Last week I ran the 5k for the IOA in Philly ... I did significantly better.
Apart from being a very accessible distance, 5k's are a way that many "serious" runners use to judge their progress. I hadn't run one seriously (meaning "full-tilt damn the torpedoes I'm coming in first or my heart will explode trying") for a year. Coming off my disappointment at the Philly 10k -- where a dearth of training and skipping long-runs because it was hot and I was being wimpy left me unable to do six miles at a pace I'd managed for 10 in April -- I'd decided to run the 5k for the IOA as hard as I could. It was small and I figured if I ran my guts out I might be able to place in my age group.
Running is a sport of the young, and pretty much every 5k ever is going to be won by someone in their 20's or early 30's because that's when peak fitness is (long distance runners peak later, go Meb). By letting people in their 30's, 40's, 50's and 60's run, essentially, against one another, you can add layers of competition to a race. While I had no chance of winning the race overall, I figured I had a fair chance of being one of the three fastest people over 40 if I ran until I threw up, as long as I threw up after the finish line.
Before the race I scoped out everybody who I thought was competition, our age groups were in small print on our bibs, and I stuck myself in a group with the two guys who I thought were going to be my biggest problem. "I won't let myself get more than three steps behind either one of these guys," was my plan.
I are serious.
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We went out fast. I'd run the course the Wednesday before and burned myself out completely, barely staggering in at 26:00 I figured that if I paced myself better, I could come in possibly at 24:20, which is a 7:50 pace. I'd been able to keep up 8:05 for roughly five miles during the Philly 10k and it seemed reasonable that I could hold 7:50 for three miles. But the guys in front of me were tearing up the road. At the end of the first mile my watch said 7:10, which is only 20 seconds slower than the fastest mile I'd ever run. I knew this pace was going to destroy me so I decided to drop back and hope that my competition would burn out. I fell back to a 7:30 pace, still faster than I'd planned but I was afraid that anything slower and I'd just be too far back to matter and now it was a question of just keeping the wheels on and hoping everybody else flared out. This turned out to be a good idea. I caught up to one of the guys at about mile 1.7, he was flagging after a strong start. I passed him keeping my 7:30 pace. The other guy was about 20 yards ahead of him. I caught up to him in spurts and stuck one step behind him, he was flagging a little but I didn't want to risk passing him too soon. Once your competition is behind you, there's no slowing down because you can't see where they are. He kept slowing down by inches though and by mile 2.25 I couldn't justify staying behind him any longer because my maintenance pace was bringing me up past him anyway. So I passed and threw some extra effort into it. I was committed at that point.
It was pretty awful by this point.
Running isn't so much about being fast as it
is about being able to put up with extreme
discomfort longer than the next guy.
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I dumped on whatever I had left and passed everybody who was near me, starting to feel like I was going to puke. As I rounded the final corner I could see the clock at 22:30 which was crazy fast. It said 22:44 when I crossed. I staggered off into a field and walked in circles, dumping the water someone had handed me over my head. Everything hurt but 22:44 was a pretty respectable time. In fact, it was a completely nuts 7:19 pace.
I wandered around in a daze for a while thinking that I'd had a good chance of placing, but I couldn't be sure the guys i'd been racing against were the only ones I had to watch out for. I figured I had a good chance of a second place.
The 5k for the IOA was really well done, there was a great selection of post-race food, I ate part of a giant veggie hoagie, some pumpkin protein bars from Trader Joe's, a banana ... I texted trillian_stars to let her know I might have done well.
When they called my name at the awards ceremony I found out I'd come in first in my age group, almost a minute ahead of the next fastest person.
With some scientists who are actually doing something useful with their lives,
fighting dementia and other age related illnesses.
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So ... a long way from November 2012.
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