Those of your following my weekly fitness updates know I have committed to a four-race series this spring in the Kansas City North metro area. Sponsored by The Running Well Store, it started last month with a Personal Record mile in Parkvill in January, and the Cupid Run 5K this past Saturday in North Kansas City.
My previous 5K races have all been as part of the Kansas City Corporate Challenge. They occurred on a modest-elevation-change course is south Kansas City along Ward Parkway. My times for that race last year was right around 26 minutes. This past Saturday’s race was on a very flat course in very flat North Kansas City.
Due to my schedule and the weather, I have done most of my practice running for the 5K inside on the treadmill at the work wellness center. There I’ve been setting the treadmill for 8 mph and running the 5K distance the past couple of weeks at a 23:30 pace. But I obviously didn’t plan on keeping that pace during the outdoor race. My outdoor practice, on the hills around my house, were more in the 28 range (in 31-degree weather), My hope was that the treadmill practice would help me find a faster tempo that I had been using, and that I might bring the 26 down to 25, maybe towards 24 minutes.
But the morning of the Cupid Run was 50 degrees, which eventually reached a high of 69. I struck up a conversation with one guy there who came with his daughter and had just signed up for the race that morning. We talked about races, and he talked about wanting to work up to a Marathon this year. I mentioned feeling that a half-marathon would be my limit, not because I didn’t think I could do a marathon, but because I couldn’t imagine spending that much time running. His line was that “when you get to be my age, you have to figure you are hitting you peak, so if you ever want to do it, you need to do it now,” his age being the upper 40s. I didn’t bother mentioning that I was older, not younger than him, allowed him his impression.
When I got there I saw someone I thought looked familiar, and who later spotted me as well during the lineup, and we confirmed we were both from the same workplace. I asked him whether I should be using him for pacing or seeing me ahead, and he talked about 28 minute pace or slower and shin splints.
I eventually started the race in the middle of the pack next to someone I had met at the PR race in January, and who was still talking about my speed.
The start of the race was me continually passing people for about the first 3/4 of a mile, having started further back in the pack than I should have, and setting a tempo for myself that I kept trying to gauge whether it was the right tempo. Was I starting off to strong? Was I being a wimp and starting off too slow? Had I found the right tempo? I kept feeling maybe it was too fast, but didn’t slack because I was afraid I might actually be too slow. About the mile marker it started feeling right, my breath ever slightly so short but not getting shorter.
About that time I also spotted Mr. thinking about the marathon just up ahead of me, and took another quarter mile to match pace with him. I told him maybe he was my pace person, to which he replied that he felt this pace was a bit aggressive for him. I stayed with him for another half a mile before starting to pull ahead again.
By this time it was definitely a thin pack. I was basically running on my own with people visible in front of me, and not hearing anyone coming up from behind. I passed two or three more people in the section of the course around Macken Park, and just before the final turn around the park had the last person to pass me pass me. I could hear the person coming up on me, passed the one person I was passing, then grunted a loud “go for it” to the person. It took her a bit, but she passed me, and I watched her ahead of me very slowly widen the gap and we both gained on the next person.
At this stage I felt like I was keeping the same pace, the same tempo, but wondered if I hadn’t actually decreased my speed imperceptibly. But rather than adjust anything, I just kept my pace, and tried to ensure I was actually keeping it.
The course went West from Macken Park down one street and then back East on the parallel street before the final half-mile stretch to the finish line. I was gaining on someone on the run back east, but every time I got close she gunned it, didn’t seem to want me to pass, but finally got by her when she burned herself out shortly after rounding the final turn.
Having the finish line visible a half mile from the end isn’t easy psychologically. You think you should push it all that way, but half a mile is a long distance to sprint. So I just kept my pace, with the slightest stretching of my strides, and I saw the finish line get closer. About a block before the finish line I started thinking about a final sprint, but I’m not really good at accelerating once I’m in the tempo (another reason to find a good tempo from the start), so mostly I ensured that I kept pushing and keeping the tempo up through and past the finish line.
As I approached I could finally see the clock, which had just passed 24 minutes. I pushed, intending to see myself get across the line before it showed 24:30. I didn’t slow until after I’d gone 10 feet past the chip sensor.
I went up to the time printing station and got my slip:
Sex Place: 17
Age Place: 3
So I was 30th across the finish line, 17th man across, and 3rd for men 50-54.
When I got home and checked online, I learned that my chip time was 24:02.09 — I’d taken 26 seconds from the sounding horn to cross the start line, and only missed 24 minutes by 2 seconds and change. So I ended up feeling pretty good about myself.
It was when looking at how many men there were in my age category (10, making me third out of 10), that I saw my friend Paul Mast — who did 50 5Ks in honor of his 50th year last year — was #2. But I’d never seen him around at the race. He obviously had started closer to the front of the pack. His time was almost a minute better than mine, his overall place #20.
So the race was a good one. Almost too good. I’m in a spot of dangerous hubris. I’ve basically made my goals, and perhaps almost too easily. Fortunately I don’t take myself that seriously in that way.
Now I need to start thinking about the 10K, getting a longer run in each week so I hit the 10K distance before that race, and then the half marathon distance before that race. So this is where I’ll start needing to put in larger blocks of time each week for the running. Which is why the half is about where I think I’ll stop — more than 2 hours of just running with everything else I have to do … more than I probably want to try.