I didn't make the decision to race in this local 5k race until the day before, and as we all know, 5k is not really my distance. However, I have been feeling great in the past couple weeks with my running, and I thought I would use this race to gauge where I was at with my speed.
I had run hard on the Tuesday night previous, so I did have a little concern that I could still be fatigued from that workout, but I was still ready and itching to race.
The field for this race was around 200 runners, and there were a handful of elites, but definitely not quite the field of a typical running race. Looking around, I figured I would fall somewhere in the top 10, but placing was not really what I was after today. I had run this race course in the Spring, and done pretty well to finish with a clocking of 17:42. I also know that on a good day, I could nail a 17:30 on this course. So here we go...
I arrived to the race in good time, and after registering at the table, proceeded to get in a good warm-up. I then positioned myself at the start line, and then soon enough, we were off.
Two fastees took off to the front, and I positioned myself in the second grouping. By about 0.5k, Kevin Searle had pulled ahead of our little pack, and by the 1k marker, I was comfortably in 4th place. I was horrified to see my split time of 3:24. This was bad news for sure - I need to hit between 3:35 and 3:40 to maximize my finishing time. Knowing that I was going too fast, I dialed it back quite a bit over the next kilometre and I let a few guys (including Gary Duncan) go by me. My next split was 3:46, and I was not feeling great about my pacing today. I managed to hold onto my 10k race pace for the next 1.5k, and I kept a 3:40 pace throughout. I was now in a spot in the race where it looked like nobody in front of me was going to be caught by me, and now my efforts were just going to be holding off any stand from behind.
I knew this was not my best race, but when Claire Morgan passed me around the 3.5k mark, I was pretty pissed off. I was initially surprised to see her so far up in the race, but there was a voice inside me that said, "Damned if I am going to be passed by you." It was not the fact that she was a woman, I have no issues with being beaten by women. In fact, I don't mind at all running behind women. However, deep down, I know I am stronger than Claire, so I was going to do my best to stay with her.
In spite of my competitive drive, I struggled to keep up with her. She was flying, and I seemed to be fading. At the 4k mark, she was a good 5 seconds infront of me, and I considered making a move. However, I didn't as I felt that I didn't have a 3 minute+ kick inside of me. I decided to wait to the end...if there was still a chance.
As we rounded the final 500m, I kicked it in and pulled even with Claire on the inside. She sped up, and now it became a battle of determination and guts. I could hear her coach, Paul O'Callahan, barking her to keep up with me, but now it was me who had taken the final stretch by the horns. I drove my elbows and lengthened my stride just to get ahead, and I now could see the finish line and the clock. Paul continued his orders at Claire and yapped out, "Stay with Jeff!", but it was me who used this motivation.
I came over the line right on 18:00, which was good enough for 9th overall.
While this may sound like a good time to the average person, it was kind of a crappy race for me. I went in thinking I was capable of 17:30, and in fact, Gary Duncan (who came 4th) did that time. I still feel that I am as strong as he is, so it still seems that I am not quite translating my training into performance. However, all things considered, it was a decent time, and does provide me with a baseline for where to go.
Lesson learned however...I heard someone say once that for every second you go too fast in the first kilometre of a road race, you will lose 2 seconds with your final result. My first kilometre was 11 seconds out of my range, and in the end, my result was 18 seconds slower than what I did in the Spring. Perhaps if my first kilometre was just a little slower, I would have a new 5k PB. Who knows? I still feel like I race like a novice. More experience is required for sure.
I am not sure what race will be next for me, but there are now many, many races on my radar, and it looks like it could be a very busy August/September for me.
I look forward to continuing my training, pushing myself to the limit, and performing at races to the best of my ability.