Well, that was a heck of a 5K I ran this morning. Unfortunately, the race was a 10K (rimshot, please).
It was the Oregon Road Runners Club's season opener, with options: a 20.10K to salute the new year, or a 10K. Nine times out of 10 I'd choose the longer distance, but those two hard marathons late last year—in late-September and early-December—left my legs pretty wiped out. In the four weeks since CIM I'd run just five times, including this past Monday (6 miles, slow), Wednesday (8 miles @ 7:30) and Friday (8.5, slow). I felt better each run—and on the days after, too, thanks to lots of massage each night on my calves and Achilles tendons. When I got up this morning I was excited and eager to race again.
The race was out in Forest Grove, about 20 miles west of downtown Portland. This being Oregon, you couldn't have asked for a more perfect January morning for a race: gray skies, temps in the low 40s and the air still, dead calm, not a whisper of a breeze.
At the starting line I said hi to Red Lizard compatriot Joe Dudman along with Steven Livermore, whose excellent blog I've been reading for several years. Great to meet Steven finally! Joe was running the 10K but is fast so I knew I wouldn't see much of him during the race; Steven is fast, too, but was running the 20, so I didn't figure to see him on the course, either.
With a "runners set … go!" we were off. I went out fast. I had a feeling it was too fast, but wasn't exactly sure. The fact that Joe and the leaders weren't pulling away too much too quickly should have tipped me off. I checked my Garmin a half mile in and though I can't remember what the numbers were, I recall thinking I was headed for an opening mile around 6:10—fast but not stupid-fast. But that was wrong. I hit the first mile at 5:54. My thought when I saw that: Oh, bleep.
The course went through the small town of Forest Grove for a mile or two, then out into the countryside, staying flat. I passed the halfway mark in 19:09, 10 seconds better than my 5K PR. I was already hurting a bit, then around 3.5 miles we got a climb of about 50 feet in elevation over a few tenths of a mile. Ugh. I recovered on the downside of the hill, but then at 4.25 we had another one, this one a little longer and steeper. We got to go down after cresting the hill, but cruelly the course turned around at the bottom. So up the backside of the hill we went.
Most of the way here I was chasing a guy in a yellow shirt and shoes that had day-glo green on their soles. I saw a lot of those soles, but they began to pull away as we headed down a long, steady, slight decline that comprised most of the sixth mile. This was where that stupid-fast first mile really came back to haunt me. With my marathon fitness, I should have been able to cruise this stretch, but the lactic acid buildup put a literal crimp in that plan. Then came one more hill, the biggest one yet, a good 100+ foot rise in the quarter mile leading up to the Mile 6 marker. I just tried to relax, lean forward and keep my feet moving. Took me about two minutes to cover that climb, a dreadful pace around 8:00/mile.
Finally, back to the school where we'd started. I crossed the line in 40:23 by my accounting, and gave congratulations to the dude who finished in front of me after powering past me up that last hill.
So my 5K/5K splits were 19:09 and 21:14. Disastrous at first blush, but perhaps not quite so bad given that the first half of the course was flat (actually, on the Garmin, a net decline), while the second half featured those four climbs. Tough stuff but a good and fair test. Nice course, nice race, and the blueberry pancakes served up by the Hagg Lake Harriers afterward were an outstanding bonus. All in all, a really fun morning. I'm looking forward to the rest of the ORRC 10K Series. There are eight race in all and I should be able to do each one except Hagg Lake, which unfortunately is the day before the Eugene Marathon.