This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.
As always, one of my goals for this year is to extend my streak (currently at 18 consecutive years) with a sub-17 5K. As this streak has grown, so has the importance in my mind of the streak.
As I’ve mentioned before, I decided for various reasons to go through a 5K season in the spring this year. This was attempt #2 and would be finish #1 after being directed off course in my last attempt.
I arrived plenty early, found a good parking space, then went over to pick up my packet. On my way out from packet pick-up, I saw Ed heading in so we chatted a bit then I went back toward the car as he got his packet. I was relaxing in the car and pinning my number on my singlet when I saw Ed walking over. I invited him to have a seat and we chatted a bit. I think Ed expends some nervous energy before a race so I wanted to get him to just sit down and relax a bit before warmup time.
We warmed up over roughly the last mile of the race course, which gave us a good look at the closing stages of the course and let us get an idea of where 1/2 mile to go, 1/4 mile to go, etc. were. After warmup, we both did our own personal race preparation routines then it was time to line up. I chatted some with the old InStep crew, who had me pegged as the pre-race 5K favorite, and we lined up to run.
At the gun, I immediately got out to the lead. From the first step, I was leading but I was far from alone. As we rounded the first corner, I was about a step in front of a pack that was forming. Around the second corner, I had to swing a little wide for a car that got on the course but no big deal. I started thinking about the guys behind me as we worked our way through the first mile. There were times we were running into a not terribly strong but not insignificant breeze and I didn’t want to be doing all the work while everyone else got a free ride. So I surged just a bit to get a gap. At least, if these guys are going to sit back there, they will have to take their own wind.
As the 5K and 10K split, all the lead pack seemed to be going with me. That’s fine. The more the merrier. I kept leading every step of the way but I eased up a few times just to make sure I’d have something left for the end. I didn’t want to do all the work for 2.5 or more miles, then have someone just blow me away as I had nothing to respond with at the end. I would build a bit of a gap, then let it fade but nobody at any point showed any interest in taking over the lead.
Somewhere in mile 2, I had a near deja vu experience. The lead bike went straight where I thought we were supposed to turn left. Just after it got past the intersection and as I was about to be past, he says "Turn left, sorry!" So I plant my right foot and turn on a dime before I’m past the street. Still in the lead but definitely gave up at least a few steps, if not a few seconds. I pushed the pace a little more as we went around this loop through a neighborhood. Then, on our way out, I saw the 10K 5 mile mark. About 1.25 to go, time to break the race open. I knew I still had at least one and I sensed two guys on my back and I didn’t want it to come down to a kick. I didn’t realize I was already quite this far in and I definitely had more than I wanted left in the tank with a mile or so to go so I stretched the legs out a bit. I quickly gapped the guys still with me and built up a lead. Around a left turn with a mile to go, I glanced over my shoulder and saw a decent but not comfortable lead. Keep pushing. Around a pair of corners with about 3/4 of a mile to go, the lead is getting comfortable. Around a right turn with just under 1/2 mile to go and the lead is pretty safe as long as I can muster up some kind of kick. Around another corner with 1/4 mile to go and I’m doing all I can to open up my stride. One more turn, then I’m going as fast as I can while trying to read the clock.
16-something. Good! 16:40-something. Ooh, this is going to be close. Quicker strides, stronger drive, do everything I can! The clock is clicking through the 16:50s as I’m doing all I can to save every fraction of a second. Then it happens. The clock hits 17 while I’m just a few steps short of the finish line.
Final result: 1st overall in 17:02. Second was only 9 seconds back and third was only 17 seconds back.
I’m happy with the win in a well battled race. I’m a little disappointed in the time, just because it was so close and I can look at many spots where a second or two could have been gained. From that nearly missed turn to the spots in mile 2 and probably even as far back as mile 1 where I eased off just a touch. I could probably have run a few of the tangents slightly better and shaved off a second or so. Still, this was my first race of the year and I was that close to going sub-17. I know it’s coming. I can’t be disappointed with this race, even if I was that close. Heck, I was that close in the first tune-up of the year. Next time out, I’m looking to crush sub-17.
Results can be found here. Note Team HillRunner.com with 2 in the top 10, with Ed coming through in 6th place.