I was very motivated for the final race of the York Winter Series yesterday, the Northeastern 5k. Going into the race I was tied for 2nd overall in my age group and I felt confident I could beat the girl despite not actually knowing what she looked like. I was also excited to see my 5k time after improving all winter, and since I hadn’t raced one since the early fall.
Given the name winter series, it seemed fitting that when I woke up yesterday it was to a snow covered car. Fortunately the snow ended in the overnight hours so that the roads were fine to drive and my wonderful husband, Jason, cleaned my car off before I left. I did a longer warmup than I normally do, including plenty of stride outs. I was really set to run a hard race and the temps hovering in the low 30s seemed tolerable enough to race well.
I lined up with some local runners I know, and we were chatting when word started to be passed around that the course was being changed. I was bummed. I had ran two loops of the course the previous week with Todd and Armand and felt mentally prepared to race it hard. Annoyance set in further when the race director confirmed that for safety reasons we would be staying on the high school campus and completing 4 loops instead of running the usual course. I certainly understood his decision, but it didn’t do anything for my anticipation of racing. There’s a reason I was a hurdler in track in high school; the idea of running multiple loops around the track for a mile or two mile race never had appeal to me.
I quickly got over my irritation of the course change once the race started knowing there was nothing I could do about it. I went out comfortably hard, but hung back from the lead pack as I wasn’t entirely sure of what the loops were. There was a slight grade in the front parking lot that led to a right turn, then a descending turn behind a building. The course then gradually climbed again rounding a corner before flattening. A left turn led to a straightaway across the finish line then a turn in the parking lot put us on a straightway back across the start line.
Part of the way into the second loop I heard my Garmin beep for the first mile – a 7:28. I was slightly surprised at the quickness but chalked it up to going out a little harder than usual. During the loop I began considering stripping off my windbreaker jacket as my long sleeved Under Armour top was doing a great job at keeping me warm. I was also forced to swallow some nasal drainage as there were too many people around me to risk getting spit on someone. These minor distractions helped me to not focus on how boring the course was.
The second mile beeped a 7:30. I began considering the idea that I could run my fastest 5k ever, a goal I set last fall but didn’t figure I would begin really working on until spring. I shrugged off the thought thinking I would likely slow at some point as my legs were really working hard. This decision resulted in my finally stripping off my windbreaker coat and taking a few steps to the side to toss it in my parking space before joining back on the main course. Looking back on the race I wish I had just tolerated feeling overheated and not wasted that precious time.
I kept working the grades in the course, missing my usual rolling hills that are my strength. Another challenge of running loops was passing slower runners and losing sight of who was actually ahead of me that could be competition. For this reason I ended up not kicking in as hard during the final straightaway as I physically could have. My finishing time was 23:11 – 2 seconds slower than my all time fastest 5k from high school.
Needless to say as impressed as I was to have ran that fast of a time during cold conditions, I was also kicking myself for not running harder. Had I known the course in advance, went out harder and finished with a fast kick, and not wasted time tossing my jacket, I fully believe that not only would I have broken my record of 23:09 but that I might’ve been able to go under 23 minutes. I rarely finish a race and feel that I could’ve ran that much faster, but I certainly did Saturday.
Those discouraging thoughts aside, I did finish 2nd in my age group for both the race as well as the series. I received a nice trophy and tshirt for placing. For completing at least 5 of the 8 races I also received a pair of gloves. Although it was a bit chilly for a cold treat, I indulged in a small birch beer ice courtesy of Ritas. Overall it was a good end to the series.