Saturday, August 05, 2006

5K Race Report

It’s another beautiful day in the neighborhood. This week Arizona picked up the tail end of a tropical storm off of Baja and found itself inundated with rain. Phoenix didn’t get hit as bad as Tucson (see Angie's blog), but we got much more rain than usual for this time of the year. All this rain seems to have cooled things off considerably. The morning temperature for our little local 5k this morning was a tepid 83F (28c); far better than the 93F+ (34C) we suffered through two weeks ago. The skies were clear and the rain had cleared out the dust and pollution out of the air.

Gun time this morning was 6:30 (we start early out here in the summer). So I got up at 4:30 to go through my usual routine necessary to calm down enough to actually run. I still don’t know why I go so hyped up before a race, but I do. I was up at 3 times during the night looking at my Blackberry to get the current time … of course I slept through one snooze cycle once the alarm finally went off.

I left the house at 5:15 for the short drive over to the race site. The course this morning was a simple loop on packed dirt around the outside of 4 recreational baseball fields, out to an access road for a mile and then returns along the same route. It’s an easy course with plenty of room to pass (or be passed in my case). Folks tend not to get all bunched up at the start.

I got to the check in desk at 5:40 and picked up my bib number and timing chip and used the porta-potty (this is part of the pre-race routine) and headed out for a slow jog around the 5K race route. Heading out, I was especially worried about my left hamstring that had been giving me difficulty over the past week. I’ve been stretching it every night before bed and whatever I did last night worked. Both hamstrings felt fine and my toes felt fine (which was good since I had forgotten to take any Tylenol before I left the house this morning). All body parts seemed to be working OK

I got back to the start line from my warm up around 6:20 and walked over to the starting chute. I looked around for my friend David who dragged my sorry butt around my 1st 5k this summer, but he was nowhere to be found. However, I did spot Bill. Bill normally crushes me in these events and I don’t try to keep up with him. Two weeks ago, I kept Bill within 10 seconds of me for the first 2 miles, but lost him as he accelerated during the last part of mile 3. With no one around to race with, I was resolved to run my own race and not worry about anyone else. And as I’ve done in the last two races, I decided not to pay any attention to my Garmin; setting it up to auto-pause. This way, it keeps track of my pace for post race analysis, but I don’t get hung up on starting it as I cross the start line or turning it off when I cross the finish line. It just operates in back ground.

The field this morning was considerably smaller than race #4; no doubt owing to the fact that this race was held in the far north end of Phoenix at the edge of civilization. It’s a 40 to 50 mile drive to get to this spot from the communities in the far East Valley (Phoenix is known as the “Valley of the Sun”) and many folks don’t bother with that sort of drive for a 6:30 AM start. But there were still 465 happy people lined up and ready to go.
The gun went off at 6:30 and we started the race on a dirt course around the outside of the baseball fields. This is Arizona, so there was plenty of dust kicked up during the starting burst out of the gate. It was bad enough for me and I got to the start line 4 seconds after the gun went off. I can only imagine that the dust was quite dense by the time the 465th person crossed the line.

The course proceeded around the baseball park to the access road on the west side of the property and headed south into the desert. The road was paved with a very course asphalt so there was no trouble with footing and no dust! I had burst out on the start as always, but quickly got into my rhythm with a short stride and high cadence (high for me). I was getting passed by faster runners every 10 seconds or so, but I felt as if I was passing more people than were passing me and the pace felt really strong. The hamstrings must have been operating without too much stress because I didn’t give them a thought and started day dreaming during the first mile which, I think, indicates that I was relaxed. For the most part, I was motoring along nicely.

Somewhere around the mile 1 marker I looked up and realized that Bill was only 10 seconds in front of me. I was a bit shocked since I had expected him to be long gone by now. I must be maturing (it was bound to happen). None of my old macho-idiot tendencies erupted and I stayed in my own little race. A year ago, I would have tried to run him down at this point … only to crash and burn later.

I took another time check on Bill at the turn and was still 9 seconds behind him; no worries. I went around the turn myself and hit and slowed considerably. After running a nice smooth cadence for 1.5 miles (plus a few meters), going into the little stutter-step maneuver around the marker took its toll. It took 100m before I got back up to speed and dialed into my pace. I know every course can’t be a looped course, but I really HATE these little turn-arounds. On the other hand, everyone has to do them, so I might as well learn how to do it right.

At the mile 2 marker I was still feeling strong, although very conscious of the sun beating on my skin (you just got to love running in Arizona this time of year). My buddy Bill was still 9 seconds in front of me and appeared to be running strong. When we made the turn back on the dirt track to complete the loop around the baseball fields, I was only 8 seconds behind him and it was finally time to start kicking it up a notch.

I knew I had less than a half mile to go, so there was no sense holding the nice conservative, comfortable pace any longer. It was now time to run. Unfortunately, Bill seemed to have the same idea and started pulling away. Bill, of course, hadn’t the faintest idea that I was now trying to chase him down. He was simply running his race, oblivious to the 175 pound maniac running 8 seconds behind him. I cut the gap down to 4 seconds as we passed the 3 mile marker and kept on trucking (again, Bill having no idea that he was participating in this foot race). I had my little legs spinning about as fast as they were going to go, but I just couldn’t catch him before we crossed the finish line. I ended up finishing in 21:38, 2 seconds behind Bill.
Although my time was 2 seconds slower than the 5k I ran 2 weeks ago, I’m feeling very good about my time. Since this race is the last of series, I was able to compute the average time difference between this race and the last of all individuals that finished ahead of me in both races (yes, I am a data junkie). The average difference between the two races was 14.2 seconds slower. That is, I only slowed down 2 seconds compared to much better runners slowing down by 14.

On a happy note, my friend Beth is back and running. She hurt her back trail running in Phoenix a few months ago and hasn’t raced since. She ran this race and ran with her husband. Slower than her normal blazing pace, but she got all the way around. Beth is standing to my left in the picture at the top of this post.

Keep Running

Training for the week:

Mon – Rest / Travel day
Tue – 8.1 miles, easy, 9:05/mi pace
Wed - 8.0 miles, easy, 9:02/mi pace
Thr – 7.5 miles, 5x800m intervals w/ 400m recovery, 7:05/mi pace
Fri – Rest day
Sat - 3.1 miles, warm up, 9:37/mi Pace; 5k, race, 6:58/mi pace; 6.3 miles, cool down, 8:57/mi Pace


angie's pink fuzzy said...

sweet! I enjoyed reading this report - I like how you chased Bill down, unbeknowst to him. Great job for catching up within 2 seconds!

StumbleGuy said...

Great report! Glad it was a little cooler for you for the race. Good to see the photo too.


Feminist Runner said...

Nice race report! Chasing someone down is such great motivation.

Mike said...

Well done Phil, 2 seconds is nothing more than the mind drifting through one turn. The fact you were able to get out the next day is great. While I used to like the long run the day after a race, I'm starting to think it's a good formula to start the run by keeping in mind the distance raced the previous day, given the effort from the race and the subsequent depletion. That would make your 10 miles more like 13, or 13.1 if you're anal like me!

Michele said...

Wow! Great race! I LOVE the report. Did you let Bill know you almost had him?