Friday, July 15, 2011

Race Recap: The Streetlight 5K

This summer I've been feeling like I haven't been performing up to my potential in training runs. I realize that it's partly due to the high temperatures and humidity, but it can be frustrating to feel exhausted after a run that wasn't even especially fast.

So I decided I needed to find a summer 5K race, to see how I could perform when running all-out in the heat. I picked the Concord Streetlight 5K, a 7:30 p.m. race that should be positively steamy in the North Carolina summer. Earlier this week, we've had temperatures in the 90s and even over 100 degrees one day. But for some reason the weather cooled off considerably today, so instead of 90-degree heat, at race time it was a comfortable 69 degrees -- almost unheard of around here this time of year. So much for seeing how I perform in the heat.

Oh well, I thought, I might as well give it my best race. Yesterday I previewed the race, finding this elevation profile of the course:

Note the large hill in the middle!

As you can see, the primary feature of the course is the large hill halfway through the race. What the profile doesn't show you, for some reason, is that the race starts with a short but significant downhill. And since it's an out-and-back race, you finish up the same hill. I much prefer flat or even slightly uphill starts, but clearly I was just going to have to suck it up and run the course I was given.

The plan was to run Mile 1 in 6:30, Mile 2, with its big hill, in 6:45, then see if I could hang on until the finish. At the start, the race announcer made the usual plea for racers to move to the front and more casual runners to head to the back. I was about where I wanted to be, in the second row, but a couple of girls clearly didn't think I was worthy, and pushed their way past me!

At the gun, we took off down the hill. The first challenge was a sharp left turn from the street onto a greenway -- nearly a hairpin turn. I was extremely impressed with a guy ahead of me who expertly negotiated it with a stroller! Stroller Guy ended up with a sub-19-minute time. Then the route was basically flat for the next mile. I passed a couple guys along this stretch and was breathing quite heavily. Could I maintain this pace?

We arrived at the Mile 1 marker, where a girl was calling out splits: "5:57, 5:58..." What? Had I really taken off that fast? I looked down at my own watch and saw it ticking 6:27, 6:28. She was a solid 30 seconds off, and I was right on pace. I swear it's more common for people calling splits in a race to be wrong than to be right. We ran through a playground and then finally hit the hill. It wasn't actually very steep, just a gradual incline, but it clearly was causing problems for some of the runners. I passed 3 or 4 people in this section. Then, before I knew it, the turnaround was 50 meters ahead. I sped up as I approached, knowing I'd get a bit of a rest on the way back down. Heading down, I saw quite a few runners walking on the way up this hill. Methinks some people need to get off the treadmill and run in the actual world, hills and all.

The next couple runners were about 60 meters ahead of me. Would I be able to pass them before the finish? I reached the 2-mile marker without gaining ground. "12:58, 12:59..." I looked at my watch and saw 13:15. Sigh. My Mile 2 pace according to Garmin was 6:52 -- pretty close to my target.

Now it would just be a matter of hanging on until the finish. I wasn't feeling like I could pick up the pace, but I definitely didn't want any of the guys I had passed on the hill to pass me. I kept it up and reached Mile 3 at a 6:50 pace. Now all I had to do was run up that steep hill to the finish line. Somehow I managed to pick up the pace, even with the uphill finish, and I stopped my timer at 20:39. My official time was 20:37 -- a definite PR for the 5K, beating my previous best of 21:30 by almost a full minute. The average pace per mile was a smokin' 6:37.

When I went to see the results posted, I grimaced. My time was listed as "Dave Munor." That's what I get for filling out my application by hand 30 minutes before the race instead of registering online in advance! Oh well... It was still good for 19th overall out of 330 competitors, and third place in my age group. Here are the official results. Here's the obligatory self-portrait after the race:

And here's the award I got -- pretty snazzy for a race with a $15 entry fee!

I also got a nice tech t-shirt, and the race was timed with D-tags, so it was a real bargain.

My Garmin record of the race is below:

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