It seems that my racing motto this year is, “Under promise (and under train) and over deliver”. In the past, my racing and training philosophy very much overlapped with my personal and professional m.o.’s: set a goal and go after it hard, Type A style. However, 2017 has become the year of constant life disruptions. That, and a significant dip in my training mojo, has resulted in very modest running goals.
I had signed up for the Alameda Holiday Kick Off 5K as a fun run — a few of my Berkeley colleagues would be running, so I thought it would be a good time. Plus, it was logistically easy — an easy 20-minute drive from home, free parking, and race day bib pickup.
The thing about signing up for a fun run 5K is that it flew way under my radar, especially since I was starting a new job and had to fly out to Chicago the week before the race. I did some half-assed short interval workouts leading up to the race, but I honestly didn’t care.
The night before, I had some friends over for ladies’ night. We drank wine, ate junk food, and watched Netflix while wearing adult onesies, as you do. I basically threw “race prep” out the window. I reasoned that it was a 5K fun run, it would be over before I knew it.
As expected, race morning was a breeze. I got there too early for a small race, picked up my bib, did a 1.5 mile warm-up, and used the restroom, which was nicely situated indoors at the Harbor Bay Club.
I met up with my friends and we gamely followed along with the official pre-race dynamic warmup. Two of my friends, CS and KK, told me to run my own race — they’d be running a very leisurely pace, so they’d see me at the finish. KK’s boyfriend A, whom I had just met, was also running, but we didn’t make any plans to run together.
At some point in the morning, my competitive juices started flowing. I knew that, based on recent 10K and half marathon times, I could aim for sub-9 minute pace. I’ve generally been able to run under 26 minutes for the last few years, so that was my goal. I was also curious about my competition. I looked around and there were definitely some speedy-looking women, but for the most part, it was definitely more of a community fun run atmosphere.
The race started at 9:00 a.m. on the dot. The course was an out-and-back along the waterfront – super flat but narrow in parts. There were also some bumpy bits (broken asphalt, roots coming up, etc.) – I saw one boy trip and fall, so you definitely had to be careful. My plan was to start fast (for me), but hopefully not too fast, hang on for the 2nd mile, and see if I could finish fast. I wasn’t overly concerned with pace, but I did periodically glance at my Garmin.
So, the short story is that everything pretty much went according to plan. I started fast-ish, being careful not to expend too much energy passing people. The second mile, I hung on to the older lady in front of me (she was amazing — I hope I can run like her when I’m 63!). I ended up passing her at the turn around, but not long after, she caught up to me, we ran side by side for a few minutes, and then she took off, eventually beating me by 7 seconds. I was suffering, but not completely miserable (yet). It sounds sadistic, but I always ask myself at a 5K, “Do I feel like throwing up?” If not, I know I can still push harder.
I crossed the finish mat at 25:35 – woohoo! It’s my 4th fastest 5K finish, though my Garmin indicated that the course may have been short (it read 3.05 miles). Regardless, I ended up winning my age group (40-49) by 2 seconds! And I was in the largest age group by far. So that made me feel very triumphant.
The cherry on top? I negative split each mile by precisely 8 seconds: 8:34, 8:26, 8:18, then sprinted it in (6:56/mile) in the last 0.05.
I watched my friends finish and they patiently waited for me to collect my age group award – a nice looking plaque that I’m proudly displaying on my desk. Then we went to get brunch – YUM. Post-race brunch is always my favorite. It was a great morning!
1/26 AG; 14/87 F; 33/152 overall
Garmin: 25:36 (8:24/mile for 3.05 miles)
About the race:
- Organizers: Out Front Endurance
- Race info: This is one of a series of the Island 5K Challenge on Alameda Island. Participants who finish 3 of the 5 races get a special medal and they’re also entered into a separate competition.
- Cost: I missed a deadline and paid $30 (+$3 Active.com fee), but I think if you register early, you can pay as little as $20.
- Course: A very flat, paved, out-and-back course along the Bay.
- Parking: Lots of free parking near the start/finish.
- Aid stations: A water and electrolyte station at the turn around.
- Bathrooms: Indoor flush toilets at the start/finish. Public park bathrooms en route.
- Swag: Cotton unisex t-shirt, no medal.
- Post race food and drinks: Bottle of water, beer, and hot coffee. There were cookies and fruit as well.
- Other notes: This is a nicely organized community race. If the weather cooperates, then it’s got great PR potential (except that it might be a short course). All of the races in this series benefit charities; the proceeds of this race went to the Multiple Myeloma Society.