Striding Through

Because a life well lived always finds the right pace

Monthly Archives: May 2010

We’ve Got Your Back 5k, Reston VA

Coming off a nice 3rd place finish in my neighborhood’s tiny 5k race earlier this month, I took a stab at a faster race course, and faster competitive field this past weekend in Reston. This race had actually been a 4-miler in past years, and I might have been better off it the longer distance had remained.

I think maybe the one-hour race I ran previously in the week took something out of me because I never really was able to get it going on this day. For whatever reason my energy level just felt low right from the start, and that’s not good in a 5k race where you really need to fire off the line. This was an out & back course and the first mile was downhill. Yet even then I just didn’t feel right. Indeed it was almost comical to look down at my watch at the posted one-mile mark and see a 5:17 on my watch…that marker was definitely short!

In Mile 2 we progressed towards the turnaround point, which was at the top of a short but steep hill. I was hoping that after the turnaround the quick roll back down that hill might give me some energy that I could put towards a strong finish. I did manage to pick off a few runners in front of me but wasn’t getting anywhere near the front runners in my age group. Sure enough the second mile came up ridiculously long in 7:46, basically making up for the short first mile.

By this point I knew it simply wasn’t my day, so I just concentrated on keeping a steady pace and not wasting myself for future races. I’ve been here before and I know when it’s time to live for another day. So I kept my effort consistent and came home in 19:45, 38th overall. Actually given how little I had in the tank that’s a decent result. And since I helped out with the setup and take-down of the finish area afterwards, I got to run for free.

I’m not sure when the next race is, but it might very well be the sister race of this one, which takes place in Bucks County, PA on June 6. If not that one, there are some other options locally that look good that same weekend. I’ll decide later. In the meantime I’m looking forward to a short break from racing this Memorial Day weekend.

Sometimes you just have to show up and run

Two nights ago, I tried a different kind of race, a one-hour run sponsored by the DC Roadrunners. Not having done one of these before I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was even more uncertain when I got to the track at St. Stephen’s about 20 minutes before race time and saw only about 4 or 5 other runners there. Had it been canceled?

I checked with someone who appeared to be the race director and sure enough, the race was still on. So I went back to my car, changed to my flats, and got ready. Eventually a few more runners showed up, including one who I recognized as Ted Poulos, one of the top master’s runners in the area. This guy is 48 years old, and he can still bang out a 5k in under 17 minutes. That’s well ahead of what I can do. Clearly he would be my most formidable competition and a big favorite to win but maybe I could keep him close, I thought and surprise with a big finish.

A few minutes later all 7, or 8 or 10 of us, I’m not even sure how many, lined up at the start and off we went. As we came around for the first lap I was in the lead, thinking, this can’t be right. And with a 400 split of about 90 seconds, it definitely wasn’t. Before long Poulos passed me and I thought to myself “whew, I didn’t want to try and hold that pace for an hour.” So I settled into second, while he pulled away.

From that point on I was running alone as the field really strung itself out. I’m not sure when Poulos finally lapped me but in the meantime I lapped the whole rest of the field. When he did finally catch me, I thought I did a decent job of keeping him close for a while, until about the 43 minute mark or so, when I seemed to hit a low spot. But I kept plugging away and eventually caught my second wind, and with about 7 minutes to I knew I was ready to finish strong, even if I wasn’t about to make up 600 meters.

For each of the final laps I got faster and stronger and was definitely hauling on the final 400. I even closed up about 100 meters of that 600-meter gap, so I was happy with that even if Poulos was just cruising home at that point. All told I completed 35 laps total, plus a little over half of a 36th lap. So I was very close to completing 9 miles…not bad considering I’m definitely not in top form right now.  Based on my own very rough estimates I ran about a 6:48/mile pace, which is right about the pace where my half-marathon PR sits.

It wasn’t a bad night’s work as it turns out. It was a nice tempo run and to boot, I can now say I’m the second place finisher in the 2010 Road Runner’s Club of America’s Virginia championship race for the 1-hour run. I didn’t know this race served that purpose in addition to being just another club race, until I got there. But I’m certainly not complaining.

Up next is a 5k on Saturday, and it looks like a fast field will be on hand. I won’t be finishing second in that one but hopefully I can score something in the age group. Also it’s time to resurrect the chase for sub-19! 😉

Busy start to summer racing

It’s been a busy couple of weeks since my last post here. After having a few days to bask in the glow of a successful marathon at Boston, I then got thrown into a hectic project at work. I found myself working long hours and squeezing in recovery runs whenever I could.  My attempts to recover from the race still moved along, but slowly. There’s no question the race took a lot out of me.

Nevertheless, I  picked it back up after two weeks, finally started doing some speedwork again and  got myself as ready as I could be to lace up my new Brooks Green Silence racing flats for a race I wasn’t about to miss — the Mantua Raccoon Run 5k, on May 8. In many ways this race is antithesis of the Boston Marathon with all its glamour, huge number of racers and spectators and complicated pre-race logistics. The Raccoon Run, by contrast, is my neighborhood’s annual 5k race and the start is about 4 blocks from my front door. Race size is probably no more than 150 runners.

The bottom line is I knew I would be one of the front-runners this day.

I jogged down to the Mantua Elementary School at about 7:30 and quickly registered, got my goody bag and bib, then jogged back home. There I put the bib on my singlet, stretched and jogged back over the start. All these little jogs back and forth gave me a nice little warmup of about 1.2 miles. Then after a few words from Congressman Gerry Connolly, who just so happens to live in our neighborhood, we were off!

I should mention I run this course, oh, probably 20-30 times a year at a minimum. So I know every single inch of it. Here’s a course map.

The first couple hundred yards of the race were somewhat amusing as lots of elementary school kids darted out off the line, showing off their sprint speed for the local news photographers. Finally the race started shaking out a little and as we got to about the half-mile point there I was, in third place, with the bike escort leading us up the hill on Christopher St. The lead pack stayed that way until a little past the mile point, which I reached in a very disciplined 6:09.

Then suddenly a couple of guys passed me from behind. One looked to be around my age and the other couldn’t have been more than 17 years old. So now our lead pack was a group of 5, with me at the back of it. But I was fine with that as I knew Mile 2 was a downhill mile; my plan was to basically coast through it and hold a strong position. We remained fairly bunched as we completed the first loop, passing nearby the school again. But then things began to string out a little as the two guys who had passed me earlier surged ahead. They continued to open up distance on the Colesbury Loop, leaving the other three of us to duke it out for third place. After the water stop I got ahead of one guy into fourth but he quickly passed me back as we went downhill on Colesbury.

At this point I knew there was maybe three-quarters of a mile left. My legs felt tired, still not recovered from that little Patriot’s Day marathon. But I knew I had enough in me to finish strong and decided it’s time to make my move. The last mile, like the first mile is a net uphill and I was pretty sure I could handle both the runners in front of me and maybe if I was lucky, reel in the #2 guy (the kid). So I made my move and quickly passed #4 as we prepared to turn off Colesbury and back onto Glenbrook. Before long I passed the #3 going up the hill on Glenbrook. I could see both #1 and #2 ahead but they had a substantial lead. I dug in and picked up some ground on #2 but it wasn’t quite enough. As I turned back onto Kirkwood heading back towards the school for the final 0.1 I was all alone in 3rd, crossing the line in 19:49.

That’s hardly what I can run at my best; in fact back in late March I ran 19:04 at a 5k in Falls Church, which would have been good enough for first place in this race. But given how my legs felt, it was the best I could do this day and I was very happy with the result. It turns out our neighborhood’s got some fast, fit folks. Being third best here is nothing to be ashamed of and I’ll take it!

Next up, I’ve got two races, both this week. The first is tomorrow night, a one-hour track run sponsored by DC Roadrunners. I’ve never done one of these before, so I’m not quite sure what to expect. It’s an hour running around in circles, let’s leave it that for now. 😉  Then on Saturday, I’ve got another 5k race, the 5K Run/Walk for Spinal Health Awareness in Reston. This one tends to draw some fast elites, so I won’t be a frontrunner in it. But I’m hoping the speedsters and what is said to be a fast course will pull me along to a nice time!