Striding Through

Because a life well lived always finds the right pace

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!

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