Running two hilly races two weeks in a row is probably not the best idea, but there was no way I was passing up the Newport Bridge Run, and the Mews 5K is a big local race, so I didn't want to miss that one, either, so back to the hills it was - and that's an understatement.
This was my 4th time running this race, so I knew what I was in for, and actually ran part of the course (the big, big hill near the finish) several times over the past few weeks, to get myself ready. But even though I was 'prepared,' there's no getting around the fact that running up an enormous, steep hill at 5K race pace just plain hurts.
Every other year I've run this race, it's been pretty chilly, and I've always been in long pants and long sleeves, and sometimes even gloves. With the temp hovering in the low 60s this year, that was clearly not going to be the case. Shorts and a tank top were just right.
This is one of the biggest 5Ks around, so it's as much a social event as it is a race. It's a well-organized event, though, and as it's gotten bigger and bigger over the past few years, they've added chip timing and starting corrals.
I lined up at the front, with the 'under 23:00' pack. I wanted to put in a good effort at this race. I knew I'd crush my old course PR of 23:50, and wanted to see how close I could get to 22 minutes.
The course starts with a steep uphill, and I tried not to push too hard on this one, since I knew more hills were coming. Once at the top, though, I had a really hard time getting my breathing under control, and everything just felt awkward.
It took me a good 2 minutes or so to feel like I was recovered and getting into a good rhythm, which was kind of unnerving. I knew I wasn't going to win any age-group awards or anything, so there wasn't really anything 'at stake' here, but it was just kind of annoying that I was feeling so off.
But then we turned a few corners and hit a nice straight, flat stretch, and I was feeling better, and knew this was my chance to finish up mile 1 at a decent clip and get in a nice, fast 2nd mile. Mile 1 ended up at 7:24. Not too bad, considering that I wasn't feeling too great for most of it.
There's one uphill in the 2nd mile, but it's nowhere near as bad as that initial one, so it didn't slow me down much. And there's one really nice downhill, where I really took advantage and got my legs turning over as quick as I could. Mile 2 - 6:59. Nice : )
Mile 3 starts with another long straight stretch of road, some of it with a very, very slight uphill grade. Not enough to slow you down a lot, but just enough to discourage you and make you tired, which is exactly how I was feeling. Ugh. I just wanted to be done.
Then came THE hill. The second half of this hill is what makes up the first climb on the course - but now, in the homestretch, you get to run up the whole darn thing! It's a doozy. And I did NOT want to do it. My legs were like jell-o at this point.
There was nothing to do but dig in and get it done, though, so that's what I did. And after running it several times in the preceding weeks, I knew that I just had to get to a white fence in front of a house on the right-hand side of the road, and then things would level out, and it would literally be all downhill from there. I kept my eye on that fence as I ran, waiting to pull even with it.
It hurt. Bad. But I got to the fence, hit the level ground, caught my breath, and started flying down the other side. That was more like it : )
Mile 3, 7:18, and the last .1 - 6:00 - wheeeeeeee!!!!!!!
Finish time of 22:25. Not too shabby, considering it was my second of two very hilly races two weekends in a row. And a full minute and a half faster than I ran this race last year!
9th out of 200 in my age group
176 out of 1,767 overall
And now I'm ready to avoid hills for a week or two!!!!!