I learned two things at the race I ran on Sunday morning -
1. A 5K isn't always a 5K.
2. I can sustain my 5K pace (7:22) for longer than 3.1 miles.
This was a memorable race for many reasons, but mostly for the fact that it was actually 3.8 miles, due to the lead runner missing the first turn on the course and the rest of us following. Oh, and there's also the fact that I was the third female overall!!!!!!!!!!
I will be the first to admit that the only reason I even had a shot at placing like that is because it was a super small race - only 45 runners total - but it was still very, very exciting, and the small field doesn't diminish the fact that I ran a great race, so I still have a lot to be proud of : )
I knew it would probably be a small event, so didn't worry about getting there too early, but left myself enough time for a good 1.5-mile warmup. Also had time to chat with a few friends who were running, one of whom was running her first race ever, and another who just happens to be one of Dante's preschool teachers! I've run into her at a few other races, and she always beats me by about a full minute, so I anticipated that happening again, but figured if I could keep her in my sights, I'd be doing ok.
All the pagentry and crazy energy of big races is fun and exciting, but there's something really special about the small races. It's nice to not have to jostle for space, and to feel like you're just on a big group run.
After a couple of minutes, the horn sounded, and we were off. Most of the first mile was flat, and it was a nice, cool morning, and although I wanted to run a good race, I wasn't out to set a PR or anything, so I settled into a nice comfortable 7:28 pace, and my Garmin beeped to signal the end of the first mile almost exactly in synch with the 1-mile course marker. Unfortunately, that was the last course marker I saw!
We had been told that after the 1-mile mark, there would be a series of left-hand turns that would ultimately lead us back to the road we started on, and back to the final mile and the finish. Well, we started up a long hill, and I kept waiting and waiting for that first left-hand turn, but everyone ahead of me just kept climbing up the hill.
One of the people ahead of me was Dante's teacher, and I had planned to just keep her in my sight, but she was slowing on the hill, and I felt good, so I went ahead and passed her. I figured she'd end up catching me at some point, but she never did.
I passed a few other people on the hill, too - I sometimes hate that most of my long training runs involve a fair amount of hills, but it definitely pays off! I still kept wondering where on earth the turn was going to be, though, and was very glad when we finally got to the top of the hill and turned left.
But I know the area we were running through, and I was estimating how far we'd have to go as we looped back to the start, and it seemed to me that it would be much further than 3.1 miles. But I just kept chugging along, taking advantage of a relatively flat stretch to recover and catch my breath. Mile 2 - 7:35 - hill and all!
As they say, what goes up must come down, and so we went back down the other side of the massive hill. It would have been nice if we could have flown down it and made up some time, but that was a little tough, given that we were now running directly into a very steady headwind. It was still nicer than running uphill, though! And between that downhill, and the nice flat stretch afterwards, I was able to finish mile 3 in 7:13.
But as I heard the beep for mile 3 on my Garmin, the 3-mile marker was nowhere in sight, and we were still a ways away from the finish line. The rest of the course was flat as a pancake, though, so I just kept at it - not killing myself, but definitely determined to have a strong finish.
A couple hundred yards ahead of me was a woman in a green shirt. She had been a little further ahead of me through most of the race, but I could tell she was tiring. And I got it in my head that I was going to catch her. But I knew that I couldn't sprint ahead too early, so I pushed the pace just enough to get right on her heels as we rounded the final corner, with only about the final .1 mile to go.
It was clear at this point that we had run way more than a 5K. My Garmin was reading 3.7 miles. But the end was literally in sight, and green shirt woman was definitely losing steam. As we neared the chute, I sprinted and pulled ahead, crossing the finish line in 27:55, for a final .8 mile pace of 7:08.
As you would imagine, there was much discussion at the finish line about how far we had actually run, and what went wrong. It was all good-natured, though, and most people were just having a good laugh about it.
After grabbing a bottle of water, I walked back to the final turnoff to cheer in my friends who were running. I especially wanted to shout out some support for the friend who was running her first race. I jogged along with her for a minute, but let her cross the finish line herself. I always love to see people run their first race - such a great moment : )
We all gathered inside to get a bite to eat, and have some of the fabulous coffee they were serving from a local coffeehouse, and soon enough they were posting the results, so I made my way over to check them. I figured I'd probably place in my age group, since the race was so small, but I never imagined that I would be the third female finisher overall!!! But there it was, in black and white!!!!
The guy who collected his prize (a ribbon, and some cash - I'm not even sure how much, but I think it was $20) before me announced that he was donating it back to the group that sponsored the race - the local Domestic Violence Resource Center. I'd never heard of anyone doing that before, and I have to admit, it wouldn't have occurred to me to do it, but when I heard him say it, I immediately decided that I would do the same. I really don't need $20, but there are plenty of people who do. So I'm glad that he decided to do that, and I was happy to follow suit.
I chatted a few more minutes, and then headed home to show off my shiny yellow ribbon : ) Gabe was very impressed - truly, he was really excited for me - but upon further reflection, he commented "It's too bad you didn't win first place."
A very memorable race, on all counts. A little more than I bargained for, but a good, solid effort, and an exciting win : )
3.8 miles, 27:55
Third female overall!!!!!
11th out of 45 total.
Next up - indoor tri this Saturday - woohoo!