Tuesday, April 12, 2016

First Call 5k Race Recap/Chilly Willy Series Wrap Up

The First Call 5k is in the books - and so is the Chilly Willy Series since this was race number 6 of 6.

It started like any other race morning: curse cold temperatures, shower, add extra layers over running clothes, followed by the usual trinity of coffee, water, and a Clif bar (which I couldn't even bring myself to open) in the car.

Mr. R&R and I parked and made a quick stop at athlete check-in to switch ourselves from the half marathon to the 5k since a) neither of us was in any shape to run that distance and b) we both suspected we'd get a lot more series points by switching.  The switch was super easy and we headed back to the car to strip off our outer layers and do the usual warm up jog and strides before retreating to the warmth of the building to stretch and wait to be called to the start line - and to be honest, I would have been perfectly content to stay in that toasty building until spring decided to make an appearance!

About 5 minutes before the gun went off they herded us outside and Mr. R&R pushed his way to near the front and I seeded myself just a little further back and tried to psych myself up as a child counted us down to the start.


Can you spot me?

I took off a little too fast, but I got a clean start and after a short stretch we hopped a curb and onto the Glacial Drumlin Trail.  I settled into an uncomfortable, but manageable pace and my mind pretty much switched to auto-pilot mode as I mentally checked off landmarks on the way to the turnaround point.  Railroad tracks, rickety wooden bridge, graffiti-covered underpass, road-crossing #1, road-crossing #2, long stretch of nothingness.

Mile 1: 8:47

Somewhere around the 1.5 mile mark I started seeing the front-runners coming back at me.  The lead guy was so far out in front it was ridiculous.  He was flying and it looked effortless.  Eventually more front-runners came into view and I was shocked to see that 2nd place overall at that point was a female! Usually the first woman is about 5-6 people back from the lead male and tucked in with a pack of guys.  Not this woman. She had a pretty good gap on the pack behind her.  Go girl!

I made a nice, tight turn at the turnaround and happy to be rid of the slight headwind that had been in my face on the way out and I was amazed at how many people were still streaming along the path toward the turn.  I'm usually a solid middle/back of the middle of the pack runner, but I was starting to get the feeling that I might be doing a little better than that today.  It was motivation to keep pushing the pace even though I was starting to come off auto-pilot mode and hurting.

Back along the long stretch of nothingness.

Mile 2: 8:50

Then the pain started to break through the auto-pilot fog in a very real way.  I slowed a little on the way back to road crossing #2 and picked it back up on the way to road crossing #1.  That crossing screwed with me since the officer controlling traffic let a couple cars go at an inopportune moment, causing me to come to a complete stop.  So much for momentum. By the time I made it back to the graffiti underpass I was almost out of gas and my pace had slowed to a crawl and I couldn't seem to fix it.

I shifted from auto-pilot to damage control mode. I glanced over my right shoulder.  There was a couple maybe 100 yards behind me, but they didn't seem to be gaining on me so as long as I held my position, my pace disaster was somewhat less of an issue.

Back over the rickety wooden bridge and another look back to check on where the couple was.  They were still there, but a woman in a raspberry-colored jacket was gaining on them fast and I was pretty sure it was the woman I've been trading off 4th/5th place with in my age group for most of the series. Crap.  I channeled my favorite wizard and sped up marginally.

Mile 3: 9:40 (Abysmal and I'm still beating myself up over it)

A slight incline and a curve and I could see the finish line.  I checked my watch and saw that I was already at 3.1 miles.  The course was %&#@-ing long! Ugh.  Time to shut it down.

I kicked as hard as I could to that finish line and smiled for the camera while reaching for my watch the second my foot hit the timing mat.
I may be smiling, but I'm not particularly happy right now
I found Mr. R&R parked under a tree (waiting for the puke feeling to pass) and we hightailed it back to the car to put our layers back on and grab our coffee cups before going back inside to wait for results to post.  After milling around for about 20 minutes or so, the race director came in and told us that there had been a mishap with the timing system and that results weren't going to be available until later that night.  Ugh.  We dragged ourselves back to the car and headed home to await the posting.

Why was this such a big deal?  First, and foremost, both of us wanted to know how we fared against the rest of our age group.  Second, if Mr. R&R won his age group at this race, it was very likely that he'd end up being the top male finisher for the entire series. He was one point behind the leader - and from what we could tell, that guy hadn't shown up! Finally, I've been fighting like hell to reclaim 3rd place in the F35-39 age group and I wanted to know if I had pulled it off or not.

At last, the preliminary results were posted. It was 75% good news.  Mr. R&R had won his age group by over 4 minutes - which made him not only the winner of the M35-39 age group for the entire series (by a landslide), but also the top male finisher for the entire series!!!!  Me? I took 3rd in my age group for this race, but it wasn't enough.  I missed retaking 3rd place in the F35-39 age group for the entire series by 2 points. Really though, I can't complain.  I'm usually content to finish in the top half of my age group at any race, so the fact that over the course of 6 races I racked up 2 podium finishes, 2 additional top 5 finishes, and PR'd the 5k distance twice, is nothing short of incredible.

 Time: 28:37 (9:14/mile pace)*
Overall Place: 36/121
Gender Place: 15/77
Age Group Place: 3/13 (F35-39)
*The course was a bit long, so according to my Garmin it was more like 9:02/mile

It took another 36 hours for series standings to be updated and finally, at 9:30 this morning I had the answers I'd been waiting for.

Only 45 runners in total participated in enough races (four out of 6) to be eligible for series awards.  Here's how I fared:

Overall Place: 22/45
Gender Place: 11/27
Age Group Place: 4/7 (F35-39)*
*Females 35-39 were the largest age group of series participants!

Would I do this series again?  Probably.  The races themselves were fun and challenging and it was good to have a reason to run all winter.  The only things I wasn't a fan of were cotton t-shirts for 4 out of the 6 races and the inaccurate course distances, but those are things that the race director could improve on for next year.  I plan on running a few other events put on by this company over the summer.

And now the really big question: What's Next?  As of right now, I've got a small 5k on my calendar for next month and I've chosen my first triathlon of 2016. 10.5 weeks of training starts NOW!