Tuesday, March 18, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Ten: A Medal Won and Lost

With time winding down towards next month's Boston Marathon (thirty three days as of this writing,) I wanted to get one more boost of race adrenaline before "toeing the line" in Hopkinton next month.  St. Patrick's Day is one of my favorite holidays where I'm (pretend) Irish like many for one day.  What redhead does NOT like St. Patrick's Day?

There were three races to pick from this last weekend in Denver (Running of the Green, ROTG,) my local Highlands Ranch 5K, and Denver's Lucky Laces.  Lucky won out as it was in Denver's City Park and was on Saturday vs. Sunday which was my preference based on my training schedule.  As a bonus, I signed up my youngest son who's been swimming and practicing with his triathlon team gearing up for Tri season.  He had not run a 5K distance this season, but his conditioning was ready for a race.
Post-race father and son medal worthy performance

It's hard to use a 5K as a barometer for a distance race (marathon,) but my coach has prescribed quite a bit of speed for next month's Boston Marathon and I've pushed many of those shorter interval training sessions much faster than I have before (venturing below a six minute per pace mile.)

At the start of the year, on my DailyMile profile page, I listed a number of goals.  One of those goals was to "break" 20 minutes in a 5K which I'd never done before.  Conventional wisdom would say that for someone at my age, that opportunity would be in the rear view mirror and not in the windshield.  Screw that.
Father and son bling

City Park provided a great locale for the race racing around the Denver Zoo, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and two lakes.  Like many St. Pats races there was a festive atmosphere with Irish music pumping up the large crowd.  The course itself was essentially flat with a little bit of a rise (a mere 72',) a fair amount of turns, and a bit of a wind.  Viewing the glass as "half full" I felt that the sinus cold I was dealing with was better to happen for this race and a month out from my marathon.  Nevertheless this messed with my head a bit as I didn't feel 100% physically.  In terms of training, I had a subdued confidence that the PR I'd set only three months earlier, but just outside twenty minutes could fall this day.

I ran into a few runners from my run team, Working Class Athletics, and another good run buddy of mine (Vince) before the race.  After giving my son some last minute advice (and not wanting to see him hurl his large breakfast,) I settled near the front of the pack in my usual spot in a race of this size; second or third row.  With such a short race, there's not a whole lot of race strategy, but I felt that if I could go out a six-minute per mile pace in the 1st mile then average 6:30 in the next two miles, I would end with a strong push that would hit my goal.

I surprised myself in that I held with the front of the pack fairly close that first mile and held to my goal.  With slightly cool temps, I was surprised that I was not "dying" after that first mile.  Mentally, I told myself, "only thirteen more minutes."  The rest of the course was pretty consistent.  The only confusing part was that as we started to go through some of the turns, the runners behind me were now running towards me to the right of the orange cones.  One dude yelled out, "you're going the wrong way!"  I hoped that was not the case, but the only way that was possible was if the lead cyclist was not going the right way.  After the race, one member from my race team took 1st overall in the 10K (Daniel,) yet the race results showed two women finished ahead of him.  No doubt there were some misguided runners along the way as he held first the entire time.  Not saying a woman couldn't beat this guy, but there was no woman ahead of him throughout his race.

My final time showed 19:21.  I felt I had crushed my goal, and picked up first in my age group--three seconds ahead of second place. My splits were just as I'd planned; (5:58, 6:24, 6:15, 6:38, 6:27, 6:26 and a "kick" at 5:12.)
What remains of my 1st Place Medal

Others on my team had equally great races (Daniel with 1st overall,) and Kevin with a PR in the 10k.  My son got second in his age group.  Hardware for father and son, Irish music, and pancakes awaited us at the post-race celebration party at the Park Mansion adjacent to the park.  Just when I couldn't love St. Patrick's Day any more, it's now the owner of my 5K PR, a perfect ten in that it's now my tenth straight podium (non-major.)  All in all, a perfect ten and another confidence boost for Boston.

Epilogue:  Once again, ignoring my cold, I head out Saturday night dressed in green with my wife to celebrate St. Pats and my accomplishment with my 1st place medal around my neck.  Clearly enjoying the moment, my medal separated from the ribbon somewhere in the middle of my Violent Femmes "Blister in the Sun" karaoke performance.  Yes, I danced my medal right off.  I'm hoping someone is enjoying it as much as I did for the twelve hours I owned it.

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Average guy w/ an above average appetite for marathon racing and triathlons. Ran my 5th Boston in '15. 3:21, 1:29, 19:21 PR;full/half/5K Opinions & wit are mine