This Saturday morning can be described only as a full success. The day was drizzly but not raining and chilly but not cold. We lined up for the Reindeer Fun Run 5k, a dog friendly, costume friendly event and were off with the shout of "Go!"
The last time I ran a 5k in Southern Pines I was bested by about 5 seconds by a 16 year old and ran a 17:05. The youngin was back for this race and I knew that to win this one, I would need to stay near him for the first mile. So I settled into 5th place, running comfortable and allowing my body to feel the effort without going into debt before the few small climbs.
Entering the first climb I made a small effort to assert myself and moved into 2nd place. The leader was ahead about 8 seconds and I was just holding steady with him. Another increase in effort and I cut that lead in half at the mile mark. He was through in 5:34, for me 5:37... right on schedule.
The course continued on a slight uphill and I pushed a little harder figuring my strength was an advantage here on this terrain. Even if I did not catch him here, forcing the work on the climbs was to my advantage. Into a small swooping decline and I was on the youngster's right shoulder. I could now hear him breathing a little harder than I was but stayed put knowing we had two more small climbs to use.
A quick left turn with an uphill and I surged on past his shoulder and took control of the lead. Using the hill to grind into I made him stay with me. A very assertive move that left me breathing halfway into the race. Knowing the course is all downhill from 2 miles I kept the foot on the gas and applied the pressure. This was going to be a guts race and if the young runner was to beat me this time, it was going to be well earned with toughness and some foot speed, because I was feeling relatively fresh at this point.
One last incline of about 100m and now I went with a decisive push that dared anyone to go with me. In these moments one of two things happen. Either, you can hear the continued patter of footsteps along with the breathing on your shoulder... or, you move ahead into silence.
I was now alone with the lead. I could hear my breathe, my feet and the voice inside urging my body to accept this pain and move on through it to where personal victory awaits. I chewed up the terrain in front of me as the pines went by in a tunnelled blur. Just a half of a mile to go and I was getting tired but the strength of track work was now shining through. "Relax and move' relax and move." This mantra carried me through the steps.
I remained assertive knowing that if I was to be rundown by a pursuer, he would have to run somewhere around 4:40 for the final mile. If that be so, then good for him but it was my task to lay it all out right now and make my best run for the line. Body check time: shoulders loose. knees driving. Flow through these last 2 minutes... my body was feeling alive, my mind at ease... This is the best running has to offer!
I made the final turn and saw the finish line with its blizzard of feaux-snow. Through 3 miles and I now knew that sub-17 minutes would be attained, my goal was met and now a .1 victory sprint to the line!!!
I finished up in 16:25 for my first win since July 4... and was blessed with my second best 5k time ever!!! This time was also good enough to become the new CR. Like they say, when you least expect it...
Splits: 5:37, 5:25, 4:58, :25~
The validation of the training this year has come to me several times at key races. Recently, I have added speed sessions (mile repeats mainly) and they seem to have paid off. Dropping 40 seconds off my 5k finish is a huge confidence builder going into Thunder Road Marathon next week.
I believe that I will qualify for Boston 2011 given health and patience on race morning. More to come this week as the day approaches:)