A field of 20 showed up at 6:30PM with the sun setting for what promised to be a fast race. With an average finishing time of around 18 minutes (most 5Ks these days have average finishing times approaching 27-30 minutes) amongst the coed field, it certainly did not disappoint. With no race fees, parking, swag, crowds, walkers, chips, water stops, course marshals, etc to worry about, it was sure to be a simple night!
Of course, it is unfair to compare a race like this straight up to the road since it was in fact, a track race. Nonetheless, after a 2 mile warmup and some strides, we were ready to start at 7PM on the far end of the track for 12.5 laps of awesome.
Despite there being at least 3 people on this track who could wipe the floor with me, I was initially the only one of the low-16/high-15 5K runners who was opting to go hard from the start. The others all decided to go out at 5:20 pace to do just a workout.
Regardless, I held back momentarily on the first turn to see if anyone would go with me. I had the full intention to take a shot at breaking 16 minutes whether I was going to get help or not. By the end of the turn I realized I was on my own and proceeded to take the lead and try to hold 77/lap pace.
I figured my chances were decent. It was an unseasonably warm but comfortable night with no wind, and my 5K PR of 16:12 on a downhill road course the day after a long run back in March showed I have a sub-16 5K in me, somewhere.
The first two miles were largely uneventful as I went round, and round the track. Note, these splits are based off the finish line, rather than the start line. I felt it would be easier to see the full finish stripe rather than the 1 lane wide painted stripe in the back corner in the dark.
First 200 meters...39 seconds
Lap 1: 77
Lap 2: 76
Lap 3: 76
Lap 4: 76
Mile 1: 5:06 (when including tenths/hundredths of seconds)
I felt pretty good, though I was running a tad faster than the 5:10 I had wanted. Nevertheless, I wasn't sucking wind so I kept at it.
Lap 5: 78
Lap 6: 77
Lap 7: 78
Lap 8: 79
Mile 2: 5:12, 10:18 for two miles
Notice a pattern? It was hard to read my splits, but I knew I had begun to slow. After passing through the 2 mile and 200 meter point, the pack finally caught the lone breaker. I got passed by 4 people in rapid succession.
I guess I stirred the pot a little since that group of 4 was originally going to run 5:20 pace. But, our 2 time defending champion (Dusty) probably didn't want to have anything to do with the likes of me taking the top spot! His BFFs (Nate, Alex, and Steve) were also along for the ride. Regardless, my shot for the prix de la combativité (aggressive rider award if you are a cycling nerd) was the right move on my part.
Mile 3 hurt, though maybe not as bad as it normally would.
Lap 9: 78
Lap 10: 79
Lap 11: 80
Lap 12: 79
Mile 3: 5:16
And so it was that I crossed in 16:13 and 5th. I missed my road PR by 1 second, but beat my track PR by about 13. Considering I have done exactly 0 miles of 5K training this year, I'll take it. Clearly, I could use a bit more fire power for that sub-16, but it will come with time.
With this little foray into shorter stuff out of the way, I can now focus on the grandest prize of them all...the Richmond Marathon! We're almost 2 weeks away now.
This is how races should be!