Sunday, August 09, 2009

ARR 5K Summer Series #5

At 6:30AM this morning, the gun went off to start the 5th and last installment of the of the 2009 Arizona Road Racers 5K Summer Series. In 2008, I ran a dissapointing 24:44 on this course and a respectable 22:01 in 2006. This morning, I ran the same course in 27:28 and throughly enjoyed myself. Instead of seeing how fast I could run the race, I focused my attention on seeing how fast I could get someone else to run it.

The race course is the most difficult of the series. It's run in the Phoenix, AZ South Mountain park using an out and back format. The course is flat for the first 0.3 miles, a gentle up hill through mile 1 and relatively steep uphill to the turn around point. The one water station is at the top of the hill. Once the course turns it's all down hill until you hit that flat section near the START/FINISH line.

My friends previous PR was 28:07. Her objective was to get to her average pace under 9:00/mi; which meant we had to get around in something south of 27:57. My plan was simple: Slow on the early flats, steady and sure up the hill to mile 1, shorten up on the stride and run up the last hill strong, take on fluids at the top of the hill and run like like hell after the turn.

From 2009-08-09; ARR 5K #5

Nearly 700 people showed up for this race. There is no way around it, runners in Arizona are crazy. With a 6:30AM gun time, most of the city was still asleep when we started out. I took a spot near the back of this mob in the starting chute

From 2009-08-09; ARR 5K #5

I figured if I can take pictures while running, the pace was about right for the first part of this race along the flat section. Everyone was doing just fine in here.

From 2009-08-09; ARR 5K #5

What a beautiful morning to be running up hill. The temperature was "cool" by Arizona Summer standards, probably not much hotter than 90F, maybe a little cooler.

From 2009-08-09; ARR 5K #5

Mile 1 is in the books. This is the old "main" entrance to the park. The steeper hill is on the other side. My master plan was working perfectly with one third of the race behind us.

From 2009-08-09; ARR 5K #5

Soon after passing the 1 mile marker, the leaders flashed by heading for the finish.

Leading the mob up the final hill. Everyone still fresh at this point.

From 2009-08-09; ARR 5K #5

The turn at the top

From 2009-08-09; ARR 5K #5

Running and taking pictures at the same time doesn't always work well

From 2009-08-09; ARR 5K #5

Running down hill just feels good! The little boy in this picture is 9 years-old. He finished in 27:50. An amazing kid.

I stopped taking pictures after this point and just focused on slowly accelerating and keeping my runner on the edge. She was running as fast as she could on the down hill and was completely spent as we turned the final corner and ran along the flat section towards the finish line. I know from experience that this section feels terrible. You've got nothing left in the tank and all of a sudden you no longer have the benefit of gravity to pull you along. Of course, I wanted her to accelerate. She stuck to my left shoulder and listened to my non-stop babbling as I coaxed along. She got her 2nd wind on the last 0.2 mile section and started really driving with her arms, pulling slightly ahead of me as the finish line became visible.

We passed the finish line as the clock rolled over to 28:00. Starting as far back as we did, I was sure we had a sub 27:57. Failure wasn't an option. Great race, great day for running in Phoenix.

Hope you all are having a great season.