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Firecracker 5K 2010

one goal, to beat 30 minutes in the 5K distance.

Since I work nights, I’m usually up all night before a race and this night was no exception. All week I’ve been feeling some sore muscles in my legs, to the point that I had to stop my workout a bit early on Tuesday for fear of injuring myself. This had me a bit nervous and I was getting more nervous as my leg muscles continued to tighten on Friday evening. Finally I remembered an old friend, The Stick. I haven’t used it in a couple of months, but I busted it out and worked my legs over. After that my legs were not so sore and tight and The Stick is going to become part of my regular routine again.

I stuck with my plan and got to the race ahead of time. It is a medium sized race, so there were a lot of people there, but there was ample parking so I didn’t have any problems there. I went and picked up my bib, t-shirt, and timing chip and took the shirt back to my car. I was trying to walk at a pretty fast pace to get warmed up. I got back to the start line and looked around a bit for some friends, but didn’t see them and then they called everyone over to the line to start. I did a quick jog to loosen up as the pre-race formalities took place. Then I looked for a place in the mob. I started out fairly far back, but then I remembered my plan, so I pushed up through the crowd more towards the middle or about one third back from the start as near as I could tell.

The gun fired and about half the people around me jumped or gasped in fright. Pretty soon we were moving and then we started running. I ran along with the crowd for the first minute or two until my watch settled on a pace and then I ran according to my watch pace. A sub 30 5K requires about a 9:38 pace, but I settled in at 9:12. A few people were passing me, but I had chosen my starting spot wisely and I seemed to be running with a group who were about my same speed (except for the girl who was already walking not even a quarter mile into the race. I’m not sure if she was already tired, running intervals, or what, but she had no business starting as far up as she did. She didn’t really get in my way, but she was a jerk.)

At mile marker 1, I was still at the 9:12 pace and feeling good (I passed up the water stop). Some annoying teenagers had crept into my little group, but otherwise it was a great run to this point. In past races I have tried to be very polite and I’ve taken the turns wide and tried to get out of people’s way when I have heard them coming up from behind. But today I decided I was going to run my own race and not worry about what other people were doing. This resulted in a lot less weaving around and a much more consistent stride and pace. It also helped to shorten my distance a bit. My GPS measured 3.17 miles at the end which isn’t too much more than the regulation 3.1 miles of a 5K. In my previous races I’ve ended up running as much as a quarter mile more than the regulation distance.

The second mile was about the same as the first. As I neared the turnaround point I noticed my running buddy Joe coming back the other way. I gave him a shout out and even though he didn’t see me, he waved in my general direction. I did the turnaround and completed mile 2 still feeling good and still breathing my normal 3 steps in, 3 steps out.

Mile three started with a small rise to another water station that I again passed up. I really can’t believe they had two water stops in such a short race, but I was glad it was there since I was finally able to leave those annoying teenagers behind when they stopped for a drink. There were a couple of small hills to contend with and near the top of the second one I went into 3 steps in, 2 steps out breathing. After a downhill stretch, we hit another small rise and came into the home stretch. My pace had fallen off to about 9:14 at this point and with about 3 tenths to go I switched to 2 steps in, 2 steps out breathing and pushed my pace back up. As we rounded the bend into the YMCA parking lot I decided to go for broke and sprint my way to the finish.

I finished with a chip time of 28:31 and a gun time of 29:24, so no matter how you look at it, I hit my goal. This is a PR for the 5K distance, beating my previous record by 7 minutes and 54 seconds. This also marks the first time I have run a race with the same distance as one I had run before. I also feel more like a real runner having run a race at a better than 10 minutes per mile pace. To me 10 minutes per mile is where the real running starts and to get to it has been a challenge, but rewarding nonetheless. Of course now that I’ve reached it, 9 minutes per mile seems to be where the real running starts. That’s why running is so great!

Lessons learned from today’s race:

  1. Run your own race and don’t let politeness or other people dictate how you run.
  2. Be optimistic and start where you expect to finish.
  3. Set a realistic goal and then go for it with everything you’ve got.
  4. Those annoying teenagers will get left behind at the 2nd water stop.
  5. You don’t have to look fit to be fit. I passed a lot of people who looked fitter than me.

A special shout out goes to Gail who didn’t PR, but had a decent race and ran hard to the finish. And also to Emily and that other girl whose name I can’t remember despite having run with her twice Erin. They were both at the end cheering for just about everyone, including me.