Sunday, March 16, 2014

Shamrock & Run 5K

What: Shamrock & Run 5K
When: March 16, 2014
Where: Liberty, MO
Start Time: 11:30 a.m.
Weather: 32F with 17-20mph winds
Goal: Sub 22:00
Finish Time: 21:53
AG Placement (M40-49): 1/12
OA Placement: 9/136

Race Week:
I was going into this race knowing that the running I did during the week would not set me up to have a shot at a PR. Since I wasn't treating this as a goal race, but more as a time trial, I ran my normal mileage the week prior to the race. Truth be told, two of the 10K runs I did during the week were run at a faster pace than I had planned. My legs wanted to run hard, so I let them. In total, I had three runs during the week, two group runs on Saturday, and finally the race on Sunday.

Race Morning:
I loved that the race started at 11:30. I was able to sleep in, get a full 7-8 hours of sleep, and felt rested upon waking. Since I had plenty of time before the race started, I ate a full breakfast and drank plenty of water.

I made it to the race location at about 10:15, picked up my packet, and sat around talking with friends before the race. With about 15 minutes until the start of the race, I went outside to get acclimated to the cold winds. I was wearing a 180S long sleeve quantum heat shirt, race ready shorts, and my yellow knee-high "BEER" socks. For the most part, it didn't feel too cold except for while the wind was blowing, which was all the time. I was bouncing around and laughing with other runners at the starting line. It didn't feel like a real race to me as the feeling of "butterflies" never made an appearance. I actually missed it, as the feeling of nervousness/anticipation before the start of the race is one of my favorite moments.

The Race:
The race is an out and back course which takes us south for the first quarter mile, turns southwest until the start of Mile 2, then takes us west to the turnaround point.

It starts on a short flat section, goes downhill for about the next half mile and then climbs again for about another half mile. We then make a right turn down another road, run a relatively flat section to the turnaround point, then do it all again.

The race started on time. I tried to start my watch when the gun went off, unfortunately, I realized I forgot to set it in exercise mode. I quickly remedied the situation and within about a tenth of a mile I had GPS lock and started the watch. I ran the first mile at a comfortably hard pace using gravity, and I'm sure the wind, to help me finish it in about 6:45. Mile 1 was basically uneventful. Nobody passed me after the first quarter mile or so.

Shortly after the start of Mile 2, we take a right turn and start up a quarter mile long gentle climb as we head to the turnaround point. This section was slightly protected from the wind. I was closing on the woman ahead of me and passed her before we reached the turnaround. I then set my sights on the three runners in front of me, one of whom I knew. They were about an eighth of a mile ahead of me. The biggest obstacle in my way was the strong headwind that awaited us as we made the turn back to the northeast at the end of Mile 2. I slowed down this mile due to the headwind and finished in 7:03.

Mile 3 begins with an approximate 0.4 mile descent, then is uphill the rest of the way. I pushed during the descent and started to make up ground on the runners in front of me. With the strong headwind, I couldn't pick up much speed. Things got worse as we started the climb back to the finish. Running against the wind, it felt as though I was running in slow motion. I saw I was making up more ground and tried to pick up the pace. I can't say that it felt as if I was going faster, but I was at least closing quicker. At this point, it became real hard to catch my breath. Not only was I getting real tired and my abs were getting sore, but with the full force of the wind coming at me, I could only take short breaths. I was finally within 10 feet of the first of three runners and decided it was time to make my move. I pushed harder and passed him on the left. It was getting really difficult to hold pace and I figured I would be passed again at any moment. Then I saw I was gaining on the other two runners. They made it around a woman who was starting to slow. I passed her and continued to slowly gain up the hill. Unfortunately, I just could not find another gear. I was giving it all I had and ran out of room. One of the runners finished two seconds ahead of me and the other finished five seconds ahead. While running the last mile, I figured I had slowed down to about an 8:30 pace, surprisingly, I finished Mile 3 in 7:24.

Since I started my watch late, it only measured 3.02 miles. However, one of my friends had the course measured at an accurate 3.11 miles. According to my watch, I did really have a kick and finished the last 0.02 miles in 7 seconds for a pace of 6:00/mile. As I crossed the finish line, I was greeted by the RD telling me I had a top 10 finish. I couldn't believe it, figured he had miscounted somehow, but it turns out he was right.

I watched my friends finish, then we went inside to warm up and get some food. When they posted the results, I saw that I had finished 1st in my AG and 9th overall. I decided I had to head to the awards ceremony at the Rock & Run brew pub, the organizer/sponsor of the race. I met some friends at the brew pub.  We were finally able to get a table and ate lunch while waiting for the awards. One of my friends won the race, another finished 2nd in her age group, and another finished 3rd in his age group. All race entrants were given a $5 coupon toward food/drink, so I used that to get my lunch. For winning my age group, I was given a $20 gift certificate for the Rock and Run brew pub. Since it's good for five years, I have no doubt that I'll be able to use it.

I had a much better race than I had anticipated and was very happy to have met my goal of finishing under 22:00. I have no doubt that if I put forth the same effort in a flatter course with less wind, I will be able to set a new PR and finish under 21:00. My first attempt will be the beginning of May.

One thing I learned during the race, I need to work on my stamina so I can hold speed over a longer distance. It's now time to beginning running strides and longer repeats and kick my running up a notch or two.

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