Monday, February 25, 2013

Have a Heart for Hoffman Boston 5k race report

I'm way behind on race reports. Maybe I'll get to them all eventually, but I figured I'd start with the most recent one.

Saturday was cold and rainy. Not exactly ideal running weather, but the race must go on. I signed up for this 5k a few weeks ago because of the small size and convenient location. There was no course map posted online, but I run along the trail where it was being held relatively frequently, so I knew it was pretty flat.

I tried to time my warm up so that I'd have about 10 minutes after I finished to make a quick trip to the bathroom, get rid of my jacket and switch to a dry pair of gloves. Unfortunately right as I was getting back to my car the race organizers were announcing a 10 minute delay. So I sat in my car (to get out of the rain) and checked my phone and found an exciting surprise! Cheryl and Dash had just arrived to spectate! We chatted for a bit and then it was time to get going.

At the suggestion of some of my wise running friends, I decided not to look at my watch at all during this race. At first I thought about looking at it during the first mile to keep myself relatively controlled, but I realized that during a 5k there was really no point in "control." The risk of it having a negative effect on me was greater than the potential for a positive boost. I thought I would just focus on running hard and pushing myself the whole way. I also decided to leave my watch on autolap to really take the watch completely off of my mind.

The course was an out and back on a local bike path/trail and it was slightly uphill on the way out and downhill on the way back. This wasn't a chip timed race, so I tried to place myself pretty close to the front. Not right at the front though, as the majority of the members of a fast local racing team were also there. Fortunately it was a small race, so even though the path is relatively narrow, I only felt crowded for the first 100 yards or so. I settled into a good rhythm and focused on running hard. I went back and forth with an older gentleman early on (he kept surging as I would pull even with him), but had pulled clear of him by the time I passed the first mile marker.

From mile one to the turnaround point, I thought about staying steady and was looking forward to using the slight downhill on the way back to my advantage. The field was pretty spread out, but had my eye on a woman in a bright pink hat who was not all that far ahead of me. The turnaround was a cone in the path. I didn't want to lose all my momentum turning around, so I swung a little wide, started to turn and then I was hitting the ground. Hard. I'm not sure exactly what happened, but I must have hit a particularly slick spot and my foot slipped out from under me.

I have no idea how long as I was down, but as soon as I processed what had happened, I was scrambling to get up. Fortunately I didn't take anyone else out, but the guy behind me slowed to ask if I was okay. I nodded that I was and he said something like "you were looking strong" and took off. I was running again pretty quickly and tried to get back on pace. I tried to keep up with the guy who had just passed me, but he was flying.

I figured that at this point a PR was probably out of the picture, but I still wanted to finish strong and keep running hard. So I did. My right knee took the brunt of the fall and it hurt when I first got started up again, but after a minute or two I didn't notice it. In some ways the fall was a good distraction. I was pretty relaxed with any pressure for a PR gone and all I could think was, "I just fell down. In a race. How ridiculous is that?" I was laughing at myself more than I was upset or disappointed. During the last half mile or so I started to close on a guy in front of me and conveniently passed him right in front of my photographer.

I felt strong in the homestretch and was shocked when I could finally see the finish clock and it showed a low 21. That was just the motivation I needed to really kick it in to the finish. Despite my wipe out, I finished with a 35 second PR!

21:27 (6:59/6:59/6:43/.12 in 6:05 pace)

I've got a couple more 5ks in the next few weeks, so I'm excited to get another shot at this distance. Preferably without a fall in the middle. Still, regardless of how it happened, this was my first race with a sub-7:00 average pace. And I'm pretty excited about that. It's definitely a goal that's been in the back of my mind for a while.