It has been awhile since I posted. Other than the Labor Day 5K, I've run a few other races this summer. I managed to get into a bit of a training rut -- often just running to get to and from work without any real training focus. I'll touch briefly on my previous three races before addressing the Labor Day 5K.
Horse Thief Run 5K - 6th overall, 2nd Master, 17:37. This race was significantly faster than last year, but I felt that the time did not really reflect my current fitness relative to last year. I did feel like I competed better than last year though. A friend that I ran with in college showed up for this race and won the masters by finishing nearly a minute ahead of me and placing 2nd overall. I went with him from the start, but realized early that I couldn't maintain his pace and faded back a bit. Still, I don't think that it was a bad race for me.
Course of Dreams XC 5K - 4th overall, 1st Master. Last year, I finished in nearly 19 minutes. This year I wanted to break 18, and thanks partially due to a mid-race scare from a friend who came up on my shoulder after a turn and led me to make a big surge, I accomplished that in an official 17:59.9 I still felt that it was not indicative of my fitness, but I met my goal.
Farmstead Stampede 5K - 8th overall, 1st master, 17:23. This was slightly slower than last year. It was a beautiful day. The only real difference is that they reversed the course from last year. There were a couple of other good masters runners in the race. I saw Ron before the race. He has had some very good times on the track this year -- focusing on 1500m. At the start, I went out with him, but dropped off as the pace felt a bit too strong. I settled in a little way back from him with him running alone between me and the lead pack. Around the mile mark, I recognized another masters runner that I hadn't seen falling off of the lead pack. About halfway into the race, Ron had caught Marc and I had my sights on both of them. I lost sight of them briefly as they turned onto a tree-covered paved trail where the first part of the trail was very windy with lots of undergrowth. I maintained a steady effort, but I realized that steady was just maintaining the distance between me and them and that I would have to make a move. I planned to make it after we topped the biggest climb on the course. I think that downhill running is one of my strengths and I caught Ron at the base of the hill and kept going. Marc had pulled away from Ron. We had about 1/2 to 3/4 mile to go. The remainder of the trail was fairly flat with a short hill that led up from the trail to a sidewalk where there would be about 200m to go. I focused on Marc and gradually made up the distance until I caught him at the base of the hill leading to the sidewalk. I pushed up the hill and kept pushing in hopes of building and maintaining my lead. I was able to hold on to win the masters division. I was still a bit disappointed that my time did not reflect improvement from last year, but I was happy that I had competed well and run a good strategic race.
After the race, Ron invited me to join him and some other masters runners from the area to form a team for USATF Club XC Nationals. Initially, I was hesitant because I have never traveled to a race, but my wife was very supportive of the idea. So, now assuming that we have a team, I am planning to go. It seems very likely that we will have enough to field our team and having that race date (December 10) on the calendar and a team depending upon my performance, has been a great boon to my training. Even before I was certain of my participation, I began to train with more purpose and although I don't think that that training significantly improved my fitness before the Labor Day 5K, I think that it did help me feel more comfortable running fast.
After my runs at the Horsethief 5K and the Farmstead 5K, where the early fast pace felt too fast for me, I speculated that a fast time might require me to overcome that. I thought that I might need to just go out hard and try to hang with the leaders for awhile and then see what happens. I resolved to do that, but I decided that it would be after the Labor Day 5K because I didn't want to risk bonking and having a bad race there where the field is so strong.
Labor Day 5K
The Labor Day 5K usually draws a good field of fast runners due to the flat, fast course and the PR opportunities. This year was no exception. In addition to many fast younger guys, there were some fast masters runners in the field. Kevin has been running great this year and also won the masters crown at this race last year. Ron and Marc who I had competed with at the Farmstead race were here, and Ken who I've managed to stay ahead of this year, but who beat me consistently last year, also showed up at the last minute. Ken didn't have high expectations after battling injuries earlier in the summer. He was also coming off of a 100 mile week that included a 22 mile run two days before. Nevertheless, I didn't count him out. The weather was nearly ideal -- cool and calm. This was definitely a day for fast times.
Though I never intended to go out especially hard at this race, I found myself riding the back of the lead pack early in the race and since I felt good, I stayed there until they began to pull away just before the first mile. They had a clock set up at the mile mark. As I approached, I saw it ticking through 4:30's and then 4:40's I probably crossed as the clock read 4:50! If it was accurate, it was very fast for me, but I felt good so I did not react. I later learned that though the mile mark was right, the clock was probably started about 10 seconds late. Around that point, Kevin passed me. I made some effort to stay with him, but it was just a bit much for me. At the turn, I saw Ron was trailing me too closely for comfort and that helped to spur me to try to maintain contact with Kevin. It turns out that visual contact was about as much as I could hope for that day. At the turn about 3/4 mile from the finish, I glanced back and did not see Ron or anyone else, but I kept pushing toward the finish still hoping that Kevin might fade or that I would at least be able to see him finish. Due to either the intense sun or the slight bend, I did not actually see Kevin finish, but as I rounded that bend, I saw that if I would be close to 16:30 and I pushed to finish under 16:30 in 16:27. Kevin finished in just over 16. I placed 9th overall and second in masters. Ron followed me with Marc right behind him and Ken two places behind Marc. I finally ran a race where I competed well and ran a time that I felt reflected how my fitness has improved since last year.
I followed that with a down week training wise, but this week, I've picked up my training again where I'd left off before Labor Day. Yesterday I ran 5x3min at 5K effort. I've purchased a cheap watch. I use it sparingly -- mostly to time those repetitions at 5K effort. For my last hard rep yesterday, I happened to start right at the midway point of a 1-mile block. When I reached the intersection, I glanced at the watch and saw that my 1/2 mile split was about right on what it should be for 5K effort as related to my most recent 5K race. Though I am comfortable with training by feel, it was nice to have empirical evidence that I'm hitting the right pace. Other than that, the watch helps me keep track of time of day if I'm trying to squeeze in form drills before work or to insure that I get to the starting line on time (leaving my watch in the truck before I go).
I am looking forward to some good races in October and of course on December 10.