on my back as we careened down the other side of the bridge. We passed mile 2 at a 5:11 pace.
This battle was still on as we passed halfway, myself just a step or two ahead, but glad to be feeling in control and still strong in the legs. Rolling towards mile 3 I began to feel slightly fatigued, but just when we took a turn that was going to start bringing us back towards the finish I noticed that Brad was no longer on my heels. I was glad to have shaken him a bit, but was convinced he would make another move either in mile 4 or put in a crushing effort before the finish line, as he tends to do in our workouts. At mile 3 I went through in 5:15, which was a little slower than I had hoped, but didn’t surprise me much. I cursed myself for the first mile, but moved on.
Heading towards mile 4 was the low point of the race. I was by myself, fortunately away from Brad, but moving no closer to Jessie who was still pushing the pace truck further on. I was close enough to hear my coach yelling from the back of the truck, but my breathing was getting a bit erratic and I felt the strength leaving my legs as I pounded down the road. There was still concern Brad was going to make a move on me, but I figured he was as tired as I was. Just to make sure though, I kept the pressure on myself in case he was making a move. I rolled through mile 4 in 5:13, which was a relief considering it was faster than the previous mile and I had started to feel pretty beat down.
Starting off into the final mile I was fatigued, but also not completely out of it. I had told myself I wanted to run a race where I could lay into the last mile with a good effort instead of just dragging my butt to the finish line, banking on the speed I had in the first miles. I want to be able to finish most of my races with enough strength to really push into the finish, so I was pretty stoked when I willed myself to pick up the pace at the end. The effort was subtle, but just enough to really notice an increase in speed and heart rate. The final mile is somewhat uphill, but at both 800 and 400 I had enough to continue pushing forward and make an escalating reach for the line. I even noticed Jessie coming back a little bit. Admittedly, I was still waiting for Brad to come up behind me, but once I hit 400 and heard no feet behind me I was confident I had made enough of a gap to go it alone.
With just 200 left I was able to really lay into it the course and throw everything to the finish, not worrying about a blow up. I crossed the line at 25:51, caught my breath quickly and was surprised to find I was ready to keep going right into a cool down and on instead of needing to stabilize myself from the effort. I finished 20 seconds behind Jessie in second place, but placing wasn’t my greatest satisfaction this race. Being able to run strong despite going out too hard and then finish even stronger was the confidence I needed for my upcoming races and the affirmation of my fitness to this point. With a couple longer races laying ahead of me and just 2 months to Chicago, I need these successes and I need this proof that I’m back to my previous fitness level and ready to take on these quick efforts. Now….if I can just get the pacing for that first mile down, I’ll be in infinitely better shape come race day.
25:51 (5:10 pace)