Yesterday was Thanksgiving. In recent years Lisa and I have headed north to Montréal for the holiday, but we stayed home this year since we’re going on vacation soon.
As a result, we could do our town’s Turkey Trot 5K!
Since Ironman Wisconsin, I set a 5K trail PR, ran a tough 8.5-mile trail race, took almost three minutes of my half-marathon PR, and ran a wicked hard 10.5K trail race. I’ve been thankful for how good my body has felt and that I’ve had the chance to do so many fun local races. I’m actually starting to recognize people at events. Weird!
With all of the racing, I was interested to see if I would be able to achieve my long-time goal of going under 20 minutes at a 5K. I’ve learned a lot about how to push myself way beyond what feels comfortable when running, but my body has its limits. Plus, I would need to drop a lot of time off my previous (post-high school) best of 20:52.
As Lisa and I were walking the half-mile to the start of the race from our house, we talked a little bit about my plan. First, we noted that this hilly course might not necessarily be the best for breaking 20; a flatter 3.1 miles would definitely be less challenging. Also, I knew that two things would have to happen: (1) I would need to push myself so hard that I might not finish anywhere near 20 minutes, and (2) I was going to have to be very uncomfortable for the whole race. No easy trot for me. I needed to average 6:27/mile to make my goal.
Lisa, who is looking pretty fit, hasn’t run much recently—usually opting for a bike ride or walk instead—didn’t express any similarly lofty goals, but I suspected that she would do well.
We got to the start at the high school, shed some of our warmer outer layers, and got ourselves ready. I hoped for a nice 10-15 minute warmup, but time was tight, so I didn’t stray too far. I got back to Lisa, removed my jacket, and had a little smooch before we both headed to the start. We were among the last ones.
The start line was quite crowded with lots and lots of high school students, so I found the fastest looking adult woman and lined up next to her. (The fastest women usually finish just ahead or just behind me.) We started almost before we knew it. No national anthem was sung. No race directions were delivered. No “Thanks everybody for showing up” speeches were given. At 7:30 promptly, the race director said something to the effect of “Let’s get going. On your marks, get set, go!”
I love the start of local 5K races. There are middle school and high school kids who line up a the front and could conceivably be wicked fast or just have delusions of grandeur. And the fast ones might go out too fast and then flame out anywhere from 100 meters from the start to a couple of miles in. (You can get a sense of what distances the kids race.) Then again, the cross country runners tend to stay strong throughout the whole distance, so you never know. With adults, it’s easier; usually when someone runs away from me at the start, I don’t see them again until the finish.
This race was no different in this respect. I started at a fast pace—thankfully I was warmed up—and proceeded to pass a number of teenagers over the first mile. By this time we had left the flat early part and were on the 3/4-mile hill that I go up almost every time I run in my town. It was starting to feel pretty tough when I looked at my time for the first mile: 6:27. “Gah!” I thought. “The next mile contains even more uphill. How am I going to break 20 minutes?” Then I told my brain to shut up and just keep going as hard as I could, since I would have to go downhill again eventually.
I covered the second mile in 7:02, about 35 seconds slower than I needed to go, but the last 1.1 miles were all downhill (almost). I ran like a man possessed. The high school kid I was running about 2-3 seconds behind kept trying to put some distance between us, and I pushed hard trying to pass him. With about a quarter of a mile left, I thought I might pass him, and I was getting ready to tell him not to give up and to work with me for the next minute. Seeing me just behind him as we rounded a corner was all the motivation he needed, though, and he found a new gear, finishing three seconds ahead of me. Staying with him really worked well, as it was extra motivation to push myself as hard as I could go.
In the end, I just wasn’t fast enough. For the first time ever, I saw 19-something on the clock at the finish, but I wasn’t able to make it to the finish before it ticked over to “20.” But I’m still really, really pleased with the 20:14 I ran. It’s almost 40 seconds better than my previous fastest, which also came on a very hilly course. Maybe next year, I’ll find myself a flat 5K somewhere and see what happens. Still, I’m very happy for finishing 15th out of 418th, and third in the very expansive “men 40-59″ age group.
My mind immediately turned to Lisa and her race. I grabbed my jacket and little camera from my bag and headed back out onto the run course, staying out of the way of the people finishing. About a half mile into this cool-down run, I saw Lisa. She was looking great! She was running well and seemed to be enjoying herself. We ran along for a little bit together before I peeled off to avoiding going through the finish twice.
Lisa took almost two minutes off her previous 5K best! What an excellent job! I’m so happy for her.