Saturday, November 29, 2008

2008 Living Waters 5k

2008 Living Waters 5k
Decatur, AL
November 29, 2008
Official Results

Back on October 18 at the Liz Hurley 5k Run, I had intended to set a personal record for the distance and forgo running any more 5k's in 2008. My mistake on that day was trying too close to the target time (5:28 pace for sub 17:00 goal time) and then with a misplaced 3 mile marker to just barely miss it with a 17:04. Breaking 17 had been a goal for a few months now, but it was still on my list and I was afraid that with the upcoming marathon and ensuing ultra season, that my shot to do this with my existing fitness level was slipping away.

At the Dam Bridge Run, Jon Elmore had indicated that he was putting on a 5k in Decatur on Nov 29th, the 2nd Annual Living Waters 5k and that I should come out. We had exchanged emails during the week about the course, who was going to run, etc. Then again at the Turkey Trot we talked about it again. After a little thought, I decided that I would try one more time this year to race the clock and break 17.

On the night before the race, the weather looked foul; it was 90% chance of rain and mid 40's. This would make it tough to run my goal pace, but luckily on race morning the weather had moved through and it was only a light mist.

The competition at the starting line looked minimal, with Josh Whitehead the only recognizable fast guy, along with some other high school and younger runners with unknown ability. Josh had just finished 2nd at the Turkey Trot a few days earlier, despite leading for 2/3 of the race. My experience with Josh started at Da Doo Run Run 5k, where he lead most of the race until I caught him and sprinted ahead at the 3 mile mark, finishing just ahead of him. Since then, I had seen him several times and talked with him. He is mostly a cyclist, but learning to race and certainly training hard based on his recent race times. His style was to sprint to the lead and then hang on.

At the start, he joked that he would just draft off of me. I laughed, replying to him that I couldn't keep up with his pacing strategy:)

From the start, Josh sprinted out at 4 minute-miles and quickly I was trailing. The first turn was only a block from the start. Treading lightly on the wet leaves around the corner and onto a slight downhill hill road, the chase was on. I was in second place, but the gap was increasing between us. The target for the 1/2 mile splits was to run 2:43 (5:26 pace per mile) coming in at 16:52 and taking no chances on missing the target. At the half mile mark, I clocked 2:35 (5:10 pace) and I was scared that I had gone out too hard. We had left the rest of the pack but I was substantially behind Josh. After looping around to the start again, I was at least 15 seconds behind; my first mile clocked in at 5:16. I was well ahead of pace, but nervous that I would lose that time in the second 2/3 of the race. I was letting an inexperienced runner dictate the pace early, but it was not too late. I backed off slightly and focused on my plan for the race, which was to race the clock, not Josh.

After a fast right and left, we had another straight stretch. By the 1.5 mile mark, I was actually closing in on Josh; the lead was narrowing. Somehow despite dialing it back a hair, I was actually gaining on him! This fueled my drive and I pushed harder. Just after a left turn, I passed him decisively and pulled into the lead. I usually think more about passing before I do it, but in this case, I just did it. He was slowing too much and if I was going to hit my time goal, I could not stay behind him. As I passed I noticed that his right shoe was untied. I thought about mentioning it, but since we are friends I didn't want to make it seem like a dirty race tactic. The laces were flopping around, so I figured that he knew anyway (he later admitted that he did.) The second mile was a 5:27. I came through the 2 mile mark at 10:43, which was a 2 mile PR.

Josh was breathing very heaving and it seemed to bother my own breathing patterns. I knew that he was a sprinter and 5k specialist, so I tried to deploy a race strategy that I learned from Robert Cheruiyot. Robert is not a sprinter, but in the latter 1/3 of the race, drops the pace repeatedly, eventually leaving all of the competition behind. Then late in the race, the competitors catch up, but never pass because the lead is then insurmountable. I tried to put distance on Josh with bursts of speed, but each time, he sped up and stayed with me. I could tell that his effort was increasing based on his breathing, but yet he stayed with me. Just like he joked at the start, he was not tucked in behind me, drafting, and letting me do the work. I certainly did not mind, as I would have done the same if I could find a runner to stay with. I made 6-7 pushes in the last mile, but never could pull ahead. The 3rd mile was a 5:24, putting me at 16:07 for 3 miles.

Just as I did to him at Handy, Josh returned the favor and with 50 meters left, sprinted ahead of me to the finish line. I couldn't hold him off, and had no choice as I watched him run by. I picked up the stride rate, but his sprinter legs pushed him passed me to the win. I slowed slightly over the last few strides, but stopped my watch at 16:42.20, which was a PR by 22 seconds.

In the end I finished 2nd overall of 75 runners, and 1st in M30-34 and nearly 2 minutes ahead of 3rd place. Again, the story of my life, which was yet another 2nd place finish, making it 7 times this year and 13 times in my career. I was fast enough, but not fast enough. I am completely ok with it though, as I came to this event to race the clock and not race the competition. I think that racing against Josh pushed me to run slightly harder than I would have alone, helping me to break the 17 minute mark by more than I had planned.

Laura also set a PR on this day, breaking 29 minutes, lowering her PR by several minutes. Dink Taylor was the overall masters winner. All in all, it was a pretty good day for our car load of Huntsvillians.

That makes 4 distance personal records in the last 7 weeks. (15km, half marathon, 10km and 5km), though one can argue that I also set 2mi, 3mi, 4mi and 10mi personal bests in the course of running these races as well. That means that I only have one race goal for the year... the marathon. That is now two weeks away and has been the goal race since I left Boston in April.