After not doing any road races in 15 months and not running a 5k in 18 months, I registered for the Greenville "Run Downtown 5k", which is part of the corporate running competition around town. And I can definitely say I enjoyed myself and am very glad my lunch running buddies talked me into running the race.
My training has been very sub-par since the Bear 100 in September, with only 12 total miles of speedwork (yes, 12 miles in 4 months) and no weekly mileage above 60 until the past few weeks. Needless to say, I was not expecting much, hoping to be 17:30 but thinking 18 was more likely. It's a big race (2000 people) with a fair amount of competition.
The morning dawned cold, about 30 degrees, overcast, and breezy. After a long warmup, I stripped to my brand new GE singlet, green shorts, arm warmers, gloves, and hat. Most racers wore more, but a few wore less. I was appropriately cold for a 5k. The race started with a short downhill, then a gradual, 100 ft elevation climb to the 1 mile marker. I was simply happy to be running fast the first mile, and found myself just behind the chase pack at the 1 mile mark at 5:37. I was working hard, but breathing was relaxed. Mile 2 was almost all downhill, which I loved. I pushed the pace, and began passing several runners, including GE teammate Phil and the Chick-fil-a cow (the cow was a guy wearing a giant cow outfit- he had a 3 minute head start, and anyone who beat him won a free Chick-fil-a sandwich. He finished in 19:32 race time (22:32 his time)- not bad at all). Mile 2 was 5:26, and I started to believe that my legs had enough speed to carry me to a decent finish time.
Mile 3 starts off with a 70 ft climb in .3 mile, then a gradual downhill to the finish. I had 2 runners ahead of me, one of whom was slowing. I focused on him, pulling him closer with each stride. I caught him with maybe 400 meters to go and was surprised to see the other runner just a few meters ahead. I pulled even with him, trying to determine who had more in the tank. I made a move, which he failed to match at first, but then accelerated. My legs were churning as fast as I could the last 200 meters and my head began to float around the street due to lack of oxygen. I'm not sure I had ever felt so close to passing out during a sprint. With one final push, I passed the finish line at 16:58, 2 strides ahead of the runner behind me. Final 1.1 mile in 5:55 (5:22 pace- including the 70 ft climb).
Officially, the timing chip somehow put me at 17:00 and says the runner behind me out-chipped me, placing me in 15th. Oh well- but I'm still claiming the 16:58, since my watch time was exact for me. 11 of the 14 runners ahead of me were young bucks- age 15 to 24. Those guys rock at 5k's. I was exhausted at the finish (like you should be for a 5k), but recovered within 30 seconds to start running around cheering for people. After some cheering and congratulations among the large GE contingent, and a few cool down miles with Barry, I called it a day. And I'll admit, after so many ultras, it was strange to be gone only 2.5 hours for a race.
I really enjoyed this fast race- it seemed to have a lot more downhill than up, even though it was a loop, and was just hilly enough to break up the monotony of running pavement. Plus, there was a steady stream of runners to keep up the challenge- I never felt like I was in no-man's land. I am happy to be within 25 seconds of my PR with low mileage and no speedwork, and enjoyed passing runners the last 2 miles (I think I passed 8-10, while none passed me), and finally had a good kick. I've committed to at least one more corporate race, an off-road 6k cross country race. Should be fun. Then, back to the longer trail races.