Thursday, November 24, 2011

Race Report: 5K On Turkey Day

We woke up at 6am and left Ben and Maja's around 6:30. The race was at the Lifetime Fitness gym in Deerfield Township and the drive didn't take us as long as we thought it would. There was a slight delay on the way to the race because our GPS took us to an empty parking lot, but a truck came by setting up cones in the road for the race and they pointed us in the right direction.

We got to the gym just before 7:00 and followed the crowd to an indoor, astro-turf-covered field where we registered for the race. (This gym was amazing... too bad we weren't allowed to go inside.)

Most of the registration process was the same old routine but this is the first race that I've ever run that used scantron forms to enter our information into the computer.

Liz and I filled in all of the little bubbles with our info, paid our entry fee, found out we wouldn't get shirts because we registered the day of the race, pinned on our bib numbers, secured our timing chips to our shoes, and we were ready to go!

The race started at 8:00 and we had some time to spare so we went back to the car to rest for a few minutes. We were parked right by the start/finish line so we could hang out in the car right up until it was time to go.

I followed my usual pre-race routine and started stretching about 15 minutes before the start and then went for a warm-up run around the parking lot. I met up with Liz just before the start to wish her luck and then we took our separate positions at the starting line.

Our goal for the race was to each set a PR so I was trying for better than 17:42 and Liz was trying to beat 31:18. We didn't know what to expect from the course, but neither PR seemed very likely for all of the reasons I mentioned yesterday.

Liz mixed in with the middle of the pack and huddled in with the crowd for warmth. It was a cold morning but not too horrible. In fact, I contemplated leaving my gloves in the car but decided to wear them at the last minute because the wind had a bite to it. I lined up near the front of the pack with all of the crazy runners in their running shorts and singlets. There were goosebumps everywhere!

Runners can be an anxious, jittery bunch at the beginning of a race. There's a lot of bouncing around and shaking of limbs at a starting line. That anxiety quickly rises when the start of a race is delayed. The serious (sometimes too serious) runners at the front of the pack have timed their warm-up to be ready right at the designated starting time. When they're forced to wait and start to cool down, they quickly become disgruntled. It's even worse when it's cold outside. The start of this race was delayed close to 10 minutes for some reason so the man with the starting gun spent several tense minutes trying to calm increasingly inpatient runners.

Eventually, the gun did sound and we all took off running out of the parking lot and into the first turn of what turned out to be one large loop.

I went out with the leaders but hung back several places, hovering somewhere around 6th place. I've been running 1-mile repeats at the track lately and I was a little worried I would match the pace from those workouts and run my first mile too fast. At the same time, I knew I had to run the fastest 3 miles I could if I wanted to set a new PR. I was mostly adjusting my pace by feel and I apparently felt like I was going faster than my actual pace. I hit the first mile in 5:53. I needed to average 5:42 per mile so I was already 11 seconds behind with two miles to go. Not the best position for a PR.

The course was hilly but all of the hills were rolling and none were particularly steep. I felt like I was making good time and I passed a couple of people in the second mile but my watch reported a time of 11:58 at Mile 2... that wasn't going to cut it.

The 5K and 10K were run at the same time so about mid-way through the race, several runners pealed off onto the 10K course and there were suddenly fewer people in front of me. I was in 3rd place with just over a mile to go but I could feel myself slipping off of the pace.

One guy passed me just as we passed Mile 2 and I could tell he was feeling better than I was. He continued to cruise past me and another guy came up on my shoulder but I held him off for a while. We ran a little out-and-back extension of the course that gave us a good view of our competition with 3/4 of a mile to go. Besides the guy on my shoulder, I didn't have anyone behind me that was threatening to move up in the last stretch of the race.

We completed the out-and-back section and were now running uphill on the road Liz and I drove in on. Each cone in the road meant we were closer to the finish line but I was struggling to keep the pace up. The guy next to me put on a surge and I couldn't keep up so I dropped into 5th place. I checked my watch and I definitely wasn't going to set a new PR, but I still tried to lean in and move my legs just a little faster so I could clock a good time. I turned the corner and ran back into the parking to the finish line in 18:49. I missed my PR by over a minute and I've run better times in the past couple of years, but I was still happy with the effort and didn't feel like I slacked at all today so I'll take it.

The car was parked close by so I grabbed my camera and Flip cam to capture Liz's finish when she came through. Like I said, the last 3/4 of a mile are up a long, steady hill and when you turn into the parking lot toward the finish line, it's still an uphill slope. I could see the effect of the hill on the runners as they came into the finish and several were walking when they turned the corner for the finish.

I expected Liz to finish sometime between 30 and 35 minutes. It was a cold day... the course was hilly... we didn't get a lot of sleep last night... and she set PR's in her last two 5K's... so I wasn't expecting a super-fast finish today. I thought it would be exciting if she could break her record of 31:18 but I was just hoping she could get through the race without any major problems.

I almost missed her finish!

It was a good thing I was paying attention because Liz came around the corner way before I was expecting her. She ran around the corner and I could tell the hill got to her because she stopped for a short walk break. I got my cameras ready and checked the clock... she was just over the 28 minute mark!

When I looked back and started taking pictures, Liz was running again and finished strong with a HUGE new PR of 28:42! She didn't just beat her previous best, she shattered it! Liz improved her best time by 2 minutes and 36 seconds. That's an average of 51 seconds-per-mile faster than her previous best!!!

Liz crossing the finish line with a new PR!

In the home stretch.

Official chip time: 28:42!!!

I ran over to were Liz was sitting after the finish line and we were both giddy about her time. We went back into the registration area where it was warmer to talk about our races, eat some post-race snacks, and wait for the results.

A lady was nice enough to take our picture... and then took a picture of our legs. She said, "Now you can edit them together!" I'm not sure why she didn't just turn the camera to get a full-body shot, but she was excited about her solution so we just went with it.

Most of the results were posted pretty quickly and I placed 5th overall but the age group awards were a little tricky. They were giving out glass mugs instead of medals but they were only giving mugs to the first place finisher in each age group. Most races give awards to the 1st through 3rd place overall finishers and don't count those finishers in the age group standings. I talked to a volunteer and she said that was the plan for this race too. She was wrong.

Liz and I waited quite a while for the awards thinking I won my age group. The guys that finished 2nd and 3rd overall were 32 and 33 years old, but they wouldn't count in my age group if the top 3 got awards. I was technically the 3rd male age 30-34 to cross the finish line, but the first in that age group if you didn't count the top 3. After a long wait, they started the awards and we knew right away there weren't awards for the top 3 finishers. So, no mug for me. It wasn't a big deal except that we could have been back at Ben and Maja's helping with the Thanksgiving preparations almost an hour sooner.

Even more disappointing was when we checked the results later and realized Liz placed 2nd in her age group! I think this is the first time Liz has placed in her age group and it was even at a good-sized race. Unlucky that they didn't give awards three-deep in each age group.

You can tell we got bored waiting by how entertaining I thought these pictures were:

Shoe hug!

I even posed for a picture with the scary turkey they had running around.

So at the end of the day, I didn't come close to my goal of setting a PR but Liz absolutely crushed hers! We updated the Gomer Nation spreadsheet with our times and then spent the rest of the day gorging ourselves on a Thanksgiving feast!

Goal For The Day: Race!
Distance: 3.10 Miles.
Time: 18:49. 6:04 Avg. (5:53, 6:04, 6:14, 0:36*).
Route: 5K On Turkey Day.
Conditions: 43 degrees. 8:00AM.

Time: 28:42. 9:15 avg.
142nd out of 488 finishers.
55 out of 270 women.
2nd out of women ages 25-29!!!

Time: 18:49. 6:04 avg.
5th out of 488 finishers.
5th out 218 of men.
3rd out of 17 men ages 30-34.

Notes: Super proud of Liz today! I think she's finally starting to feel like a runner. I also passed the 600 mile mark since starting this blog!

Daily Miles: 3.10 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 602.60 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 14,350+ meters.

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