You guys, I might just be getting smarter with age.
At this morning’s 5K, I did not go out too fast.
I did not kill my legs in the first five minutes and spend the remaining fifteen wanting to die.
And I ran the time I guessed I’d run, almost to the second.
“So what do you think you’ll run today?” asked a friend before the race. I thought for a moment. I knew I didn’t want to go balls-to-the-wall, with a goal-race half marathon a week away. But I did want to run hard, and I thought I could probably run a little faster than I have been, given a slightly more favorable course.
“Twenty-one?” I ventured.
Finish time: 21:04.
Here’s how it went down.
Mile 1: 6:33. I consciously reined myself in coming off of the start line. So while that’s still on the faster side for me, it’s not crazy. I can recall 5Ks in the not-so-distant past where I’ve taken off like a bat out of hell, run a sub-6 mile, then shuffled my way to the finish.
People were passing me left and right during the half mile or so. I let them go. I hoped I’d take most of them back later.
Mile 2: 6:57. The whole course was rolling, but mile two had the longest and steepest stretches of sustained climbing. I felt myself go a little flat and tried to focus on keeping myself tall and strong. (Well, as tall and strong as a 5’3″ chick who likes beer too much can possibly be.)
About 30 feet ahead, I spotted a woman and a guy, both of whom I knew were about my pace or maybe slightly faster. As we passed the second mile marker, I directed my attention to that 30 feet and tried my damnedest to chip away at it.
Mile 3 + 0.1: 7:34 (6:49 pace). After the two-mile mark, we crested a little hill and then hopped on a long stretch of gentle rollers. One block up, one block down. It was kind of fun. Out of nowhere, two women passed me. (I think one might have been Yoga Pants from two weeks ago – regardless, she was wearing yoga pants as well.) I let them get about five feet and then hung with them. My 30-foot-gap friends were still in sight, but I hadn’t gained much on them.
I glanced down at my watch and figured we had four or five minutes left to go.
And I remembered a ridiculous conversation I had with myself during the Chicago marathon last year, in the height of twenty-mile delirium, wherein I swore that any race over a mile was stupid and that I should become a middle distance runner and never race more than five minutes at a time again.
“Well,” I told myself. “That’s what you’ve got left. Five minutes. Go.”
So I sped up, picked off the two chicks who had passed me, and barreled on down the road.
Coming around the final turn, with two blocks to go, I glanced at my watch again and had fleeting thoughts of getting there before the clock struck 21. But alas: those five seconds. I’m not upset, though. Because today I raced smarter than I have in a long time, and actually still had some gas in the tank at the end. And snagged some swag with second in my age group to boot.
One of these days, I’ll get back to 5K times that start with 20 or 19. But for now, I’ve got a little 13.1-mile party to prepare for next weekend. And today was a great confidence boost on that front.
Also, kind of funny: the very last thing that passed my lips before this morning’s race – aside from a few sips of water this morning – was this:
Late Friday night dinner alongside a flight of fancypants Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary collaboration beers. A seven-ounce pour of each:
- Fritz & Ken’s Ale: A very rich and thick stout made with Anchor. I enjoyed this, but 8 ounces was plenty! Not much in the way of bubbles and a sweet, cocoa-like flavor made for a rich but very drinkable beer. 9.2% ABV.
- Charlie, Fred & Ken’s Imperial Helle’s Bock: Crafted with a pair of homebrewers and beer writers, I thought this bock was tasty but nothing really out of the ordinary. Pleasantly hoppy and perhaps a touch on the sweet side. Smooth for its 8.2% ABV.
- Jack & Ken’s Ale: Oh, barleywine. I love you every time. And this one, a collaboration with New Albion Brewery, was no exception. Dark mahogany red and nice and boozy. 10.2% ABV.
- Brewers’ Reserve Oak Aged Ale: A hopped-up combination of Sierra’s three most popular beers – Bigfoot, Celebration and the ubiquitous Pale Ale – I enjoyed it just as much as I do each of those three on their own. 9.2% ABV.
All of this washed down a big plate of baby back ribs and hush puppies.
It’s totally how a python would fuel for a 5K.