Sometimes I go into a race I've never done before with no idea what I have coming, and Run for Refuges would be a great example of this.
5ks in February are not exactly my specialty. I don't think I raced in February last year.
Dick Korby and i went to the race together, getting there early enough to run the entire course for a warm-up. This was a great idea. It was also, if my concentration on spinning and light running lately can be discounted, the reason I didn't run a faster race.
Did I mention how fraking cold it was ? It was so cold (about 23 degrees) that after the race the race director told me that since it was under 25 degrees at race time I should have worn tights. Since this was John Bysiewicz (JB), I think he must know what the hell he's talking about. More on that later.
So Dick and I headed out and ran the course as a warm-up. Because we started at almost ten after nine, I was a little worried about getting the entire course in. This concern only intensified when we actually started climbing up in East Rock. Unlike Dick, I'd never run here and had not consulted the race course map. So I was surprised by how far up we ran, especially how far we ran after taking the right hand turn.
Just when I was ready to turn around and head back we actually made it to the turn-around. I got a feel for the run back- except for one short uphill section and a flat last tenth of a mile, it would be a downhill run.
I headed back, Dick and I separating and I started to think about whether to ditch the tights and lightweight cycling jacket. I wanted to be tough, but I didn't want to be so cold that it hurt my performance.
I went ahead and dressed down to bike shorts, a bike jersey and arm-warmers and I lined-up.
Then we were off. There were a lot of kids at the front, and I mean a lot of kids. Too many kids. It was pretty hard determining who all was legit and who was ready to quit, so I just started running. My goal was not to overcook the climb, based on my first run up. It was clear two of the guys were well off the front and there was five or six of us in the b mix, with another 2-3 more hangers on. We were trying to follow decent lines up the hill.
I found myself up against the side of the road, near the guardrail, and the same guy that elbowed me at Winter Wonderland made a move to pass me. He cut it too tight, cutting me off and kicking me in the knee on his back stroke.
As he pulled away I snapped 'You just have to make contact every race' but I'm sure he didn't hear me.
There was a surprising amount of back and forth as we climbed and looking back, I know that I was going too slow and saving too much.
We hit the turn-around and I felt like that was when the race was starting, for me at least. I can run downhill pretty well for a guy as short as I am because I'm willing to open up my stride. I ran by one of the guys that I'd been back and forth with and he complimented me on my pace. That was huge- it really gave me a boost at a point that I was starting to struggle. I opened it up even more, and settled in. I wasn't moving up or moving down.
I also wasn't breaking 18 minutes.
There wasn't a lot of action in that last mile. We were spread out and we stayed spread out and then it was over.
I think going out and running the course ahead of time was great, but I think I took the wrong lesson away, which was to take it easy on the way up. I left too much in the tank.
But hey- look at those feet.