May 9, 2011

Back-to-Back Top 10 Finishes

May is the month of 5k races...probably to the detriment of my long distance training regimen since my weekends are now 3.1 mile runs instead of 10+ miles. And overall weekly mileage has dropped with the uptick in business travel.

But it's also been a month of new goals and challenges, breaking a new time barrier, and being abused by the hills of northern Virginia...repeatedly. Fun couple races so far, with a couple Top 10s to add to the ledger:
Vienna Elementary 5k:  19:58  (6:26/mi)    (9th overall, 4th place age group)
Run for Justice 5k:       20:04  (6:28/mi)    (7th overall, 3rd place age group)
Police Week 5k:           Saturday, May 14

Vienna Elementary 5k  (May 1)
Hadn't given much thought to running this one, but since it's right behind my house -- I can see it from the kitchen -- why not run and support the local race. Was a relaxing morning: signed up at the school, jogged home for a cup of coffee and a little breakfast, and jogged back around starting time.

Was a standard out-and-back course over some hills. At the turnaround, I counted eight runners ahead of me. The final 1.6 miles was almost all uphill, so I decided to slowly attack and see if the runner in front of me would break on the uphill. I stalked him the entire way back towards the school; for the last half-mile I was about ten feet behind him, and he had no idea I was pacing him (that's why you don't run with earphones). At about .2 to go, I figured I'd attack. I blew past him and kept opening up ground. Crossed the finish line sub-20, ended up in 9th overall, but only 4th in my age group...disappointed not to get an age group place...where the heck did all these 20-somethings come from?

Felt nice to break the 20-minute barrier, but I'm still expecting better when I take on a non-hilly 5k.

Moments after my surprise move in the last quarter mile.
Run for Justice 5k  (May 7)
This was not the non-hilly 5k to break a new PR, but I was hoping for one. The Run for Justice was held by the Fairfax Law Foundation, so no absence of lawyers at this one...thankfully no one fell and there were no extra waivers to sign.

I knew there were hills on this course, but didn't remember how bad Tysons Corner was until I was running through it. There were two people on the starting line in flats and from the Pacer's I already knew top 5 was going to be a stretch, those guys can move. As soon as the race began, there was a clear separation by the top 5 men, who were almost out of the picture in the first mile. My first mile was around 6:00 flat, a great first mile for me and I figured I was on a way to a new PR. At that point I was in 9th, and by the race's lowest elevation (1.6 miles downhill to start), I had blasted into 6th place, having just overcome a master's-group racer in full triathlon gear (seriously dude, it's a can dress down a bit). I felt a runner on my heels, and she pushed past me as we transitioned into the uphills; really fast woman and definitely had more desire to push through the hills than I did that morning. I wasn't feeling the groove, the 6:00-minute first mile slipping to 6:30 by mile 2 and 7:30 by mile 3. The consistent 1.6 mile uphill to end was absolutely punishing -- even my arms were sore from pumping up the incline -- so after a promising start, I was okay cruising in at 20:04.

This was my first race in a while where I didn't improve on my previous best time for that distance, so there were definitely mixed feelings as I crossed the finish line. Happy to be in 7th, but really expecting more out of my race that morning. And though I received the first-place age group prize, I suspected the Pacer's Running Team members were in their 20s. Turns out on viewing the final times that this was correct; the organizers didn't want to double-up on prizes, so the top finishers weren't included in the age-group results. So it turns out I was actually 3rd in my age group, I'll take that.

I definitely have a better 5k time in me on a flat course...if I ever find one.