First race of the year is done and dusted and I'm sitting here completely satisfied with how the day went and yet at the same time not feeling super motivated to write about it. Let me just get this out there - race reports for 5ks are hard and while I'm still trying to figure out how to race these suckers, I'm also trying to figure out how to articulate them. They're short. There's not a lot of drama to dwell on before, during, or after. And while I'm used to writing long-winded posts depicting my every thought and bodily function mile after mile... summing things up in a few short paragraphs seems almost pointless. Yet, here I am... about to make the 5k race report a new thing.
Later note: turns out I do just fine writing about 5ks if I just get started. Someone shut me up!
I guess I have to start with the week leading up to the race - because, in fact, there was quite a bit of drama. A car accident to be exact. One week out from the race. No, it wasn't terrible. Yes, everything for the most part is fine - it could have been worse that's for sure. But my back/neck did not appreciate being slammed into by a work van who 'Didn't see me at all' (despite the fact that I had been sitting at the stoplight for a few minutes) because he was 'on the phone'. Basically my car, and thus my back, were his brakes that afternoon. Awesome!
This meant that planned runs were skipped, chiropractic visits were scheduled, bones were realigned, and everything from about the bra line up was sore. Coming into race day on Saturday it was more of 'see how it feels and go from there' than any particular plan. Thankfully when I got up race morning I wasn't nearly as sore as I had been just a few days earlier. That said, I got up early to make sure I ate a real breakfast (steel cut oats and peanut butter) and had the time to foam roll my upper back and trigger point around my shoulder blades (the stiff neck culprit).
The race plan: like I said, it was very much dependent on how I would feel BUT I did have a strategy beyond that. The Nookachamps course is not fast. It's rolling hills with the last mile on squishy trail. The idea was to start out conservative as it's a net uphill for the first mile, then work with the rollers and build some speed through the second mile, and give it all I had for the third. My intention was to seriously stick to this plan and not fake a conservative start like I did in December.
I got in an 'ok' warm-up, not nearly what I had hoped/planned on (something to work on for next time), chatted with friends (including running into this stray bird), and headed to the start. I walked right into Sarah (HTC teammate) at the front of the group and was pleasantly distracted for a few minutes chatting her up before the 'gun' went off.
The countdown was awkward. '5, 4, 3, 2, 1... look out for the car.... [horn]' so we all sort of started and stopped and started again. Gotta love the small race vibe - aka low key and unofficial. Anywho... after the stutter step we all got to running. Since I was right up front I got swept up in the crowd (okay... 10 people) that took off hard from the get go and found some open road to settle into my 'conservative' pace. And yeah, that's just what I did. The first mile is a net uphill on an arterial road. My legs found a rhythm along with my breathing, and I just went with it. Before I knew it 6:30 clicked off and the 5kers were veering off from the 10k and half marathoners and I was counting what position I was in (I think I counted 6th).
The focus then became hunting down those in front of me since I was running completely alone. The second mile is filled with little rollers and a nice downhill section before a right hand turn, a short steep uphill, and you're into mile 3. I caught one tween (darn young cross country type kids... they're always so fast!) shortly after the first mile and set my sights on what appeared to be a coach and another youth runner about 200 yards ahead. We wove through neighborhoods and I tried to cut the tangents as closely as possible and pick up my turnover. Channeling the strength and speed I had just a week ago in my 200 repeat workout. Although this helped to get me through about .9 of that mile the hill at the end was kind of a killer. Trudging up that thing and then doing a 180 onto the trail wasn't the speed boost I was looking for but nonetheless mile 2 clicked off at 6:24.
Side note: focusing on chasing down the guys in front of me and reminding myself of my speedy 200 track session gave me a great mindset for this mile. I can honestly say this was the first time EVER that I've had a good 2nd mile - mentally and physically. I'll definitely be taking that with me to the next race.
And then we get to mile 3 and the squishy trail. The first half mile of this stretch is downhill. One would think that would be awesome. I channeled all of my energy into using this downhill, gaining even more turnover, and picking off the twerp (yeah, starting to get feisty) in front of me that I had gained on in the last mile. Turns out, when you're running on squishy trail, and by squishy let's just picture pillows because that's exactly what it feels like, you essentially lose all speed. It may 'seem' like you're running fast but in fact you are not. I would glance down at my Garmin and see 6:45s... um I'm going downhill, what the heck! Not to mention 6:45s felt HARD. Way harder than the 6:24 I just busted out.
So yeah, frustration started to get the best of me in this mile and I could feel my energy evaporate. There's a small reprieve in squishy trail (maybe 50 yards of pavement) around 3/4 of a mile in but then you're dumped right back onto another section of trail UPHILL to the finish with the last 100 on pavement downhill. I had nothing left. There was no kick. What energy I had was left in the squish.
And with that I crossed the finish line in 20:56 and was dead set on thinking that the clock was wrong. Turns out... it wasn't. The course (by my Garmin) was 3.19 even though I ran the tangents to a T and maybe even cut a few corners here and there. Oh well. A win (for the ladies), a plaque, and another race experience under my belt with some excellent take-aways. On to the next!