This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.
The story of this race actually starts 8 days pre-race. On the Friday of the week before the race, I hit the training wall a little earlier and harder than intended. As a result, I started my cutback/taper week 3 days earlier than planned and cut back more than originally planned. I also put plans to run the race on hold. I’d only run the race if I felt like I was recovering well enough to race well and to do so without compromising my next phase of training.
Fortunately, after 3 very easy days of training, I came back fairly well on Monday and Tuesday. A workout Tuesday left me a little more drained than it should have but I hit good splits on the workout and a few more very easy days left me ready to race…or so I hoped. So off to the races I go. I made a few comments to people about seeing what my cranky legs would allow me to do, which is really how I felt. My legs were being cranky for a little over a week. Would they treat me well or make me regret the decision to race?
Before warmup, I heard someone say the course is long, their Garmin measured it out as 3.3 miles. To me, this was a good sign. The course wasn’t short. Knowing how Garmins work and how courses are measured, I figured this was a sign that the course was accurate.
On the warmup, I started very slow, which isn’t a bad thing of course. As I went on, I loosened up some but not as much as I had hoped I would. I did a few strides that felt good but not great, then we lined up for the race.
I wanted to get out good in this one, with a 90 degree left turn about a block from the start. As the horn sounded, though, my legs just weren’t cooperating. I found myself with probably about 7-8 guys in a lead pack ahead of me. Is this going to be the story of my race? Do my legs just not have it today? Well, after about 1/4 mile, my legs snap out of it and I find myself picking up the pace. I reel the pack in, just as I notice one guy slipping out of the front of the pack. By probably around 1/2 mile, I find myself at the front of the pack with the one guy out front. I figured it was time to see if I could chase him down so I pushed the pace. My pushing the pace broke up the pack and, by 1 mile, it was down to myself and 2 other guys chasing the leader. One was falling off a bit but the other was breathing down my neck, it seemed literally. At this point, the leader was getting away so I was more focused on ensuring this guy breathing down my neck didn’t remain there. How to do that, though, seemed to be to continue trying to chase down the leader. While I wasn’t chasing him down, I could hear the labored breathing of this guy breathing down my neck. The only problem was that my breathing was also labored. Who was hurting more? Who would be willing to hurt more? One thing I knew for sure, this guy had the backing of the locals. It seemed like, throughout the course, I kept hearing "Go Cam!" This guy appeared to be a recent grad of the high school. Before the race, I saw him and picked him out as potential competition. He was wearing Whitefish Bay T&F warmup pants and a college T&F warmup shirt. Is he a collegiate runner just coming off his season and doing an early post season race to support his high school alma mater? If so, I could be a sitting duck but why wasn’t he trying to chase down the leader? Why was he letting me do all the work unless he was either waiting to out kick me or hurting so badly he felt he couldn’t take the effort of leading me?
A little before 2 miles, it sounded like Cam was falling back a step or two. When I first noticed this, I tried to push the pace a bit. I thought this was my chance to break him. It didn’t work. He was still hanging around. Through 2 miles, he was still right there. Into the last mile, it still seemed like he was not right on my back like before but he was still around. I kept pushing, thinking I don’t want to let a college age guy hang with me to the kick or I’m in big trouble. Somewhere just past 2.5 miles, I still heard people cheering for Cam but I couldn’t hear him directly behind me. I had to push. If he comes back on me, I don’t have a lot of fight left after pushing so hard for essentially the whole race. Push now or regret it later. I kept pushing and pushing. Around the last turn, with probably just over 1/4 mile ago but already able to see the finish sign, I was giving it all I had. Closer and closer, he isn’t coming back but every block I go I get more concerned that he could be coming. I’m pushing as hard as I can and just hoping he doesn’t come back on me. Finally, I can see the clock at the finish line. I watch it tick through the 16:40s. I’m going to be very close to 17 flat. Can I get under? I try to sprint, not just to go under 17 flat but also to preempt any last second attempt Cam may make at passing me at the end. I see the finish chute right there for me in the mid-16:50s but I know it’s still too far to make in time. I push with everything I have even though I know I’m going to be just over 17 minutes. I’m not going to miss sub-17 by this little and get passed in the final steps. I see 17:03 on the clock as I go past it.
In the final results, I was 2nd in 17:04. A guy I was talking with before the race was shooting for 19 minutes after having some piriformis issues and not racing for 9 months. He got across the line in 18:45 so it was a successful day for him. I was also taking this as a success. We cooled down together and had a great talk. He’s a local high school coach and a former college teammate of a guy who went to the same high school as me about 10 years earlier.
I hung around for quite a while after the race. As I was about to go, I was informed by a race official that the course is indeed a little long. So I guess I already technically got my sub-17 5K for the 18th consecutive year. I don’t want this streak to continue on a technicality, though. I’m still shooting to cross a 5K finish line with the clock reading 16-something.