I took a break from my Ironman taper to run the Independence Day 5000 in Milford, only because it's a USATF-CT championship. I went to the race with Henry Brown, who is over from the UK to visit. He was kind enough to drag my sorry behind around for about two hours on the bike yesterday and also head to the 5K today.
I wasn't expecting much- after a brisk ride and run yesterday I was pretty sure it would be a slow go and and the 15 minute warm-up I took with Henry and Charlie Hornak did nothing but reinforce that idea. Although my knee and achilles felt pretty good, I seemed to be a little sluggish through the first mile and an half of the warm-up. However, I often feel that way when I first get to a race, and I've learned some good strides can set things right to some extent.
I did my strides for about 10 minutes, and remembered back to a year ago. At that time, my right knee had been really sore. I couldn't do a knee bend, and this race had been a challenge to get the knee loosened up to run. Things are much better these days. Ice seems to help a lot.
The massive flood of race day registrations- some 400- left the data input team scrambling and it was announced that the race would start ten minutes late. That was frustrating, but expected (see last year's blog post). It's just too much for two people with laptops to handle. Still, it's always hard to be warmed up and ready to go and then have to reboot.
I waited for about ten minutes, talking to Charlie and Henry, then decided to start doing more strides.
The race started twenty minutes late, but no complaints here, and everyone seemed pretty relaxed about it. The race starts on an uphill, winding a little bit into a 70 degree right hand turn. As happened last year, the field surged ahead quickly, with the middle sagging backwards as the edges pushed forward.
Generally, I've gotten really good at being patient. But I've been doing mostly longer races and duathlons. You can't be as sedate running a 5K as you would be in a shorter race, or at least I can't. Other guys with more speed can, but I have to have a decent first mile if I want to have a decent 5k. So I started to work my way around people. We turned out onto the main road and I was alongside the leading woman and we took the left up the hill. I got caught a short there but negotiated the sewer grate.
Going up the hill, I passed George Buchanan. I was keeping my eyes on Henry's back, trying not to let him get too far away. Passing George gave me some confidence and worried me at the same time, but I figured I would press my advantage if I was running well. We all crested the hill and I really worked the downhill, which basically lasts a little past the 1 mile mark, which I hit at 5:25 or so. Then it's another uphill. I passed more people and kept pushing. During warm-up I'd seen that Marty had marked the 1.5 mile spot, so I decided to push until I got there, then moderate my effort going up the hill, which I did.
We turned the corner and I was back and with one of the Hitek open guys. I also knew that George was on me and I was hoping he was going to be going through soon. The course is pretty much downhill after that last climb and I decided to try and push the downhill as much as possible.
The last mile is basically three stretches, two of them long and fairly straight, then a wind into the parking lot. I kept wondering where George was. It turned out that he was nursing a sore hamstring and was running 'just hard enough' to beat another team's top Grandmaster- which he did. He went by at around 2.6 and dropped a 13 second hammer on me.
I hit the 3 mile mark at 16:40, rejected the notion of sprinting for a sub-17, and ran 5:33 pace for the last 1/10th of a mile. That's fine because I ran 5:34 average for the whole race. Henry cracked 17 with a 16:58.
I haven't run a 5K within 30 seconds of this in the last four years, as far as I can tell. I'm psyched- I think if I taper well now, I might just do okay in Lake Placid.