This would be my 17th year doing this one. In keeping with my current blasé attitude toward racing, I was not super excited and didn't have any special goals. Since I seem to continue to get slower as I age (go figure!) it gets a little depressing to find a consistent goal (like sub-20) getting further and further away. So I don't stress it - vow to do my best and chase easier targets.
Today I had several, in the person of club teammates. Coach Ed, as usual, was a good one. Now that he is 67 I have been able to beat him the last few times. He always starts fast, so I try to chase him down over the first two miles and it gives me a good visible target to keep me going. Another one is 33 year old Evelyn, who is bouncing back from pregnancy. At top shape she beats me, but right now we are about the same speed and have been training together. Then there is 65 year old Mark, who narrowly beat me last year, which bugged me because I didn't think he had the speed. He doesn't do any speed work at all - just runs. But danged if it doesn't work for him.
This is me and Evelyn before the race.
As for time goals, I hoped to break 21. I planned to get out under 7 and try to run 6:45 pace. I did 21:13 last year in this race and 21:14 in my last 5K in May, so I aimed to beat those.
The day dawned with a heavy marine layer - so it was cloudy and a little humid, but not too hot. Maybe 60. There were literally hundreds of teenagers warming up in packs as all the local high school teams turned up. Over 2,100 participants, with a huge amount of slow joggers and walkers. I felt sluggish warming up, as usual, and positioned myself about 6 rows back from the start. Just after the gun a couple teenagers went down in front of me, but I avoided disaster and got around them. I eased into pace and my rivals all shot ahead.
I've gotten pretty good about starting slow. Maybe it's age, but I don't let adrenaline bolt me out at 6 minute pace anymore. 7 minute pace felt hard enough already thank you very much. By the time we cleared the first two crowded turns after 1/4 mile I could see Ed at least 50 yards ahead of me. Then the course is a steady uphill for about 3/4 mile, so I tried to relax, stay steady and not burn out. The racing would begin in mile 2.
I got to one in 6:57. Happy with that, and I wasn't hurting too much, so it was time to start pushing. Another teammate had been running with me most of mile 1, and this was a guy I should be beating, so it kind of irked me enough to shift gears. I could see my 3 rivals up ahead, and oddly they were all very close to each other, about 50 yards ahead still, but I was closing the gap. As we got over the hill I started to pass more people and gain confidence. Mile 2 rolls through 3 little up and downs - just enough to make you suck wind on the ups. I was gaining on my peeps and feeling like I was on track, but it was definitely hurting. Ah, yes, the 5K burn in the chest. Embrace it before it sinks into your legs...
There is a sharp U-turn on this out and back course at the half-way point. I passed Evelyn just before the turn, and then passed Ed just after the turn. But Mark had pulled a little ahead and was obviously running a little stronger than the others. I knew that barring disaster, I had the others beat. About 1/4 mile later I caught Mark and gave a little hand wave. And that little SOB starts chatting like its a fun run. "Hey, how's it going..." Grr. I was non-verbal and just trying to breathe at this point. I tried to move on by and keep racing and that jerk just stayed with me as we continued to pass other people. Dammit.
Hit mile 2 in 6:47. OK, I'll take that. Mile 3 is mostly downhill, so I was hoping I could drop that down closer to 6:30 and still break 21. After cresting the last hill and re-gaining my wind, I tried to push the gas a little more on the down. But there was little left in the tank. And Mark kept hanging on. A couple times I thought I lost him, but I'd turn and look and he was right there tracking off of me. OK, fine, I should be able to out-kick him at the end (I said to myself). The downhill was not as helpful as I hoped and I was just trying to hang on and get to the finish. We turned the corner and kicked the last 1/4 and damned if he didn't move ahead and dust me. Kudos to him. That's him in the white.
Mile 3 was only 6:50, although I managed 6:20 pace for the last sprint. My time was 21:23, just missing my goals. But still, not too far off, right? I am 57 now...
Ended up 6th in my AG, 185th overall, with an age-grading of 73%. I can live with that. I held out hope that my chip time might beat Mark, but no, he beat me by one tenth of a second!
Well, I beat the others anyway, and I'm still injury-free and grateful for that.
In other news, I decided to sign up for a trail marathon in October; Skyline to the Sea near Santa Cruz. It's through a redwood forest and mostly downhill. And I will get to run with Loop Superstar Mild Sauce, which was enough reason for me to disavow my promise of no marathons until next Fall. Besides, it's just a trail run, not like a REAL marathon, right? I can go slow and not worry about speed and just have fun. But I will have to bump up my summer mileage.
Next week I'm off to Kentucky for a week to experience real summer heat and humidity. NOT looking forward to that. The running part I mean.
Life is good.