“10K on the Bay” 5K run/walk
Aug. 24, 2014
I’ve been itching to run a 5K for a few months now, and when RC and LJ expressed some interest in running this particular race, I said, “Sign me up!” Heading into race day, I was unsure of how things would go, considering that I hadn’t done any speed work in 4+ months, nor had I run faster than 11:00/mile in the past couple of weeks. Would my legs even remember how to turnover faster, and how would my lungs respond to the effort? I decided that trying for any particular time goal was an exercise in folly. Upon seeing last year’s modest results, I thought there was a good chance that I could at least finish in the top 3 of my age group, and maybe even top 3 women if I was lucky (i.e., depending on who else showed up). Therefore, my strategy was to run a race and not a time trial. Following this timely article by Lauren Fleshman, I’d run the 1st mile with my brain, the 2nd mile with focus, and the last mile with heart. In her words:
In the first mile, you can’t let any emotion or excitement in at all. Start with a pace you are confident you can maintain and then relax a little bit more. Until you see that one mile marker, all you are allowed to think about is running smart. From 1-2 miles, focus on maintaining your form and start to look around you, taking a survey of which runners around you probably went out too hard, and which ones you should make your prey in the third mile. You are taking some time to strategize for the big battle, and you aren’t allowed to draw your sword until you pass the 2mile marker! The last mile, start to pick off your victims, and allow your mind to feel gratitude for how powerful and strong your body is. As soon as you can see that finish line, pretend you are Meb running down Boylston St in front of all of America and run with passion, tall and proud!
One of the best parts about a 5K? No muss, no fuss. I didn’t have to worry about eating breakfast, how much fuel to bring and where I’d stash it, whether I’d chafe, etc. Even the day before the race, I found myself thinking, “Oh, maybe I shouldn’t do/eat/drink X, Y, or Z” and then realize that I was running a 5K, not a marathon or even a half. I kinda went overboard a little on Saturday, though, hiking 8.5 miles with Jane, eating pizza and drinking my first Pimm’s cup with my Ragnar Napa team, and eating and drinking some more at my friend DR’s birthday party. The two things that I did right were to hydrate properly and go to sleep early.
I woke up at a relatively normal time of 6:50 a.m. and got to the race without any complications. After warming up with dynamic drills and about 15-20 minutes of jogging, I met up with RC and LJ and we chatted while waiting for the start. The weather was warm — I wasn’t the least bit chilly in my tank top and shorts, but I was thankful that it was overcast at least.
This is a small, local race, with the more serious runners entered into the 10K. Looking around and assessing my fellow runners, I felt okay lined up about 3-4 rows back from the start line, with a few faster-looking women ahead of me. I didn’t want to be too far behind because the trails were only about 5-6 people wide and I didn’t want to get stuck behind any walkers. At 8:29, one minute before the race was supposed to start, the Ford Timing guy came out to set up the start mat, which he did in an impressively quick fashion. At ~8:34, the horn sounded and the runners surged forward, being careful to duck under the “5K start” sign that was set up about 5’6″ off the ground. Just one of the many charms of a small charity race. 🙂
I charged off with everyone else, and just as Lauren Fleshman warned against, I let my emotions and the excitement take hold of me for about 2 minutes. I looked down at my Garmin and saw 7:xx mile pace. Holy crap, definitely too fast! I focused on the couple of women directly ahead of me running with good form and relaxed into their pace. It seems that we all started out too quickly, but then we settled into a much more reasonable pace by the end of that 1st mile, which I clocked at 8:35 (avg HR 159, max 171).
For most of the 2nd mile, I slipped behind a woman wearing a pink jacket. I’ll call her the pink jacket lady or PJL for short. (Creative, I know.) I had underestimated PJL due to the amount of clothing she was wearing in such mild conditions — a jacket over a running shirt up top and capris on the bottom — but she ended up being a very solid runner. Since I was hoping to recover a little from the first mile, I settled behind her and we fell in step. I confess, I drafted off of her tiny 5′ frame for almost a mile and didn’t return the favor. I finished the 2nd mile in a more relaxed 9:01 (avg 169, max 172).
I purposely ran a little more conservatively in the 2nd mile so that I could turn it up in the last mile to see how many people I could pass. PJL was my first target, whom I passed easily. Next, I overtook a small boy who stopped at the water station. Rookie. Then I passed a woman who had been 20-30 feet ahead of me the whole time, followed by 2 men and another little boy (where do these speedy little boys come from??). At that point, I asked myself whether I was satisfied with my progress — i.e., should I step off the gas or keep going? Partially out of fear that the people I passed would over take me, I kept my foot on full throttle. The nice thing about this course is that it’s super duper flat. The bad thing is that you can see the finish line from more than a mile away AND you have to duck under the 5K Start sign on your way to the finish. I kept focusing on getting closer and closer to that finish line, when I found myself catching up to 2 more people, a guy and a girl and overtook them as well. However, the guy wouldn’t give up and I kept leap-frogging with him. Every time I passed him, I overheard him joking around with the girl behind me (the last woman I had passed). Even though I was definitely struggling, the threat of them overtaking me was enough to keep me going. I finished the 3rd mile in 8:27 (avg 194, max 209) and ran the last 0.17 mile in an 8:01 pace (avg 203, max 209).
I deliriously ran/walked through the chute, where gracious volunteers cut the timing chip off my shoe and handed me water, fruit, and a finisher’s certificate. I made it back to the finish line in time to take photos of RC and LJ finishing, and grabbed some more food including a yummy peach donated by a local farm. We got our free cotton race t-shirts and I said good-bye to RC and LJ. I thought about waiting around to see a couple of friends to finish the 10K and for the awards ceremony at 10am, since I was curious about whether I had placed in my age group. However, that would have been another 30 minutes of hanging around by myself so I decided to jog back to the car and head home.
A couple of hours later, the results were posted online. I was very happy to see that I had come in 3rd in my age group, and that the last woman I passed in the race was in my age group — meaning I beat her for 3rd. Sweet!! It was a very rewarding feeling, because I often ask myself, “Why am I doing this? Does this even matter?” — especially at the end of a race. Usually, it doesn’t matter, but occasionally it does, even if it’s just a matter of pride and nothing else. I learned that I may not be as fit as I was 9 months ago, but my racing game is definitely sharper than it used to be. I also realized how fun a 5K can be — yes, it’s painful, but they’re short, require less preparation and planning, are much cheaper, and involve very little to no recovery.
time: 27:23 (8:51/mile)
3/35 AG (30-39), 8/120 females, 28/198 overall
About the race:
- Organizers: Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center
- Cost: $30 in advance, $35 day of.
- Course: Very flat, gravel/dirt trails. Right by the Bay, so wind might be an issue.
- Parking: No parking at the start/finish. Free parking was available about 0.5 miles down the road at a business park. They were running van/shuttles, but most people chose to walk.
- Aid stations: 1 water stop for the 5K that we passed twice.
- Bathrooms: I saw about 6 porta potties but there might have been more. I didn’t need to use them at all (yay for 5Ks!).
- Swag: Cotton t-shirt and finisher’s certificate with a commemorative Hayward Parks pin.
- Post-race food and drinks: Water in compostable cups, fruit, trail mix, and chocolate milk.
- Other notes/summary: Since this race benefits the Hayward Shoreline and the Bay Trail, and because I run there so often, I was happy to take part of this event and make a small donation.