Four months ago, a ran a huge PR of 18:51 at Pawz Too Run in Davidson. Everything was just on for that race. Since then, all of the 5Ks I have run have been in the 19:50s. There were several reasons I could state for these times: one course was 60% soft ground, another was in the middle of a hard training cycle, etc., and so forth; but I still felt underwhelmed with my performances. P2R was a certified course, and I feel like I earned that sub-19 time, but given my more recent times, I felt the need to prove to myself that the 18:51 was not a fluke. Blue 5K was to be my validating race. My main goal was to go sub-19 again, but given the course, I would be satisfied with anything in the low 19s.
As is my custom for a 5K, I arrived over an hour early so I had plenty of time to run the full course as a warm-up. Coming off a rest day, and feeling strong from a slew of recent speed workouts, my legs felt better than their average slightly-beat-up-from-over-training-ness. Starting at the East gate of Bank of America Stadium on Mint Street, the course took a fast right onto Stonewall and followed that street gradually downhill for nearly the first half of the race. The downhill leveled out and angled upward as Stonewall doglegged into Morehead. Turning right on Morehead, there was a solid mile of terraced uphill punctuated by a final, steep climb passing over I-277 just past the Dowd YMCA. Runners of Charlotte's Thunder Road Marathon should be very familiar with this stretch. The final four blocks leading back to Mint Street and the East gate were mostly flat with some short downhill stretches, so if I had any juice left, this would be where I would let it rip. Not an easy course, but it looked better in person than the profile did online.
700 runners showed up for this popular race, so my first concern was to get a decent spot at the front of the starting chute so the foot traffic didn't bog me down before the quick first turn. At the "go," dozens of runners shot out ahead of me, and I tried my best to marry my pace to my goal. I wanted to average in the high 5:50s-6:05 minute/mile for the first 2K (shooting for sub-3:48/km) to take advantage of the easy slope on Stonewall. I knew I would lose some of this time on the back end of the race. My first kilometer was a target-paced 3:42. The pack settled down at this point and runners began to fade back to me one-by-one. The next kilometer was 3:46, and although it was still downhill, I had to work to maintain that pace. So, doing the math in my head, I was 8 seconds ahead of a 19-minute pace at 40% of the race distance. I would have preferred more cushion before the climb, but I had to save some energy as well.
As Stonewall curved, flattened, and began to wax uphill, more runners faded back to me. Of course the hills would slow me down, but I was confident I at least would gain a lot of ground on the field ahead due to all the hills I normally run in training. Sure enough, once I started climbing Morehead, I reeled in my competitors wholesale. There was a brief respite from the climb at the 3K mark, but I registered that kilometer at 3:53. I now was a scant 3 seconds ahead of a 19 minute pace, and there was a 1200 meter climb ahead that would eat up more time. I kept a good pace and minimized the damage, but the 6:18ish average would not be fast enough to preserve my initial goal.
The last bit of the climb on the overpass was a bit agonizing, but I still had some gas in the tank to muster a final kick. I overtook a few more runners and did my best to slash off seconds, all while breathing very audibly. One last right turn brought me onto Mint Street and to the 3-mile mark. With 18:40 showing on the clock and about 0.1 miles to go, I was out of contention for a sub-19, but I surely would turn in a respectable time. A fast runner with pink shoes was ahead of me and within reach, so I let everything out to get one last pass in. Seconds after passing her, I saw her gaining on me in my peripheral vision; she wasn't letting me go that easily! One last surge kept me ahead of her as we passed under the finish arch, but we were close enough to receive the same time of 19:17.
Given the early August heat and humidity, and the late-stage climb of the course, I am very pleased with a 19:17. I'm still hungry for another sub-19, but I believe today's performance alleviates any worries I had about my specific 5K fitness.
|Satisfied with a good time.|
Shoes: Adidas Hagio. These are probably my new favorite all-purpose racing flats. I ran my warm-up in the Inov-8 Bare-X 150s, but I was just feeling too much road in those shoes today. Luckily, I brought the Hagios and they performed comfortably and effectively in road race conditions. I can't wait to try them at 13.1 or a 30K.