Wasn't planning on another race until the 4th but last week I mentioned to my friend that we were heading to Cinci this weekend and she remembered that the Hyde Park Blast was this weekend. So I looked it up and emailed my way into the elite 5k. Crazy fun event run on the cycling criterium course. The course is a bit shy of a mile and we would run it about 3 and 3/4 times. Making it fun for spectators and fun for runners with crazy cheers the entire route.
I was a little under prepared on the supplies front. Half way to Cinci I realized I had only brought Nike Frees and my Nike Zoom Streaks, no trainers. And I didn't have a warm up/cool down outfit. While the morning was super cool and beautiful by race time it was around 75 and I was a bit warm. After the sweaty warm up I threw some ice in my shirt and went to find the start line with 10 other ladies. (And some speedy boys)
Thankfully before the race I figured out one of the girls was a regular 17:50 gal so I knew I would have some company. The normal field around my range I was anticipating to be there wasn't, so I was really glad I found out that not every gal in the field was a sub 17 gal before hand :)
I knew who 5 of the gals were and all of them usually race much faster than me so unless they went out at my pace I was glad to know who I could really race to push myself, not who I would be chasing the whole time. Top 6 got money so there was certainly some incentive, and that was clear from the start as a pack of 8 sprinted ahead of me. I did my best to sit in right behind PB and was aware that the girl I thought I would work with was behind me. I ditched the watch for the race and purely was running on feel and trying to be competitive. As we started into the first loop and made our first left on our way up the small hill that we would run 4 times another gal went by putting me in 9th, she said good job and I told her the same. As we neared the top of the hill there was a line of kids with their hands all out for high fives. I thought what the hell, if you aren't having fun with this what the heck was the point? So I slapped some hands and was rewarded with "We like that girl."
We made a sharp right turn and sharp right to head back down the hill. I watched PBs fast feet fly down the pavement and did my best to cover the ground lightly and quick. At the bottom another sharp right turn and back into the sun as we head straight towards the finish arch which signifies we have 3 more loops to go. PB starts to pull away from me and I am doing my best to get in a groove and push. After the arch we make our way around our sharp "hairpin" turn and head back towards the hill. My friends and husband were here and I got a nice boost from their cheering. Just before the hill someone is calling out mile splits and we go through in around 5:38 which I am happy with given the effort.
In the next loop I slowly made my way back up to PB and wished her luck as I passed moving into 8th place. Second time through the hill not quite as energetic so no high fives but a peace sign and a smile for the kids. It is becoming clear to the spectators back here that we are no longer in the race for first and they are a bit less enthusiastic. But as we make our way back down the hill to the main drag spectators are going crazy with lots of cheer for Karen and Kerry, who must be right on my heels.
Karen passes me before making the hairpin turn and I tell myself to work with her and let her drag me for a bit. She is the girl I was told regularly runs 17:50s so I know I can't afford to fall back from her. I am parched and seriously tempted to grab water from my husband, but I don't and I instead keep pushing. I stick to Karen like glue, but it definitely is not easy. Third time up the hill the kids get a glimmer of a smile as I am running out of steam. We hit the 2 mile mark and I can't tell if the guy is saying 11:39 or 11:49, either way it is clear this mile with the hill hit twice is a bit slower despite running hard.
Closing in on one loop to go and I am committed to trying to pick up the effort. I have a tendency of holding something back for the last 200 meters or so and this time I did not want to do that, I wanted to run hard start to finish. I was pretty confident I was not going to be able to pass Karen but as I passed my friends cheering again I willed myself to up the effort a bit more. We got to the hill and I managed to pull even with her and tell her good job. I ran as hard as I could down the hill trying to create a gap. When we reached the bottom I essentially sprinted as hard as I could the rest of the race. Still hearing cheers for Karen I knew I needed to hammer hard, who knew what kind of kick she had. We weren't gaining any ground on the girl in front of us, so we were essentially in a race against each other, and I knew PB was always a threat for a fast finish too. The announcers were reading off the winners times and each successive girl who crossed the line, listening to the times it was clear sub 18 was probably out but I ran as hard as I could regardless. Crossed the line in 8th place and saw the clock at 18:11. Official time 18:14. Hardest I have ever run a 5k, clearly not the fastest, but definitely the hardest :)
I'm really happy with the effort. I know I could not have eeked out any faster last night. And I was glad Karen was there to work with as I would have run slower by myself for sure. Despite being pretty far behind the next girl I was closer to the top 5 girls than I have been in previous races so I consider it an improvement in my racing skills. There weren't as many girls in the race as last year, I think a few of them opted for the 4 mile run in the morning instead; opting to be the lead girls rather than the girls in the elite race making the lead elite girls look good. But I am more than happy to make those ladies look good if it gets my best race effort out of myself. It was great to really push myself last night and find that my inner racer is still in there and was ready to come out and play. It feels great when you run a race and leave it all out there regardless of place or time.
I think my speed is probably still a little behind where I was last year at this time, but that is hard to say since these past two 5ks were night races and kind of warm, not sure if I could have run faster with cooler conditions in the morning. The course was tough for me, but it was a nice challenge and clearly what goes up must come down so it isn't like you had one monster climb with no downhill return. I'll be glad to go back to morning races now though! Trying to plan meals for the day to make sure your stomach is ok and energy is good as well as not wasting energy is not much fun. Especially when hanging with friends who you'd like to be doing active things with :)
The event was an absolute Blast, no pun intended. The cycle races were really exciting to watch, I have no idea how they make those turns without crashing! The whole run you could hear the announcers giving stats about each of the runners as they ran by. It was a super fun atmosphere. I am very glad I am in a position to be able to take part in this type of event. And I am super grateful to the organizers for allowing me to participate. Next year I will have to make sure I get some more impressive stats for them to say something about me though :) It was pretty funny to hear them rattling off stats about each of the ladies and as I went by they just hearing my name.
My friends and husband were the best cheering for me each loop and keeping me amped! Thanks guys!