Since moving to Maryland in late July, I haven’t done much racing. I had only entered two competitions and both of them were XC races in the Rochester area.
My training has gone fairly well over the past few months, but without the company of training partners, I’ve had a tough time on the track with quality interval (or faster) workouts. I have managed to consistently run some very strong long runs (capped off by a 14 miler at 5:56 per mile on Dec 3rd) and some solid continuous tempo runs. These longer efforts permitted a fair amount of confidence heading into the 15K on Dec 11th.
The race was held at Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis. The course was nicely laid out. It was essentially a two-loop course on a paved bike trail with many winding turns and quick rolling hills, which were favorably distracting and challenging. Given the $10 entry fee, I was surprised to find top-notch race organization, timing, course marking, and post-race amenities. Both the 10am start and the weather were perfect: low 40s, sunny, and calm.
The race went off right on time. I immediately settled into a comfortable pace, and I felt great–light and bouncy. I’ve been running my tempos and long runs with negative splits, so that was my tentative plan for today (tentative because I’d also key off how the competition played out). I estimated a 5:40 pace, and there was one set of footsteps right behind me. I split the first mile in a surprisingly fast 5:22, but I decided not to lay off the gas too much because of the other runner just a few steps back.
The next four miles flew by at a pace I’ve only been able to maintain for a 10K distance or shorter: 5:38, 5:30, 5:33, 5:32. The steps behind me seemed to fade agonizingly slowly, as the quick pace gradually became more grueling. As I came through the 5 mile in 27:35, I encountered a “lolli-pop” part of the course that allowed a peek at the nearest competition. The next runner was about 10 seconds back, at most.
Miles 6 and 7 were awful. Apparently the 30 minute mark is where the 5:30 pace becomes enormously difficult for me. Every uphill section destroyed me and every downhill was troubling because I knew I had to push it in order to not fall off the pace too atrociously. The lactic acid that was building in my calves and quads had caught up to me, although my breathing was not terribly labored. I didn’t note the splits for those two miles, but they couldn’t have been much better than six-minute miles. Even worse, the footsteps that had slowly faded over the first five miles were back, closer than ever!
I started to feel somewhat of a second-wind coming into the eighth mile (partially due to some recovery during the previous two slow miles and some timely downhill sections that permitted easy cruising). I split mile eight in 5:40, which was not as big a relief as the fact that the footsteps seemed to have faded once again. There was just one more hard mile (plus .3) between me and victory. I started “hammering” as much as is possible with such heavy legs. The ninth mile had lots of twists and turns and concluded with the steepest uphill climb on the course (welcome to the last .3 miles!), but I managed a 5:35 split. I couldn’t hear the footsteps anymore, so the last .3 were relatively stress-free. I almost missed the turn into the finish and had to back-track a few steps (it was not marked and the course volunteers weren’t in position yet), so I’m going adjust my official 52:40 finish time into an unofficial 52:38. I was definitely ready to stop running, as seen below:
It was nice to score a race victory (results here), and especially sweet that it was my first race here in town. 52:38 is a 40-second PR for the 15K distance, which bumped off my time from the March 2010 Spring Forward 15K in Mendon Ponds Park. Now I just need to translate some of this fitness into speed to make a run at a 5K PR in 2012.