Yesterday I ran a surprise 5k race. It wasn't a surprise to me, because I had been planning to run it for several weeks. But it was a surprise to everyone else because I never told anyone that I was planning to run it. I'm sneaky like that. I like racing "under the radar" every now and then - nobody expects anything from me, and so I put less pressure on myself, and if I have a bad race, I don't even have to tell anyone about it.
The problem with trying to run races under the radar around here is that I now have a lot of local runner friends and they are everywhere. And as it happened, one of my fellow FASTies, Kristi, had the exact same plan as I did: to race under the radar at the same race I was racing. Imagine my surprise when I saw her easily-recognizable curly blonde hair. Imagine her surprise when she saw... whatever feature about me that is easily-identifiable (my loud mouth shouting "Ohmigod, it's Kristi!", probably).
Kristi and I are both training for the Chicago Marathon, doing our long runs with the Stashies. Frank Stash, our leader, has mentioned to us many times that he thinks it's a good idea to race a 5k about once a month during marathon training, just to keep one's speed up and get out of the long-slow mode. It had been a while since my last 5k race (about a month, actually), and since this weekend had a shorter long run, I thought it would be a good time to put on my 5k legs.
I chose the Lacon Old Settlers 5k for several reasons. (1) A coworker was running it and had been telling me about his training, and I wanted to give him a little moral support (2) It's far away enough from Peoria that I might not run into anyone else I knew and (3) It's a small enough race that I might be able to win an age group award. Call me greedy, but I will not pass up a chance to earn more hardware for my yet-to-be-built trophy room. I know, I know - it's not all about the awards. Coach Brad always tells us to "run for fun and personal bests". But you know what's fun? Winning awards!
The race itself was very nice. It was well-organized - the pre-race registration process was quick and easy. It would've been nice to see a map of the course prior to the race, but the course was easy enough to follow with green arrows painted on the ground (well, I pretty much just followed everyone else and hoped they were going the right way). The course was not flat - there were a lot of gentle rolling hills, and the first 1/2 mile was entirely uphill, which caused some runners to bitch and moan. Personally, I didn't mind it, and I really appreciated the fact that the last 1/4 mile was entirely downhill. It made for an excellent finishing kick.
We really lucked out in that the weather was spectacular for the morning of this race: crisp, cool and not humid. We could not have asked for better race conditions, and it was such a wonderful change from every other race I've run in the last 3 months.
The weather definitely worked in everyone's favor. My coworker, Kristi and I all ran PR's. With a time of 25:11, I beat my previous best by over 40 seconds, which may not sound like much, but for a 5k, it's huge.
And as an added bonus, Kristi and I both placed 2nd in our respective age groups! Yes, winning hardware is definitely fun. Don't we look like we're having fun???
It's hard work setting a PR, though. Although this race was far less torturous than the hot, humid and wet Washington Cherry Festival 5k (where I had my previous PR), it was still not easy. The voices in my head were at war between pushing harder and pulling back. Pushing harder meant more pain. Pulling back meant increasing my finish time. My lungs were burning, my legs felt heavy, but when I passed the 2nd mile marker and the timing-guy called out 16:02, I though "Hey, I really have a chance to PR here, if I keep up my pace!" It was just what I needed to hear to keep me going. I wore my Garmin, but I never looked at it during the race. I wanted to run by feel.
As it turned out, I think I did a pretty good job of pacing by feel. I slowed down each mile, as I tend to do in short races like this, but not by a lot. Considering the last mile was mostly uphill (and that hill never seemed to end!), you would expect that mile to be slower anyway. I was able to have a nice finishing kick on that last downhill. The timer-guy at the 3 mile mark called out something around 24:40 and I knew I was going to run a PR. Part of me wished I could've pushed just a little more so I could come in under 25:00, but a larger part of me realizes that probably would have involved inheriting the Puke Crown. I am quite satisfied with my 25:11 finish time.
I also need to mention the post-race smorgasbord. It was incredible! Here is just part of it. What you can't see are the bazillion Subway sandwiches in the boxes on the other table. There were bananas, grapes, cookies, brownies, muffins, donuts, and probably a bunch of other things I'm forgetting.
For a small-town race, this is a very nice spread. Heck, this would be a nice spread for a big-city race. I was particularly fond of the large selection of cookies.
So all-in-all, the Lacon Old Settlers 5k was an excellent race. Why? Because I ran a PR, and because I won a 2nd place medal, and because there were lots of cookies. Oh yeah, and because it was well-organized and a nice course too, blah blah blah. But mostly because of the winning and the cookies.
Peace. Love. Train.