(Results) This year, I decided to do a Thanksgiving race. Every other year of my life, I have either been in Maine for Thanksgiving or traveling to relatives' houses, so there has been no time for races. This year, a confluence of the mutual absence of many sets of relatives left me free and able to do whatever I cared to do on Thanksgiving, so I decided to do a five-mile road race.
I looked at last year's results, and decided on a race in southern Rhode Island that gave cash to the top two runners. Last year's competition was stiff, but I decided that as long as I ran hard, I would be able to run with last year's winner (MH) and at least get second place. The race is generally known as the Newport Pie Run, but it is actually in Middletown, RI.
When we arrived, I was happily surprised to see our friend Mark signing up! So Mark and I did a warm-up together. It was quite cold out, in the 30s, and windy (Middletown is on the ocean). I saw one woman (KS), in pink, who looked pretty good, but I didn't recognize her. I also saw MH (last year's winner). I stripped down to my singlet and shorts and went to the starting line. It was bitterly cold and windy, so I stood inside the mass of people (mostly dressed in long pants and long sleeves, gloves, hats, etc.) to stay warm. When the race start was imminent and I went to the starting line, I was unhappily surprised to find two really fast women standing there. One ran in the 2008 Olympics. The other recently ran a half marathon nearly one minute faster per mile than my PR. Well, there went the cash. Thanks, guys. Now it really was just going to be a pie run for me.
There's no crying in football, and there's no stopping in running. The gun went off and I was running. It took me about 15 seconds to realize that my hands were freezing cold. It was cold and windy, and my hands were seriously uncomfortable. I wasn't going to be able to warm up my fingers by wiggling them, because the wind was too cold. I should have worn gloves. This was a real problem. As I was wondering whether I should run with my hands on my neck, or on my waist, or what, Alan happened to mention, "If you want my gloves at any point, just say so." "YES!" I said, and over the next 30 seconds or so used the stiff fingers on one hand to get the gloves onto the stiff fingers on the other hand. It probably slowed me down, but I didn't care.
We passed the first mile in 5:52 (Alan was running with me). That seemed like a pretty reasonable speed -- slower than 5k pace, but not too much slower. The two fast women had disappeared into the distance. Alan glanced back and said, "you've got company," meaning that MH was close behind me. (He later told me that she was running about 10 meters behind us for the first two miles.) I didn't think about it; I put it out of my mind.
We hit two miles in 11:54, for a 6:02 second mile. I was happy to still be averaging under 6-minute pace. At this point we ran downhill to a beach, where it was windy but probably scenic (I did notice an octagonal gazebo). Here was an out-and-back section, so we started to see the leaders coming back. The runner immediately ahead of me was Dave, a friend from RI who is often close to me in races, and as we passed him on the out-and-back part near the cone, Alan told him he better not slow down, because we're coming for him... I was able to see who was behind me, and it was KS (the woman in pink that I had noticed as looking fast) followed by MH! Once again, out of over 1300 people milling around before the race, I had correctly identified my two closest competitors...
We hit three miles in 17:54 for a 6:00 mile, aided by the downhill, and began the trek back up the hill we had descended. The hill seemed to be about half a mile long -- it was LONG. I conserved energy on the uphill and probably slowed down too much, though Alan was looking back periodically and he reported later that the hill was where I dropped KS and MH. We went through four miles in 24:22 for a 6:28 fourth mile. Not my finest hour, but this hill was pretty serious business.
Happily, though, the downhill was on the other side and we screamed down it all the way to the finish. I managed to catch and pass Dave, and put about 15 seconds between us in the last half mile. This portion of the race was very windy, and even when I ran so close to Alan that I nearly clipped his heels, it was still windy and I felt like I wasn't drafting at all. The next person in front of me was Alan's teammate, and he encouraged me to catch the guy, but he was pretty far ahead and it didn't seem possible to me.
When the finish line was in sight, Alan peeled off and told me I had 20 seconds to get in under 30 minutes, and I could do it. When I heard "20 seconds," I immediately thought "100 meters" (80-second laps being an ingrained benchmark) and looked ahead and thought it looked to be a little farther than that. But I kicked hard and was surprised at how much speed I had left. I nearly did catch the guy (he beat me by a second, but our chip times were the same) and came in with a time of 30:09 (5:47 last mile). To my surprise, KS finished ahead of MH. It turns out that KS is totally legit, even though she was racing in a pink zip-up sweatshirt. It just goes to show you that you can't judge people's speed by the clothes they wear to race.
That's a 7-second PR for me over my 5-mile split from the 2009 Tufts 10k, and a 23-second PR over my actual 5-mile race PR from Red Rooster Ramble #13. However, I'm confident that I could have gone a lot faster. I didn't come into the race mentally prepared to push myself to the wall, and I didn't push myself nearly as hard as I did in RRR #13. Had I pushed myself that hard, I surely would have run faster. The conditions weren't great; as I discussed, the wind was a constant factor, and the hill was long. With these considerations in mind, I've decided that I'm glad I didn't break 30 minutes, because my goal is not to break 30 minutes: The next time I race five miles, I want to break 29 minutes. That's my goal and I'm sticking to it.
I won my age group, so I came home with a metal water bottle and two pies (apple and pumpkin) for my efforts. $25 poorer, but at least well hydrated and fed.
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