The weather was terrific. A little warmer than forecasted, it was 57 degrees by 8:30AM. The wind was not as strong as anticipated, but still noticeable. I grabbed my bib, found Justin, and did a warm up. We noticed that the course was not the same. Instead of running a lap of the bike loop at the beginning and again at the end of the race, the course now began on the roads and then finished with two laps of the bike loop before spilling back out onto the road. We wandered back to the starting area where we met up with Jeff. We decided to run a little more as we had five minutes to the start time. Justin and Jeff pointed out two really fast guys shooting for the course record and the extra winnings that came with it. I still lined up front and waited for the gun.
I found myself sprinting off the line and settling into 3rd place (1st and 2nd were quickly out of sight). I could hear plenty of footsteps behind me and I knew that I would at least be seeing Justin soon. I knew my first mile would be fast, and I wanted to just go with it. My speed workouts would hopefully give me the strength to carry it through the last two. The first mile winds through the park on twisty roads. Since I couldn't see the leaders, I used my best judgement on finding the shortest lines on the turns. At about 3/4 of mile in, Justin moved by me. I initially decided to stay right with him, but I wasn't comfortable at his pace, and he looked strong. Then another runner caught up to me. We passed through the 1st mile in 5:41. Too fast to keep up, but I was happy with how easy it felt.
The second mile is always my slowest. At least I had company to keep me honest. The runner at my side moved ahead a couple of times, but I wouldn't let him get away. As we neared the entrance to the bike loop I surged through the headwind, and put some distance between us. The wind was an issue, but I'm very used to it running near the water, so I didn't let it bother me mentally. I could still see Justin in front of me, but by now he had 20+ seconds on me. Finally, the wind was at my back as I passed the 2nd mile marker in 11:50. I was a little concerned about my second mile. I was still on pace for a PR and my goal, but I didn't like it took me over six minutes, even though over half of it was into the wind.
Beginning mile 3, the wind was still at my back, and I tried to quicken my pace. I felt strong (thanks to my workouts), and was feeling confident. As the bike loop turned into the wind again, I also had to now deal with other runners entering the loop on their first lap. Despite the traffic, I was able to run the tangents and lines I wanted for the most part. I was thankful to once again get the wind off my face and onto my back. I knew I was getting close to the finish, but I wasn't sure how far down the road the finish line was. I didn't even think to look for the 3rd mile marker, but had my sights on the finish. I noticed my wife, kids, and dad cheering me on, and put together a finishing kick. I couldn't believe the time on the clock as I crossed the line. 18:08, good for 4th place and a 52 second 5K PR.
I met up with Justin, who was third in a PR time of 17:33, and Jeff (6th place, 18:33). We chatted about our races, and then I was congratulated by my family. After a few minutes, I began getting cold, so we went inside the Frosty Drew Nature Center, where the registration, food, and facilities were. Eventually, my kids wanted to go back to the playground, so Justin and I ran a cooldown through the park as we waited for the awards ceremony.
Overall, I was thrilled with this race. I can't believe I ran 5:51 mile pace for 5K. I knew I could get under 6 minute pace, but this was a surprise. I think that I could have run even harder, especially if I had company the last mile, and gotten under 18 minutes. Before this race, I wouldn't have thought that was possible. Now I can't wait to run another 5K.
On the bike loop:
Justin looking strong, but distracted?