#108, finishing sprint. Photo: Aline Cashin
Ran my first "real" 5k road race this evening, the CIGNA/Elliot 5k Corporate Road Race. Over 5000 people come out for this. Fortunately, we had perfect weather. Heat would not be an issue for me. My stretch goal for this event was to run faster than six minute miles. Crazy perhaps, as I've done zero speed work running, run no more than an hour a week, and have accumulated 35hrs lifetime total running.
The only other 5k race I've done was a Mine Falls Monday night trail run, part of the Gate City Striders training series. It gave me a benchmark of sorts, 19:03 minutes, but I did it after a hard weekend of riding. I came to CIGNA with much fresher legs. In fact, I hadn't run since Sunday and was feeling too fresh, a bit lethargic.
I warmed up with a couple of accomplished runners from work. We ran the last half mile of the course and back, including the finishing climb. My joints felt achy and not ready for the blow about to be dealt them.
I lined up by the competitive runners signs, the first wave to go off. There are recreational runner and walker waves too. I thought I was near the front, but no, the signs were a good 50ft back from the timing mats. Soon I realized there were hundreds of people in front of me. The mats would catch when I crossed the start line, but it would not part the slower masses in front of me. Colleagues lining up near me said it would do me good, as I'm still new to this running stuff and my cycling fitness would probably have me going out way too hard without traffic to slow me down anyway.
The gun goes off. Nobody moves around me for first few seconds. Then slowly we began plodding. This was worse than a MTB race where slower riders plug up the singletrack. Heels were getting stepped on. Eventually, people start concentrating to the left, as there will be a left hand turn a mile up Elm Street. I went right and started burning matches. One thing I've learned in short hillclimb or sprint ski races is how to perfectly burn through a matchbook in 20 minutes. Once I broke free, I must have passed over 100 people in just a couple minutes.
The amber sign told me my first mile was 6:01. Ok, slower than my target, but how many seconds did it take me to reach the mat? 10 maybe? So I called it 5:51 in my mind.
I continued passing people at a rate of 10-20 per minute in the second mile. Very few were passing me. I felt good. Breathing was not the limiter. Fear of tripping and sweat searing my eyes were more on my mind than the burn in my legs or lungs.
The next amber sign told me my second mile was 5:50. Cool. There was a lot of downhill in that mile though. So could I hold that pace for another mile? Cracks were forming around the edges of my feeble body.
For a brief while, I passed very few people in mile three. Then suddenly, people started imploding, poofs going up all over the place. I passed under the bridge that meant half a mile to go. I knew a small hill was coming. I like hills, even when I'm 1000rpm past redline.
We round the corner and I kick it up another notch. I passed several more runners early on the hill. It looked like I would exceed my stretch goal when I saw the finishing clock. I finished with a gun time of 18:28. I was pretty psyched. My chip time was 18:21, good for 5:55 average pace.
Photo: Aline Cashin
I had brought my GPS to record HR for this, but I couldn't get the silly thing to work. I'm sure I hit HR's not seen in a long time. Felt just like a Weston sprint ski race. Fruit, icecream and sodas hit the spot in the park afterwards. It didn't take long milling about before I realized not all was well with my legs. My quads, of all things, were almost completely knotted up. I could barely climb the stairs when I got home.
So what could I do with a 5k if I actually trained for running, instead of just running on my "rest" days to keep my bone density up? I suspect two serious hours per week could get me into the 17's. A year from turning 50, that would be competitive. I'd need some way to gauge cycling impact before I took this next step. Something to think about for next year. I'll probably cool it with running for a while. I plan to schedule a follow-up DEXA bone density scan soon. I sure hope the last eight months of running have not been for naught.