Saturday, May 10, 2014

Herndon 5K Race Report

In 2013, my daughter attended a Northern Virginia School.  For their P.E. class, they were encouraged to run, walk, or even just volunteer for a 5K race .  Of course, she had a cold the week of the race, and I insisted she rest.  But, she asked me to run it, and I did.  

Incredibly, it became my 5K PR of roughly 23:50, or 7:40 per mile.

I was happy over the PR, but barely hung out post race.  Instead, I promptly left so I could drive over to her house, check up on her, and give her some of the pastries and other baked goodies from the finish area.  I didn't stick around for the awards ceremony because (while I'd finished decently fast), there were SO many bald guys ahead of me that I figured I wasn't in the top 2, so no AG award for me.  Darn.

Later that afternoon, I logged on to see:

1.  I'd finished 2nd in my AG (so yes, I made the "podium") and
2.  The guy ahead of me had only beaten me by less than 5 seconds . . . .


My daughter went to school, and someone casually handed her my AG award, which she actually draped over my neck when I saw her later.  So that was cute.  But damn.  I was almost in FIRST place.  Me!  Fatass, slow, lumbering ME.

Fast forward by one year . . . .

May of 2014 came along, but she no longer attended that school, having moved with her mom farther out into the burbs.  Still, she asked me if I was going to run it again.  I was deliberately vague.

More like Emo.

The ego-hit from the extra winter weight still bothered me, and, after all, ONE WEEK ago, I'd just run a 5K race, and missed a PR.  The Public Service 5K was a FLAT course.  This one, in the streets of Herndon, VA, was rather . . . varied.

Trust me, at a 5K pace, you feel EVERY uphill.

Moreover, the course involved LOTS of switchbacks and turns, which also tend to slow you down, as opposed to an easy out n' back course:

You start and --almost-- end on a track, but otherwise it's lots of TURN HERE, NOW HERE AND HERE.  AND HERE.

So, basically, I waffled to her.  "I'll let you know," I would say, over and over again.  "I'm still thinking about it, sweetie," I'd say, smiling, while knowing that there was almost no point in going out there.  Yet, part of me wanted to run it.  Most of me didn't.

When I woke up the morning of the race, I had a distinct "lean" on whether I was going to run the race:  I hadn't registered for it yet.  Figuring it would be an easy morning, I laid in bed and caught up on the night's prior Twitter feed.  That's when I saw it, a (re)tweet from Manuela Dumfart (that's really her name, and she's a talented operatic singer):


Dammit.  Why not go for it.  Because yes, very often you'll find yourself more disappointed by the things you did NOT do, than by the things you did.

So I raced out to Herndon, showed up at registration, chatted with the kiddo's ex-teachers and vice-principal, and was handed my bib.  After a few strides to warm up, I ambled over to the starting line, which is on their track.

One thing.  I'm not a lot of fun pre-race.  I go into game mode:

Pretty sure I lost to everyone in this picture.
To be honest, I'm probably thinking, "This was the stupidest idea you ever had since you sold all that Apple Stock pre-iTunes."

Now then, unlike my prior 5K, I did have more of a race plan for this one:

This seems well-considered.
Anyway, I was going to have to stay ahead of 7:40 per mile (for 3 miles) if I was going to PR this thing, and certainly if I was going to have ANY chance of trying for the podium again.  With that in mind, BANG, we were off!

The first part is a quarter mile dash on the track, and I immediately noted a couple of things:

1.  EVERYBODY was passing me, and

Damn.  Also, I made it about half a mile before I realized, just like last week:


Sooooo, once again, I did the little dance of trying to hold a hard pace while working the touchscreen of my Garmin ("Menu, select, NO NOT THAT ONE, dodge a pothole, select OH FFS").  But, I got it straight before reaching the first mile marker:

Mile 0-1:  7:15
If everyone else was flying, I must have been caught in their jetwash, because I was being carried along with them.  There was NO way I could hold a pace like this for 3 miles.  I immediately slowed a touch after the first mile, just a bit, figuring that I might need that energy after we climbed the rolling hills I knew lay ahead.

Mile 1-2:  7:42
This was back to reality for me, but it was closer to last year's pace, so that was a nice surprise.  I worked hard, ran through water stops, even declining to grab a cup and pour it down my back in lieu of drinking it, which I will sometimes do.

Mile 2-3:  7:42
I admit being pretty happy here.  I'd already realized I was close to my previous mile's pace, and with going out gangbusters at the start, I was virtually assured a PR if I could survive mile 2-3.  I felt myself slowing just a tough, but I was still passing more people I recognized from the start, and tried to push as we headed for the final (roughly) quarter/third of a mile.

This time, unlike last week, I wasn't going to let up over egos.  There were two guys ahead of me.  One dude in a ponytail, and one bigger guy like me.  I knew I had plenty left in the tank, and made the decision to just crank.  So I started up, and quickly overtook them both, passing between them as they jockeyed with each other for an angle.

I passed them both, and then, just for a few seconds, heard footsteps.  Someone wasn't going gently. 

So I poured it on. The footsteps grew faint.  I'd done it.  I'd actually held off a challenge, and mopped the floor with them!

That line may have been written just to use this GIF.

All that was left now was a quick glance at my Gamin when HOLY CRAP

I was within striking distance of a sub-23 5K.  I would have had to REALLY go nuts, but there it was.  I had just wanted to top my PR of 23:50ish, and now I realized I got close to something I never thought I'd do.

I hit the finish, slapped to "stop" the time, and realized I'd finished faster than 23:10, or about a 7:27ish pace.


I wasn't worried about missing sub-23.  Coming so close was completely out of the question for me, and here I had actually gotten within striking distance.  I was doing (internal) backflips.

They posted the results, and, sure enough, enough "ringers" had come by that I was pushed down off the AG podium, but I just didn't care.  Although the freaking WINNER of the race was IN my AG, so that was some BS, shouldn't he just be OA?  Anyway, he was a 49-year-old guy who ran just over a 6-minute-per-mile pace, so I couldn't have overtaken him on a bike.

Race by the numbers:

Overall:  Top 12% (PARTY ROCK!)


Division:  Top 31% (WTF, SERIOUSLY, WHAT THE HELL OLD GUYS?!?!?!)

Stuff I learned:

1.  This was NOT a negative split race, but there is some science suggesting shorter distance races should have you going out faster.  Here's an article about the practice, from "Science-Based Running:" Should you start out slow in a 10K?

2.  I'm glad I pressed on towards the end, although, strangely enough, neither of the two guys I passed at the end were in my AG (one was younger, the other older).  Still, it felt good to correct a mistake I'd made a week earlier.

3.  This one is important.  Remember this sentence above? 

"So I raced out to Herndon, showed up at registration, chatted with the kiddo's ex-teachers and vice-principal, and was handed my bib." 

What does it NOT mention?



So I'm driving home, and I just casually checked my wallet.  I saw $35, which was the cost for same-day registration.  I'd brought that cash so I could avoid wasting time with a check or a credit card.  But nobody took my money, and I forgot to offer it.  I just chatted away, accepted the bib, filled out the registration info, and marched over to the start line.


"Mortified" is one way to describe how I felt.



Ok, now you're not even effing trying.

I got home, immediately typed out an e-mail to the Vice Principal, who wrote me back THAT SAME WEEKEND DAY (educators are underpaid), and said I could send a check.  

I did that day.  Because I'm pretty sure the internet police can take away your once-thought-impossible PR if you run a race without paying.


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