On Dec 6th, 2014 I decided to enter a 5k. I had run this race the previous year and did okay, but I was eager to see how and if my race pace had improved since starting the streak and becoming a vegetarian. I had run a 5k race about a month before on Day #9 of my running streak and wasn’t pleased with the time. My body was still adjusting to running everyday, and race conditions were rough on that day, lots of wind and pretty cold.
Today was Day #42 of the running streak and I was feeling strong! Whether it was psychological or an actual effect of becoming a vegetarian, I felt less stressed and more energized. My legs were feeling great and by this point I had lost close to 12 lbs. When I was running on my own or with my friends my average pace was getting faster so I was ready to see where I was at on an official course.
The race commonly known as “No Pain, No Spain” is actually the Patterson Park 5k and Fun Run hosted by the Patterson Park Public Charter School. The proceeds from the race go to help students travel to Spain for a summer program. My friend Pat is very involved with the school and is a past board member, so I had an extra reason to participate. Pat and I have a friendly competition and the previous year he had beat me by a decent margin, 3 mins. (As I mentioned in a previous blog the year past hadn’t been that great for running)
The weather was overcast, cool, and drizzling on and off. Whenever it rains, even a little, I wear a hat with a brim to help keep the rain out of my eyes, I also wore a long sleeve Lululemon 1/4 zip vented shirt, and Lululemon running tights. As the race welcome ceremony got underway I chatted with Pat and told him I wasn’t really looking for a specific time, just wanted to gauge where I was at and to have a solid race.
The race starts in the middle of the ‘big Park’ on a slight downhill, some of the Charter School students were the race starters and the race was underway just after 11am. I like the later start, at least in the cooler months, you get to sleep in a little and the weather warms up slightly. The first mile of the race was pretty smooth, Pat and I were running stride for stride. I thought we were going out a little fast but I felt good so I didn’t say anything. At approximately, the half mile mark you cross over into the ‘small Park’, you need to cross a street but the race staff has it closed to traffic. This begins the first hill of the race, it isn’t a big one less than a quarter mile. Anyone who knows Patterson Park knows there is going to be lots of hills! As we peaked and began the decent I was still feeling strong but started to get a little warm, so I unzipped my shirt a bit. As we completed the half circle around the ‘small Park’ we crossed the street again back into the ‘big Park’ that was mile one. Pat and I were still side by side our mile pace was 7:20, pretty fast for me but other than feeling hot I was still feeling strong. The next mile would be the challenge.
Mile 2 of the race is pretty much an uphill climb and gets pretty steep about half way through. Starting mile 2 I remember thinking I wish I didn’t have this hat on, it was keeping heat in and I had pulled down my zipper as far as it could go on my shirt. I thought about taking my shirt off and tying it around my waste but I was worried I would be too cold, I decided to leave it on. As Pat and I started the climb I asked him if he had been doing any hill training, he said not much, to which I replied well I haven’t done any so if you feel like you have it, go for it! We ran together for a little longer then Pat started pulling away, I just needed to keep him in my sights if I wanted a chance of redemption for last year. Then I thought wait I’m not racing Pat, I am just want a solid race…we all know no matter what you say you are always comparing yourself to something in a race, whether it is the clock, another competitor, or the place you finish. Halfway through mile 2 I could still see Pat but the incline was getting steeper, I passed some spectators and threw them my hat. I had to get rid of it, I figured I would try to track them down after after the race and get it back. On the steep climb up to the Pagoda I really slowed down, I was just trying to stay steady and make sure I had enough in the tank to finish strong. Three other runners had passed me and I really couldn’t see Pat anymore. As I crested the steep hill it flattened out and began to go downhill and mile 2 was behind me. My pace had really fallen off, my mile 2 pace was close to 8:30.
Mile 3 began with a steep downhill, which was welcomed relief after the last mile. Running downhill pounds your quads but gave me a chance to get my breathing back into rhythm. In my mind I set a goal over the next mile to catch those three runners that had passed me. The course had long straight-aways in the first portion of mile 3 so I could see how far ahead of me they were. I got back on my pace, my breathing settled in and I started to bear down on the runners who had passed me, one by one I caught up to them and then passed them. When I passed that 3rd runner I felt great! I had set a small goal, mid-race and pulled it off. As I came around the second to final turn I could see Pat again, he had a pretty good lead on me, I wasn’t sure if I could catch him. As I rounded the final turn I entered the final ascent of the course. An uphill finish, always makes it interesting. With a 1/10th of a mile to go I started to kick, I wasn’t going to catch Pat but I could hear steps pounding the pavement behind me. Out of the corner of my eye could see a female runner coming up along side of me, I tried to kick harder but the hill in mile 2 and catching the three runners had taken a lot out of me. I watched as she passed me and I didn’t have enough in the tank to catch her. She crossed the finish line just before I did, turned out she was the 2nd place female finisher. I crossed the line and felt I had a solid race and given it my all.
My time was 23:34, it was a Personal Record by 13 seconds!!! I didn’t expect that especially with my slower second mile and the hilly course. I was stoked, even though Pat had beaten me again, but only by 30 seconds this year. My overall pace was 7:36 per mile. I felt really good about that.
After chatting with Pat a bit, I went to try and find my hat as I cheered on other runners who were still out on the course. I found the person I threw my hat to and they said they had given it to the race director. Pat knew who that was, so I figured I’d find her later. We cheered on the rest of the runners and then went to the home brew beer tasting, which was included in the entry fee. The beer tasting was something new that was added this year and it was great to taste several unique home brews. Some of the students had formed a band and they were performing some covers as well as some original songs, they were awesome (I wish I could remember the name of their band). I finally found the race director and got my hat back, Pat and I hung out for a while enjoyed the music and beer and then called it a day.
When I checked the race results I was really happy to confirm my PR time! Overall I was 18th out of 197, and 7th out of 35 in my age group.
A PR is always great, but it is even better when you weren’t expecting it!
Have you had a race that you were running for fun and it turned into a PR? Have you had to adjust goals during a race?
-Veggie Fueled Runner