As I nurse the quad/hammy in my left leg, I still have to say that Today was a Good Day! I feel like I did everything pretty much the way I had wanted, and I finished with an official time of 1:10:48 (almost five minutes faster than my goal of 1:15). And, I wasn't last (258 out of 307 but not last)! These people were fast runners -- more than half finished under an hour (since the race was a Trail Run, I feel even better since those races tend to be slower than those on paved or harder surfaces). So here is my race report.
Morning / Pre-Race
I got up at 4:30am. Yes, really early! One of the downfalls of living in Crystal Lake is that everywhere you go is a long drive. The race was in Wheaton so that meant a 45-55 minute drive for me. And, since there was limited parking near the race start, I wanted to get there early enough to assure myself of decent parking.
Last night, I laid everything out so I was pretty much good-to-go this morning. Got dressed, ate a light breakfast of toast with almond butter and a banana, packed my gear bag, and was out the door by 5:30. I brought some Apple Juice with me to have about 15 minutes before race start, and I had water bottles with Powerade and water in them for the race itself.
I arrived at the Danada Forest Preserve at 6:30am with plenty of time to just relax in the car, listening to some Casting Crowns and visualizing my race strategy. My strategy? Simple. Run slow the first 3 miles and pick it up the last 3 miles. And sprint the last 1/5 mile to the finish. Well, I kinda followed my plan. More on that later.
So at 7:15am, I get out of the car, pay a visit to the Porta Potty (nice and clean one, I might add), and headed to the race tent. I put on my bug spray (trail run means mosquitos), checked my bag, and decided to mingle. At 7:30, I decided it was time to warm up. This is when I noticed my first 'ugh' moment. The race was starting on grass. Very WET grass, in fact. So my warm-up walk/run resulted in my shoes and to some extent, my feet getting wet. Nothing I could really do about it but it made me worry about blisters. Luckily, I was wearing wicking socks that have the toes in them. So I hoped that it would keep them dry and prevent any blisters from forming. So I finished my stretching and walked over the start. Hmmm... no corrals. So I decided to stand in the last third of the 300+ group.
The race started on grass for the first 1/5 mile. Again, my shoes and feet got wetter. Ugh! Then we turned onto a limestone path that was dry! I went out running a 11:00/mm pace and it was immediately clear that I picked the right place to start in the group. At that pace, I was staying in step with most of the others around me, and passing others. That kinda felt good, right? The forest preserve was a real sight! Very pretty, very green (due to recent rains), and quite curvy. The course was relatively flat with lots of 'rolling hills' -- nothing too steep but enough to make you 'feel' it.
I decided to listen to Joe Taricani of The Marathon Show for this race instead of music. In case I haven't said this enough, if you are a runner you NEED to be listening to The Marathon Show Podcast. It is a great podcast, filled with good information, encouragement, and humor. Often Joe interviews well known runners in the sport, and listening to their stories and insights is really awesome and educational. And at least for me, listening to podcasts and/or audiobooks while running does not interfere with my pacing.
Miles 1 and 2 kinda flew by as I was running well, no pain (even in my left hammy), and I was enjoying the view. At about 2.5 miles, I passed the first water station and grabbed a cup. Can you believe that was my 'first' water station? (They don't have those on 5K races) So that was kinda cool!
At Mile 3, I was passed by a guy in his 60s like I was standing still. Hmmm... Oh well, clearly he has been running a lot longer than I have. Then I was surprised to see runners coming towards me in the opposite direction! Runners who were in the lead were already returning back to the finish and I had just gotten to the midpoint! OMG!!! Of course, they were also half my age, so that made me feel a bit better about it. :)
Mile 4 came with my second water station. I decided not to take their water and drink my PowerAde instead. I must have needed it because it tasted SO good! I was still feeling pretty good. Now at this point, my PLAN was to speed things up. So I tried kicking it up a notch to a 10:30/mm pace. I think that lasted for about 5 minutes before I decided that my 11:00/mm pace was working just fine for me. At this point, I was running with more or less the same group of runners. Two women in front of me and a third (the woman in blue) who was running alongside or a little behind me for most of the race. I made a mental note that I was going to pass the two in front of me before the finish.
At Mile 5, I started to make a move. I sped up a bit and passed the two women who had been in front of me most of the race. I think they were slowing down because I got some distance between me and them, which made me feel pretty good. But then, I started to feel a little fatigue due to the speed increase. My heart rate was increasing a bit and felt like I should slow down somewhat. So I finally decided to take a 1-minute walk to recover a bit. Drank some water and more PowerAde and took some deep, cleansing breaths. The 'woman in blue' passed me for the first time so that got me moving again.
By the time I passed the Mile 6 marker, I still hadn't caught up to the 'woman in blue' and there was another guy in front of her. So I decided it was time to pull on the reserves and start my kick. My luck that we then hit the grass! I passed the woman and set my sights on the guy. But he had too far a lead so we finished with me right behind him! My race time: 1:10:48! I was SO Happy (and pretty winded)!
As I stood next to a fence catching my breath, the 'woman in blue' came over to do the same. And then she said "Thank you." I must have showed my confusion because she said "I was using you as my pacer for the whole race. I appreciated that". I did not know what to say other than 'Glad to be of service. Good race!"
After the Race
The post race refreshments were awesome! Pizza (which I did not have), broiled chicken slices, bagels with cream cheese and salmon, bananas, watermelon slices, homemade chocolate chip cookies, and bottled water/Gatorade. Wow, what a spread! Everyone ate while results were being announced. I wanted to know my age group results. Turned out the three AG winners all had times below 40 minutes! I landed at 28 out of 33 in the 50-54 AG. Well, I guess I have some room for improvement, eh?
A nice surprise was running into my friend Deacon Michael Kitt and his family at the race. He ran a good race and placed fourth in his AG with a 56 minute time. I thought I had seen him at the start but I couldn't see his face at the time. Michael came up to me and said "Hi! I thought you might be here today!" It was great seeing him and being able to share the experience with him!
All pre-registered runners received a nice, quality tech shirt. This year it was kelly green, and, it is a long-sleeved shirt! I do not have one of those so I was happy to get one. I can definitely use this during training runs later in the fall. The shirt is very nice. No finishers medals for this race though. AG winners got a nice drinking glass inscribed with the name of the race.
I finally drove home, showered, and met Christi for lunch. Then I went to LifeTime Fitness's Spa to have a nice 30-minute deep tissue massage on my legs, especially the left one. It was a nice treat and made it feel a lot better. It is still achy but manageable. Later, the family celebrated a good race with dinner at The Village Squire.
So that's it. The end of my report. Today was AWESOME! I had a good race, a good massage, and a good dinner! And my race time should give me a good corral placement for the Disney Half Marathon in January. So unless my November 15K race turns out better, at least I now have a race result I can use for corral placement.
What next? Well, I am going to take this week off from running, especially since this weekend my son and I are going to Space Camp for four days!!!!! We are both very excited about the trip (and the left hammy will appreciate the break from running). When I return, my run training for the Half will being -- I am using a modified Galloway Training program for the Half.