Last night was the Flag Day 5k. Unlike the Cleveland half coaches orders were to race, this wasn't a run or workout, it was time to get down to business. We had a goal of sub 19 and I was supposed to try and run 6 minute pace which would be an 18:40. Despite running better than that pace at my track workout last week I was still nervous. 6 flat sounds a lot more intimidating than 6:07 (which would be an 18:59). My PR race (19:23) was back in December 2007 at Reindeer 5K, a pancake flat perfect weather kind of day. Flag Day 5k is not flat, has lots of turns, and it's usually hot and humid!
Picked up Iron G and headed out to Mentor. We got there early and picked up our packets then it was off to warm up. Did about 20 minutes with 4*30 seconds strides at the end. Finished up around 6:50 and changed into my race shoes. Salty and Evie were all pep chatting away, I was mostly nerves. Since I hadn't run at lunch like usual I was a bottle of energy ready to explode. I knew I was physically capable of the goal, but 5ks are hard and I wasn't sure how it would play out or feel. Thought we had timed the warm up well but things got off to a later start and we stood around at the start line until almost 7:10. I tried to keep "warm" (I was drenched in sweat after the warm up, temps were good around 70 but it was humid!) bouncing around and noted Salty was all calm no jitters.
Finally the anthem and the start. We had lined up just behind the leaders since this is not a chip race. The race goes down hill right away around a large curve. I took it out and tried to focus on how it feels on the track. My turnover felt good and once we reached the bottom of the hill I heard my husband cheer, I gave a wave and then it was back to focusing. I focused in on my breathing and tried to keep it in every two steps and out every two. That seemed to help my rhythm and I felt good as we made our first turn. Salty was on my shoulder the whole way and I was glad for some company. It seems like I am always in no mans land and other than her and a few men who had obviously shot out too fast we were in a gap behind the leaders. My previous PR mostly resulted from me staying on the shoulder of JP (good racer and great at pacing 5k appropriately), last night I knew I would have to rely on my own pacing and racing insticts to get the time I wanted, I wasn't going to get a free drafting ride this time around.
Heard cheers from Iron G and Evie through here as we made our way back towards the area we started. I had told Salty before the race we would likely be dueling for 2nd and 3rd (1st gal is a consistent low 17 and high 16 5k runner) and it looked like that was how it would play out. We hit the mile marker and the split called out was 5:48 which was right on target for me if I ran the course similarly to the past (The first mile here I am always about 20-30 second faster than what I will run the 2nd and 3rd miles). I held a thumbs up to show Salty I was pleased and we were doing well.
We climbed our first hill as the male leader Fred Kieser made his way back down it on course record pace. My hill skillz are lacking lately but I felt pretty good climbing up. Just churning and waiting for the hairpin turn that will take us back downhill. I mused what Salty must be thinking when she saw my old lady hairpin turn skillz, let's just say I don't corner well. Again get to see our friends coming up hill as we head back down and cheer. I felt strong and I felt like I was pushing. I tend to slack the second mile and I was making a conscious effort to not slow down and keep pushing.
I could feel Salty falling a bit back from me and thought that meant I was doing well with the pace. As we made a sharp right and hit the 2 mile water stop I was dismayed to here SG calling out 12+ splits. I really thought I was doing well with the pace and that I would hit this under 12. At first I thought maybe he was lying to get me going but alas I saw the finish line clock and that it was the truth. Hit the second mile in 12:07.
Some quick mental math as I passed my husband cheering again (listening for him to cheer for Salty hoping she was hanging tough). I knew I needed to step it up to clinch sub 19. Another sharp right and then a left as we push uphill into the woods. We were gaining on a man here and I pushed to pass him on the hill only for him to sprint ahead. Salty caught me towards the top of the climb (girl has been working the hills!) and I tried to go with her but knew I would have to save the push for the top and the descent, my legs were starting to feel tapped on the climb and I knew I needed to get a second wind to push.
I let Salty and the man pull a bit ahead as we reached the top of the hill and turned to start our descent. Got a grip on myself and convinced myself if it hurt I had to push harder and go faster. Started to close the gap as we finally got back to where we had started the race and curved down the final hill. I honestly can't tell you if I caught that guy or not. I assume I must have passed him in the final stretch because of where I ended up in the shoot but I was focused on one thing and one thing only, the clock.
I had promised myself before the race I would not stare at the damn clock as I came into the finish. Too many times I have watched as that clock rolled over my goal. But alas I just can't help myself. I pushed as hard as I could and watched in fear as 18:50 went by, 18:51, 18:52, push push push, 18:53, 18:54, 18:55, 18:56 Done. Literally ran into Salty in the shoot and looked at my watch to see 18:56. Sub 19 achieved. Took a few minutes to retrieve my breath and then I was ready to cool down with Salty.
We cheered in our friends Barb (New PR 21:14 at age 58!) and Iron G, Evie kicked some butt placing 1st in Ag with baby in tow. It was a great night, Fred Kieser broke his own record. Salty and I both got our desired sub 19s. Barb Pr'ed and Evie had fun and kicked butt. Iron G duked it out with a grunter and won, and was an awesome cheerleader even from the race course.
I can't lie I wish that second mile would have gone better. But I am super stoked to have broken 19. It is hard to believe that just over a year ago I was on cloud nine to break 20 (You would be too if it took you eleven years from a 20:03 to finally get sub 20!). The first 5k back is always tough for me, it is just hard to nail a 5k. I am glad it is out of the way and hopefully this is an indicator of more PRs to come this year!