Well, that and since I'm part Irish and all that too.
So I signed up for the race on Thursday and given the way my runs had gone lately was feeling pretty optimistic that I could break my over-40 personal best of 29:51 that I had set at the Chilly Chili 5K back in December. My last 3-4 weeks of training have gone really well and though I hadn't done any speedwork some of my other timed runs made it seem like a possibility.
I got up at about 6 a.m. for an 8:30 race and took my time getting ready. I'm not really flexible and tend to be pretty tight in the mornings, so I thought taking some extra time would be helpful. Though my ankles were a little stiff this morning, everything else felt really good.
Deer Park, where the race was held, is about 30 minutes from Bartlett -- according to Mapquest -- so I left around 7:10 hoping to get there in time to get in a couple of warm-up miles before we started. That plan went out the window when I took a wrong turn and by the time I had realized what was going on and got back on track I had lost 15 minutes.
Things got a bit stressful because I had read on the website that they were closing packet pickup before eight, which was what time I pulled into the parking lot! I hustled over there and to my relief they were still happily giving out bibs and t-shirts. In fact, they did that all the way up to the time the race started!
I went back to my car and got all pinned up and took my inhaler, and still had about 15 minutes before the race was set to begin. That gave me a chance to still get some light jogging in and a few strides before heading to the start line with about five minutes to go.
Between the 5K and 10K there were about 500 runners/walkers, and the starting chute was kind of tight, but I didn't mind a lot. If you read my race report from December, in that race I went out like I was running 800 meters instead of 3.1 miles and was in serious oxygen debt for most of the run. Not to mention, the starting area also had some twists and turns to it, which meant the first 200 meters or so would be a bit slow.
It was about 45 degrees and the sun was shining brightly when the race went off right on time. There was a bit of a breeze which added a bit of a chill to the air, but once we got going it was quite comfortable.
The race started in front of a California Pizza Kitchen restaurant on the edge of a group of stores and restaurants, and we made our way through there and out to the street. It was a bit crowded for the first few hundred meters, but nothing too frustrating. I put on my Paul Oakenfold podcast and tried to settle in as best I could.
The course meandered through a big office complex and was a combination of streets and running trails. While it was definitely urban there were some retention ponds and the like along the route, which when the weather picks up will look really nice in a few weeks. I didn't mind...to me priority number one at a race is to have an accurate course. Everything else is just a bonus!
Going in with the goal of running 29:30, the plan was to get to two miles at a conservative 19:30 (9:45 pace) or so and then pick it up to the finish. Though I was having a bit of a hard time finding a groove at the beginning, I didn't feel like I was running too fast.
Then I hit the one mile mark and hit my watch.
8:38. Alrighty then.
Welp, now my race tactics were out the window so it was time to adjust. I wasn't feeling "awful" or anything, so I tried to back down from my pace a bit and find someone I could work with which didn't really work because either no one was running a pace I liked or I was just impatient. Probably the latter.
As we closed in on the 2-mile mark I saw a water stop up ahead, and while I normally never take water/Gatorade in a 5K unless it is really hot, I decided that it was probably best to take a quick walk break and do a little regrouping.
In the end it was a good idea. I was able to get my breathing a little more under control, and while my second mile was in 9:49 (I guesstimate I took about a 30 second walk break), at 18:28 for two miles I was still in good shape.
Must of the last mile was a long, straight stretch that mentally was a bit difficult, but I tried really hard not to look at my watch too often. The pace definitely felt much better than before I had taken my break. The final left turn left us about a quarter-mile to the finish, and it was up a gradual rise, so I just put my head down and tried to keep breathing.
My third mile split was a more manageable 9:10, which I didn't know because I just hit my watch without looking. Just after that we went into a maze of cones and on to the finish. When I crossed the finish line I looked at my watch and sort of couldn't believe it. In fact, stunned might be a much better way to describe it.
Are you serious? Needless to say I was gassed but really, really happy. I finished the race in 128th place and was eighth in my age group. Not a bad way to start my 2015 racing season!
After not racing for so long it felt really good to be back out there. From here on out it gets a little busier as I will be racing at a minimum of every two weeks through the end of May. Still, this was a great place to start and a nice confidence boost!