Wednesday night I headed out to Eisenhower State Park on Long Island to race the penultimate 5k in the Long Island Road Runners Club Summer Series for three reasons. First, I wanted to finally pick up my trophy for being the first female finisher at the Duck Trot last November. (I’d emailed with Fred, the club president , who told me that the next time I raced with them to just let him know and he’d give me my award.) Second, I wanted to get a benchmark race time in the distance to help me come up with a PR goal. And third, I was using the race as my speed workout for the week.
I made it to the park just in time to register before the cutoff, but had to ask my Twitter friend ET (who came to the race with her husband) spot me the $9 entry fee because I had no cash on me. Apart from her $9, it was a pleasure to catch up with her before and after the race–she works right near by.
The race started right at 7pm. I clicked Little G and sped off, having no other plan in mind aside from beating my last PR at the distance (28:22, a 9:09 average pace, from 2002) and running as hard as I could to get a starting point for my training. The course was two flat loops, and I remembered it vaguely from the Duck Trot. There were a lot of younger runners, including one team composed of little girls. They were adorable in their blue and white uniforms, and they had a designated cheerleaders at each mile marker, plus their coach was shouting out tips. I loved participating with them, having them on the course made me happy. I didn’t let them distract me too much, though. I paid close attention to my breathing, deliberately let people pass me during Mile 1. I know from the Media Challenges that many of the runners who get away from me in the beginning I can burn around Mile 2.5 or so. I was focused, my body felt good and loose. During Mile 2, I thought I heard someone shout out, “You’re towards the front! Push it!” I had no idea if they were talking to me, but the field was small and I realized I might be able to place in my age group if I hustled. So I ran a little faster. In the final mile I could feel my legs getting a heavy but I wasn’t in nearly as much pain as I was during the Wall Street Run back in June. And, just as expected, I passed a lot of people who were gasping, moaning, and basically looking like they were in a world of hurt during Mile 3. One young woman I passed was gorgeous, she had a perfect tushy and was wearing bum huggers–it was a fine target for me to chase–except the 2″ long clothing tag of her shorts was hanging out the waistband and flapping behind her, ruining an otherwise pretty picture. As I ran by her, I said to her, The tag is hanging out of your shorts, if you want to tuck it in. She didn’t even turn to look at me, just grimaced in pain and licked the sweat off her upper lip. Should I not have said anything? I was just trying to be helpful. (Do you all believe me? No? Well, you may be right.)
My splits shook out beautifully — 7:57; 7:52; 7:51, with the last bit taking me 53 seconds, for an average pace of 7:55. I ran as hard as I could for the last tenth of a mile, and it felt so awesome to just open it up and kick it out. As soon as I finished, I knew I could have been faster, that even though I gave a good effort I could have in fact run harder. If this had been a goal race, I would have been frustrated with that knowledge, but this time it came as a welcome realization. It is one more piece of information that will help me set the time for, and then achieve, my ultimate 5k PR.
As I caught my breath, I went back around to the finish line and cheered as ET and her husband came across the line. Then we stood around and waited for the awards and raffles. Turns out, my official finishing time of 24:34 got me not only a new 5k PR (for the time being) but also a 3rd Place Age Group ribbon! ET and her man each won something from the raffles, so we all came away with something to show for our races.Once Fred had given out all of his items, I approached him for my Duck Trot award. I was expecting an actual trophy, like the overall winners of the 5k had just received, but instead he handed me a 1st Place Medal. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed, but I vowed to myself right there that I would return to the Duck Trot this year and defend my championship title, to try to get a trophy for real this November.
Overall, I came away from this race motivated and energized. I am excited to pull together a training plan that will take me through the Fall and lead me to strong times in the 5 and 10k distances. I don’t feel like I am missing out on a thing by not training for a marathon even as all my friends are tweeting their long runs and gearing up for Chicago, New York, or other Fall classics. I wonder instead, How fast can I get? How much pain can I endure during a race? With what will I surprise myself? I cannot wait to create the answers to those questions over the next several months.