Ultra behind me, I looked ahead to the next race: 3 weeks later, the local 5k. This was the same 5k I managed 4th in the year before, the same race I’d been steadily improving times in year-on-year.
Of course, this year, the time to beat would then be 17:55. But -- nah, no way I could manage even close to that. Coming off the ultra training, I wasn’t fast; I wasn’t supposed to be fast. It was time for a quick turn to focus on speed.
That change was effective and swift (get it? eh? fine, don't appreciate it now and see where it gets you). I ran almost as much, but instead of long runs, I let the distance slide and focused on improving my 10-mile speed. And those earlier baseline distances? Shorted, an interweave of pace running and hills, intended to jack up my strength and speed, in particular speed while tired.
Two weeks passed. I felt faster, but still slow. Projections for the result? Maybe a little slow, but not horribly so. Perhaps an 18:15? I wanted top-10, and that would put me there based on previous years’ results.
With the race in the offing, I decided not to taper, but to take a day off immediately before and maybe just feel good day-of.
The morning was pleasantly cool, with daytime temps anticipated moderately warm. It wouldn’t be a hot one, that’s for sure -- and good thing, too, because I really hate sweating during a 5k. What a drag to be thinking about your pace and catching the guy in front when a stream of sweat assaults your eyes.
Before the race is the kids run, and my eldest daughter opted for a late entry. Both kids ran the event, both finished around 11:00 (I have no idea, because who keeps track of their kids’ times when they’re 6 and 4? Crazy people. That’s who. And I’m not crazy.) So went the warmup. Toeing the line with a wad of high schoolers, I asked my neighbor on the team who I should follow, and the group pointed me to the guy planning to do 6:00 pace.
Looking at that number now, I’m amazed at how slow it is. How did I run a 10-mile race in Ithaca at almost that pace? Now 12 years older, I can hardly manage it for ⅓ of the distance. Oh, age, you cruel bastard!
Regardless, I locked onto this kid until about ¾ of a mile in, when I found his pace wasn’t keeping up with my standards. I slid by, targeted the next one, passed him around 1.5 miles, then found myself suddenly in 3rd place. At the 2-mile mark, I made my move on the next one, and as the course doubled back, we found ourselves -- quite inappropriately in a race -- jammed up behind the lead police vehicle. Fortunately the cyclist behind hopped the curb and blew by, turning this into a 1-second slowdown that wouldn’t matter in the end.
We hit the track having completely surpassed the other runners, and the lead racer took off like he’d hit those chevrons from F-Zero. Darn right I’m referencing Super Nintendo (or “Super Famicom” for you traditionalists). He power boosted his way up to the top spot, I trundled in for 2nd, and I was shocked that the clock showed me under 17:00.
It turns out I was that shocked because they screwed up the clock. But 17:57 was pretty solid, just a tiny slip from the year previous, far better than I expected, and proof that I could drop an order of magnitude in distance and still do reasonably well.
Immediately after, I wanted to go back to trail runs. Yes, off the road and back to the trails, but with summer looming, whatever I did would need to involve a good amount of very early or very late running; DC in July and August is notoriously oppressive.
Mash out. Spin on.
Some runner person. Also perhaps a cyclist & brewing type. But for your purposes, a runner person.