Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Penn Relays 5k

(As published in Level Renner) Results - April 26

A couple of New England athletes carpooled down to Penn Relays together -- Joanna M., Laura K. and me from New Balance Boston, and Victoria B. of the GBTC (see photo). Our introduction to the Penn Relays was not auspicious, as we had some trouble getting into the stadium. Each time we tried to get in, the security person would tell us, "go to the next entrance, that's where they'll let you in." [See Joanna's hilarious writeup of the experience.] They wouldn't let Ray Treacy and his Providence women in either, so at least we were in good company.

 Apparently everyone who has run at "distance night" at Penn knows that distance runners can't get into the stadium until about an hour before the first distance race, but for those of us for whom it was our first time, it was stressful. Keep this in mind if you ever run at Penn!

 I warmed up on the infield while watching Laura, Joanna and Victoria run the steeplechase. Soon it was time to get on the line, and I actually had the position on the starting line closest to the rail. I took that opportunity to get out quickly, and I was in about sixth place at 200m, which we passed in 40.7 (thanks to a time clock with one decimal place of accuracy). My goal was to run under 17:00, which would mean running 81-82 seconds per lap. Over the next three laps, most of the field passed me as I ran 81s and went through 1600 in 5:24.

I let about a dozen runners pass me, and then tucked in behind a runner from TCU. Looking back, this was my one error. If I had chosen the runner just ahead of her, I would have been tucked into the large pack that ran 17:00, but instead I was in a small group that lost ground to them over the next few laps. The TCU runner sped up every time she passed her coach, and slowed down on the other side, but otherwise she was pretty consistent and I was able to mentally check out as I paced off of her. We ran a few 83s and 84s, coming through 3k in 10:15. At that point, I pretty much knew I wasn't going to go under 17:00, but I was certainly going to keep pushing to go as fast as possible, and hopefully break my PR of 17:17.

The track is somewhat disorienting, as the finish line is more towards the middle of the straightaway than the end, and there were identical time clocks at the start and finish lines, so if you lost count you could easily forget which was which. With my propensity for instantly calculating lap times, I could have gotten really distracted calculating my split every 200 meters, so I decided to ignore the clock at the starting line and only count laps from the finish line. This worked pretty well, except that I was running 83-84 instead of 81-82, so the time wasn't quite what I wanted it to be when I came around each time.

My teammates were cheering energetically in a couple of places around the track, which was helpful. I pushed hard the last few laps, and with a lap to go the clock said 15:55, so I knew that if I ran an 80, I would break my PR. I kicked past the TCU runner and closed the last 200 in 37 to notch a small PR of 17:12. Not earth-shattering, but a step in the right direction. I felt strong during the race, so I am confident that if I get in with a little faster group, I can improve my time in my next race, the first New Balance Boston Twilight Meet on May 12. [Note: goal now revised to the fourth NBB meet on June 9.]

I did a nice cool-down with Kyle Linn M. of the GBTC, Brielle C. of the BAA and my teammate Krystal D., who were also in the 5k; went out with the crew to an Irish pub for a late dinner; and then took the midnight train back to Providence. In all, it was a fun trip, and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to race at the Penn Relays.