Sunday I ran a small local 5K. I've been looking for a race I could jump in, and this one fit into my and my family's schedule. My dad told me that his running club was involved this year, and they were hoping for improved turnout. The course is not flat, and there is a significant hill during the 2nd mile. Not a course to go for a PR, but that's what I found myself doing nonetheless. My goal, based on recent workouts, is to run a 18:30 5K before the end of the year. I didn't think I would do that in this race, but I knew that if I ran hard, I could possibly win, and would set a PR. What I didn't expect was the wind factor. I knew it was windy, but I didn't know that it would be in your face on the uphills.
Upon arrival, the parking lot was full, and it seemed like there was a good chance there were some runners faster than me in attendance. Last year's winner, and the runner I thought I would battle it out with today, was directing the race, not running, as he ran the Hartford Marathon the day before in 3:12. Still, I noticed some teenagers with Westerly HS track shirts, I figured one of them would be too fast for me. I ran about a mile warm up and was feeling really good. I tried to get to the starting line right before the start, but it didn't begin on time. I did over hear one of the kids in the WHS jerseys say to his friends he was going to be running in front all on his own. I made sure to line up next to him.
At the gun, he took off aggressively. I pushed myself to stay near him and then as he slowed I briefly passed by. He countered my move and surged ahead at a pace I was not comfortable with at a quarter mile in. I peeked over my shoulder to see if anyone else was close, but it looked like it was just going to be me chasing the leader. His lead only gradually increased during the first mile, which was mostly flat or downhill. At the 1 mile mark, I was at 5:47 - my fastest mile ever. I knew this was a little too fast, but I knew that the hills coming up would even things out. The 2nd mile began with a long straightaway, and his lead grew to about 15 seconds.
The course then veered west, and not only were we faced with a big hill, but the strong wind became apparent. At first, he seemed to be climbing well, and I figured that I was stuck in second. As we continued, he began slowing, and kept chugging along. I then caught him, and he told me, "good job". I kept pushing myself, waiting for the road to level off. It did level off on a side road, but then climbed upwards again. By the time the majority of the climbs were over, I looked back and was now way ahead. I then checked my watch looking for the 2nd mile marker and it was already over 6 minutes. By the time I reached the 2 mile mark, it clocked in at 6:25. Yikes! I ran it so hard, but the wind on the hills made you feel like you were going nowhere.
Beginning mile 3, my goal was now to just win. The course and weather weren't going to produce a great time, but I felt the conditions were more my style of running, and I wanted to validate that with the W. Unfortunately, there were more short hills to climb, and being at a higher elevation, the wind felt stronger. I just tried to run as hard as possible. Finally, I recognized the last road back into the park for the start/finish. I was hoping for an adrenaline rush to help me with a strong finishing kick, but I settled for what I could muster. I saw the clock tick 18:58 and crossed the line. I heard a discussion about a bet that no one would finish under 19 minutes. I felt good after the initial urge to throw up.
I met up with my wife and kids who were pretty surprised to see me win. I slapped five with the second place kid. We watched my dad finish, and then talked to some of his running friends. For the win I received a customized medal and a $50 gift certificate for Westerly Chamber of Commerce businesses. Can't wait to eat and drink that up. It turned out that the timing company had my official time at 19:00. Kind of annoying, but I still think I'm at 18:30 pace on a flat course. And without too much wind. It was still a 13 second PR.