(Results) This race went exactly as I wanted it to go, precisely according to plan. That certainly doesn't happen all the time!
First, the weather was perfect -- sunny and about 40° -- and the previous day's rain cleared the road of snow and ice. Then, the race went just as I planned. There was one person I was worried about, my friend MG, who usually runs marathons and hasn't run anything even close to as short as a 5k, but tends to win the marathons she enters. Plus, when I was talking to her and her friend/coach before the race, her friend/coach mentioned that he thought she should run 5:30 pace and that she could run 17:30. That was a little worrying; I wasn't planning to try to run a PR, and 17:30 is faster than my PR.
Best conversation during registration:
[Looking at the sheets of pre-registered entrants]
Me: Hey, some people have single-digit numbers! Zak and Alan are number 2 and 3! How do you get a low number?
Guy from NRA: If you've done well before, or if we know you.
Me: What if I won the race last year?
Him: You didn't.
Me: And was second the year before.
Him: Uh... really?
(The best part was the unequivocal "you didn't." I assured him that it didn't matter either way, that the extra ink for the second digit in my "54" would not weigh me down. After the race, he found me and told me that I can have a low number next year. Ha ha.)
Here we are a few hundred meters after the start. You can see me and MG on the extreme left of the screen (her in blue, me in sunglasses) and of course Alan right there in the center. She took it out hard and I followed on her shoulder.
She really was running 5:30 pace! Maybe 5:35-5:40, but no slower than that. I had planned to go out in a comfortable 5:45, and the pace we went didn't quite feel comfortable. In fact, I am always a noisy breather when running, and this time I noticed that I was breathing very noisily while MG was silent. To an impartial observer, she probably sounded like she was jogging in a park, while I sounded like I was doing my ninth interval in a set of 8 x 400.
I knew it was serious when we passed Dave S. He can be consistently counted on to run 18:30, so if we were passing him, we were committing to a time faster than 18:30. That was okay, but I was not surprised when he passed us soon after. "Good job, Dave!" I said. "Keep pushing!" he shouted. "Whoo!" I replied. (Eloquent, as usual.)
At this point I kept finding myself pulling even with MG. Each time it happened, I let off and drifted back to her shoulder, because I definitely didn't want to be the one pushing the pace. But a little before the mile, I let it happen and I sort of drifted ahead and didn't look back. A few seconds later someone pulled up behind me and I assumed it was MG putting in a surge and catching back up, but it was a guy. I hit the mile in 5:45. And that was it. It was an out-and-back course, and when I saw Alan coming back he said "no one in sight!" and after I made the turn, I saw who was behind me and where, and I knew I was safe.
Out-and-back courses are fun because the people further back are always shouting things. Like in the St. Pats 5k when I ran to a constant background of "first woman!" and "first women!", or at the Pie Run when people actually said "go Diana!", and of course the Tufts 10k where the women shout under the bridges and generally along a whole bunch of the course.
After the race I ran into my friend Wayne. "Did you hear me cheering for you?" he asked, and then said, "you looked happy -- you were actually smiling." And then I remembered that I was laughing and making jokes. In particular, people were shouting "First Lady!" so I shouted, "If I'm the First Lady, do I get to live in the White House?" I think a couple of men passed me in this section; I came through two miles in 11:57 for a 6:12 second mile. That is what happens when you smile and make jokes: hello, tempo pace.
But it didn't matter, because I wasn't trying to set any records. I was just running. The mile back to the finish line was pretty windy, so I tried to draft off of various men. They were (I assume) racing, so that forced me to run a little faster in order to stay right behind them. This one guy who passed me was wearing Tarahumara-type sandals with thin soles and just a loop going around his big toe and some straps up his ankle. "Slap-slap-slap" was the sound his feet made as he ran by.
With a quarter of a mile to go, I realized that I was running very comfortably. I saw Dave S just ahead of me, and I wanted to pass him. Then I remembered that I missed the Saturday team workout to do this race, so I had better get in a good workout at the race! So I surged to pass Dave S and the guy running next to him. As we came under the arch, there was a guy just ahead of me, who was wearing sneakers. You can see him on the edge of the screen, and me just behind him, in this picture:
I decided I didn't want to lose to him either, so I passed him and then turned towards the finish line and was slammed by a huge wall of wind. I went through three miles in 17:48 for a 5:51 third mile (not bad). The next guy in front of me was Sandals Guy, but he was too far ahead to catch, so I just ran through the finish and ended up with 18:25.
This #183 guy you can see in the picture talked to me after the race. It turns out that I also just barely beat him by a few seconds at the Scott Carlson race in April! Who knew? I assured him that it wasn't him I was trying to pass; it was Dave.
It's pretty neat that I can run 18:25 without excessive exertion. I set a PR of 18:26 in October '09, which was a breakthrough race for me, and now that time isn't too hard. This is my sixth-fastest 5k (after JCC, RMDH'10, CVS'10, Carlson and St. Pats). I am very happy with my current level of fitness, I'm working to improve it, and I am hoping to run a great 3k at Valentines this weekend.
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