Like my previous races, I was relaxed pre-race. I got to registration an hour early, and immediately began bumping into fellow WTAC teammates. I made a plan to meet Justin for a warm up at 11:20 and returned to my car to prep for the race and pump myself up with some music. I then met up with Mike G, Jeff, Justin, Tom, Mike C, and a few younger guys for a team warm up. Instead of running the course, we ran over to the Canonchet Farm Trail. It's a nice wide trail through some woods, although a little slick on the snow covered bridges. I was hoping no one slipped! We made it back with just under ten minutes to go. I returned to my car and made final wardrobe decisions. I opted for just shorts, singlet, and a hat. The temperature was about 30 degrees, but the sun felt warm, and the wind wasn't bad. I then ran the long way to the start line, trying to stay loose and warm. I exchanged greetings with Matty P and then lined up behind him, and next to my teammates.
Tucked in on the left. Photo courtesy of Jana Walker.
I took off in control at the gun. The level of competition was evident when I found myself a lot further back than in smaller races. I navigated my way through the crowd and then things settled down quickly. I noticed Tom and Justin were ahead of me. Jeff then joined me and we ran elbow to elbow for the length of the sea wall. I knew I was in for a challenge when the first mile did not feel easy. My legs already felt taxed. I glanced at my watch and my pace was 5:27. Not bad, but not confident that I could maintain it. After the wall, the road slowly gains in elevation. I knew from running intervals here recently that I needed to work harder or my pace would begin dropping.
I turned the corner onto Earles Court. This is the only hill on the course, and for a 5K, feels steep and long. The runner ahead of me was slowing and I surged past him. Sprinting up the hill felt better on my legs. I passed the 1 Mile mark at an announced 5:34 (5:32 on my watch). I continued up the hill and then it finally leveled off. I was probably 10 seconds or so behind a group of runners that included Justin and Tom. I didn't hear anyone behind me. Uh oh, I had fallen into no mans land!
As I approached the cone turnaround I could see the leaders running towards me. Matty P and Will Sanders were battling it out for first, and then after a gap it was Mike in 3rd! I tried my best to make the 180 turn efficiently, but still felt like I walked around it. The wind was now in my face. At least I could watch the rest of the runners, and shout out to all the WTAC jerseys. I made the turn to now head down Earles Court. I finished Mile 2 in 5:55. Wow, was it really that much slower? I tried to pick it up as I descended the rest of this road. At the sea wall, a course marshall told me I was in the top 10 and had no one close behind me. I didn't have anyone very close in front of me either. Okay, time to dig deeper, fight the wind, and finish this thing.
Squinting at the clock - maybe I should have worn my glasses!
Photo courtesy of Jana Walker.
As I made my way to the towers, I glanced at my watch. My pace was in the 5:30's again. I was slowly gaining on the person in front of me, but I didn't have the leg strength or mental fight in me today to make a bold move. I was relieved to be almost done. I passed the Mile 3 marker not noticing my split (5:36). The runner I was slowly reeling in was closer than ever, but now went into sprint mode. I did too, knowing that I could at least finish strong. I crossed the line in 17:35, 32 second last .1 mile (4:52 pace). A little slower than I hoped.
I was greeted by my teammates who finished ahead of me. I couldn't wait to hear how they did. Justin ran really strong and just missed going under 17 minutes. Mike was just over 16. We then watched the rest of the team finish up, young and old. WTAC was everywhere and dominated the team competition. This race is such a fun event.
Team WTAC. Photo courtesy of Jana Walker.