Sunday, October 26, 2014

Dick Pond Cocoa Run 5K -- October 26, 2014

When I looked at the forecast for today's race the other day and saw the predicted high was supposed to be 65 degrees, I kind of laughed a bit as it looked like any post-race hot cocoa would not be necessary.

But when Darcy and I woke up this morning to get ready for the race, it was a different story! They temperature was sitting at a brisk 43 degrees, but fortunately the skies were clear and there was little to no wind at all.

By the time we arrived at the Danada Forest Preserve in Wheaton, the morning was turning glorious. While it was still a bit chilly out of the sun, by the time we were ready to get started at 8:05 a.m. it wasn't much warmer but still really comfortable.

When we arrived at the start/finish area I was kind of excited. It turns out that Danada is an equestrian center that has a grass horse training track, which meant the first half-mile and the last quarter-mile (or so) would have a cross country feel to it. Being a very dedicated fan of XC I was pumped because it was the first time I got to race on something like that.

There was also an 8-mile race, and those hearty souls took off a few minutes before we did. I got a few stretches in and lined up a little near the back of the pack. I am a big fan of techno/dance music and a few days ago I found a podcast from a DJ named Hardwell, so that was my music of choice for the race. The great thing about those podcasts is that it's close to an hour long and there are few breaks in the music, so the beat never stops.

The race got underway, and I tried to focus on what I had mentioned in a post earlier this week. Rather than force the issue and try too hard, I just wanted to be smooth and keep my breathing under control.

We cruised clockwise around the grass track, and it felt really good on my legs. I tried to find grass that was trampled down since if I ran in some of the longer stuff it would slow me down.

About six minutes into the race we made a right turn onto a (very) crushed path. So the path was a bit hard, but not as bad as asphalt or concrete. In fact, only a couple hundred feet of the course was pavement, which was really nice.

I had entered the race hoping to break 31 minutes, and hit the first mile in 10:12. So it was a bit slower than the 10 minute-ish pace I needed, but not anything to worry about. Plus, about a quarter-mile further down the line we came around a little bend and there was a HUGE hill. I thought that was a good thing -- for about two seconds. Then I saw the 2-mile sign (which was facing the other way) and looked up to see the leaders coming from the other direction.

Dang! So we had a nice hill to cruise down, but we were going to have to go right back up it a few minutes later. I was a bit disappointed because I think in a downhill/uphill situation I sit on the negative side of that ledger -- as in, I lose more going up a hill than I gain going down.

Oh well, a couple of minutes later we were at the turnaround, and a quick 180-sent us back the way we came. I was trying to find a couple of people who had seemed to have settled in to work with them, so that was a bit of a help.

But man, that hill. For a lot of people, it was like Heartbreak Hill at the Boston Marathon, because a lot of people's races came to a grinding halt. In fact, many people ended up stopping to walk as they neared the top.

I hit the second mile in 10:13, which was fine, actually I was quite happy with having put together two consistent miles like that. Lately I've felt like my runs have been all over the map in terms of pace, so putting together those two splits was great.

I was determined to not stop on the hill, but by the time I got to the top I was hurting pretty badly. It took another 100 meters or so for the lactic acid to subside and the different muscle group to start firing again. I had settled in behind a woman in a bright yellow jacket, and hoped to work with her to keep things going to the end of the race.

I'm not gonna lie, the last half-mile or so was kind of painful. But by then I just don't like to give in and slow down, I just tell myself "just five more minutes of running" and keep going. We made a turn left back onto the grass and I was quite surprised when I looked at my watch.

Kind of crazy, but I'd run the third mile in 9:43 and was sitting at 30:09 overall. All of the sudden, 31 minutes was in reach! I picked up the pace -- and passed the yellow-jacket-wearing woman -- and went as hard as I could the rest of the way. When I got to the finish line, I was just a bit short, crossing it in 31:02.

I was so focused and had my music going and I didn't hear the PA announcer say a few things about me! My PR-chick wife had been talking to him while we were out on the course and slipped in there that today is our three-month anniversary, so he was saying all sorts of nice things about me. :--) Darcy's just awesome. She really is.

Overall I was happy with the race. Dick Pond Athletics is a chain of local shoe stores that does a phenomenal job with whatever they do, so the race was very organized and well-done, and the hot cocoa at the end was fantastic!

Running-wise, I was thrilled. My splits were great, I negative split the race and made my last mile the fastest (always a goal of mine). I just missed my goal time by two seconds, so no complaints there. And, it was a beautiful day to run.

Performance-wise, thinking ahead to my next 5K over Thanksgiving weekend, I need to do some faster training. I'm doing some good base training stuff, but that's just running miles at the same pace. To get faster I'll need to throw in some pickups or hill work or something. I'm still holding fast on my goal to break 30 minutes by the end of the year!

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