To cap off my first week under Coach G's guidance, I lined up (along with 3500 of my closest friends) to race the local St. Patty's Day race. It's a 5 mile race and usually features a semi-hilly course through Cleveland's Flats. This year, that all changed. There is lots of construction in the Flats so the RD changed the course. It started at the bottom of the Flats and then went up the nasty hill the course used to finish on and then over the Cuyahoga River to Downtown around and back. This sounds nice and to be honest, I really appreciated the better scenery. However, it's a pretty tough course. There is more up than down. It's way less insulated from the wind and the RD was so nice to include a stretch along an icy brick road capped off with a hairpin turn around an orange cone around mid-way. Nice! The best part of the course (sarcasm), is that the 2 mile race started at the same time as the 5 mile race and we got to weave in and out of and pray not to mow down oblivious walkers blocking the last .5 miles of the race! But even with these challenges, it was a great race for me!
I warmed up with my great pals DD and Evie. It's always so nice to run with friends! We all had similar goals for the day so we lined up near each other and fully expected to be within each others' sights for most of the race.
My goal was to go out fast, but not crazy. The gun went off and I went out right behind DD. It felt good and not crazy! We chugged up the hill and right before we hit the top I passed DD and fully expected to see her again soon. We hit the bridge to head downtown and I saw two women ahead of me. SI and a woman in white I did not know. I caught SI and we ran together and caught up to the woman in white together. MZ, the buddy I have been running my long runs with, caught up to us too and we ran in a little pack. We were closing in on the first mile marker. The woman in white was on the inside of the pack and I was next to her. The mile marker was in the street and was blocking the woman in white. She said to me, "Move over." I said, "What?" And she replied, "The mile marker's in my way." I said, "And?" I was kind of shocked she would insist I move. I did move--I had to run out around the rest of our pack, but I thought it odd that in a race she wouldn't take the responsibility of ensuring her own clear path. I have to admit, it fired me up and got my competitive juices flowing!
The first mile came and went in 6:22, which was perfect since it was mostly uphill. The second mile was almost all downhill. SI and MZ pulled away after the first mile. I was right behind the woman in white. I noticed the pace on my Garmin said we were running in the 5:40's now and even with the downhill I was slightly nervous I was going to blow out the engines a little early. Just as I was fretting and letting the woman in white get a few steps ahead, who should pull up along side me, but Evie! Sweet!
I trust Evie and knew we were very similar fitness-wise so I rolled along with her. It was great! We got to the bottom of the hill and to mile 2 with a 5:49 split. The woman in white was a little ahead of us, but it was all good. Evie and I motored along. We made the turn onto the icy bricks and navigated the turn around the cone. As we were headed back we saw the other runners behind us headed our way. I saw mrp (he has not been running much so went out for a leisurely 6:35 paced run!) and he looked at me and said, "Go now!" So, I did. As nice as it was to run with Evie, I was feeling good enough to cheer for friends so I quit it and hit the (icy) bricks.
I came through mile 3 with a 6:20 split (not bad with the ice and the bricks and the hairpin turn). I was at 18:31 for my 3 mile split and this was on pace for a 5 mile pr for me. I knew it would be really tough since the last two miles were mostly uphill, but why not go for it, I thought!
A little after mile three the course starts the climb. I was starting to close in on the woman in white and excited to pass her up the hill. I figured if I passed her up the hill and looked strong she'd just let me go. About halfway up the hill I motored by. I could hear her trying to stay with me and instead of disengaging and getting nervous about the competition, I welcomed it. I just pictured taking off at the top of the hill and leaving her in my dust. And that's exactly what I did! At the top of the hill my Garmin crapped out on me because of the buildings downtown. No matter. I would just push the last 1.25 all the way home!
I was feeling great as I cruised the downtown streets and excited to hit the bridge to finish this baby up. The uphill portion of the bridge seemed to take forever and just as I crested and was looking forward to hammering the downhill to the finish I saw that wasn't going to happen as the walkers from the two mile were very dense and strung out across the course. CRAP! I screamed LEFT at them, but most didn't get it. I had to weave in and out of them and couldn't put the hammer down until the very last few meters. It was annoying, but I think it probably didn't even cost me 10 seconds.
I ended up in second place and squeaking in under 31:30 with a 31:29.99 finish time, which was 14-15 seconds slower than my pr. The woman in white came in third and rolled in seventeen seconds behind me and Evie was fourth three seconds after that. The best part was I felt totally fine. No lactic build up in the legs or anything. I felt great cooling down. I just felt great! On Sunday I managed 14 averaging 7:31 pace and still felt great. I can't remember ever feeling that good after a race!
I have no doubt I have lots of pr's on the horizon in 2011. Mrp's right: Salty has a new attitude!