My girlfriend, dog Porter, and I arrived around 8:30 AM for packet pickup and the place was already packed. It was clear this was going to be a huge race, but the majority being non-competitive (paying a lower entry fee and not being timed) or members of Girls on the Run who had trained for this event. The final results list 231 participants who ran the competitive race, but the event staff announced during the awards that including the non-competitive, there were more than 2,500 people in the race.
The weather has been very warm for December this week, and at 10 AM for the race start it was already nearly 70 degrees and sunny. I made my way through the hoards of people to the front of the starting line. I looked around to see if anyone else was trying to get to the front and started to think that despite the large crowd, this race might be pretty similar to the last one I ran. One guy stepped up and was asking my about my NC singlet and what time I was hoping to run, saying he would probably come in around 19 minutes. I'm not sure why he was so modest because he ran a great race in 17:31.
The gun went off and I took off. In October I was too slow for the first mile, and I didn't want that to happen again. I came through the first mile in 5:35. I still can't quite get the first mile down, running this one just a little faster than I had planned. Still, it was much better than around 6 like I did in my last race, and at this point in the race I felt pretty good about bettering my finish time. The guy I was talking to at the start had trailed just behind me for close to 1.25 miles until he passed me. I tried to stay right on him but he slowly added some distance throughout the rest of the race.
Over the next mile, there was a segment on the Greenway with a lot of trees and I lost my GPS signal. I don't know what my 2 mile split was, but I think I came through somewhere near 11:35 so probably right at 6 for mile 2. After mile 2 we got back onto the same part of the course from the first mile but in reverse. Coming out of the woods, I was met with a mob of hundreds of people shuffling at probably 15 minutes/mile. The lady on a motorized bike leading the way was beeping her horn like crazy but it was not working well. I was only the very left of a wide road and had no where to go. I did my best to go around people but at one point I nearly came to a complete stop. I was pissed. I finished really well and was happy with my time, otherwise I would've made a bigger deal of this to the race director. Instead, I just likely will not do this race again.
I held pace into mile 3 until about a half mile to go I picked it up with everything I had, thinking I had an outside shot at 17:59. There was a downhill finish onto the track for the homestretch into the finish. I pushed all the way through and finished in 18:05, 17 seconds faster than my last 5k and 12 seconds off my fastest time in high school. The crowd cost me a few seconds, but even without them I don't think I would've cracked 18:00. I finished 2nd overall, 34 seconds behind first and more than a minute ahead of third place.
2nd Place / 231
I could stretch it out a few more weeks and take another shot at 17:59 but I think I have probably taken it as far as I can for now. Time to start a new training plan and add some miles. Now for some thoughts on how this training went:
- I really liked Daniels' Plan. Phase III was tough, there were times I thought I was starting to burn out, but I never went overboard on any single workout, and didn't increase my mileage during phase III.
- Mileage. I really couldn't have increased it much more in training, but if I want to run faster I need more miles. I have more than enough speed to be running a lot faster than I am right now, and if I want to run fast for longer races, again, I need more miles.
- Having said that, could I really have expected to this to go much better? This year is the first that I have raced since 2011, and I'm already very close to the fastest I've ever ran. I ran 17:53 one time in high school and ran the same exact time in a 5k in 2011 when I was running a lot in undergrad. I had a lot more speed in high school, but my endurance is leaps and bounds stronger now. I definitely don't expect to keep cutting off 20 seconds every time I run a 5k, the improvements will slow. But I think the fact that I improved this much already, says I have a lot more improvement to come. A PR is coming in 2016.
Where to go from here? It's a little frustrating to be so close to a PR, but I have a lot of time for that. My plan now is to train for a Spring half marathon. My October race went really well, so I'd like to run more races in training, maybe a couple races from 8k - 10M. I'll pick a training plan in the next week or so, likely Daniel's half plan, and start to work my miles up. I'd like to be averaging around 50 in training for a half, but that will require me to run in the morning on my work days, something I am very very bad at for now, but that will change.