What a great morning to race! The weather conditions for yesterday's Thanks 4 Giving 5k Road Race in Lowell, Massachusetts were absolutely perfect. Temp's in the 40's, sunny, and no wind. This is my hometown race, and I completed this race for the 9th time yesterday. I love racing on Thanksgiving Day!
This was my first race since completing the Ironman in early September. I have been training consistently since the race but have reduced volumes considerably. I have been running around 18-23 miles a week and biking on the trainer once a week. Swimming is out until next year. The last time I raced in a 5k was the last week of the Spring Good Times 5k series in June. Since that time basically I have been doing long, slow distance training. I had no idea what kind of shape I was in or how my body would react to 5k race pace.
My day started with sharp pain in my lower back due to an intense leaf raking session the day before. I took 2 Advil and ran to the start of the race from my house. A little bit longer than I would usually run for a warm-up prior to a 5k but I felt like I needed it to work out the pain in my back. Total warmup: 2.1 miles
This is a well organized race so registration is a breeze. Registration is inside the Lowell Elks and I was in and out with my number in 5 minutes. Bathroom was wide open too (the women's line was crazy) and I was quickly ready to head to the start. No issues.
I timed my arrival to the race perfectly and after just a few minutes of waiting the race was ready to start. I always start in the front and decided to place myself in the second row of people just behind the start mat. The race started and for some reason I was quickly swamped on all sides. Maybe I didn't react quickly enough to the start but for the first few hundred yards I was pinned behind slower runners. As a racing veteran I knew I just had to be patient and wait until the road cleared a bit. This is always a little stressful because you feel like you are losing time every second you are pinned in a crowd. I finally broke free shortly after the right turn on Varnum Avenue and I immediately moved to the center of the road. At this point I had the road to myself and started running hard. I probably passed 20-30 people in the next quarter mile and felt good. The only hill on the course is at the .75 mile mark (check out the video) and I felt like I was running a strong tempo pace and felt in control. I ran the first mile in 6:23. Now I usually run the first mile closer to 6 minutes but with the only hill on the course out of the way and that slow start I was happy with my time. The second mile starts slightly rolling and I just continued to run a strong tempo pace. Normally in a 5k I would have a couple of more gears but my high end speed is gone. Strong tempo is all I have right now until I get my speed back. I started to feel it a bit as I rounded the turn on Pawtucket Boulevard and quickly looked over my shoulder and saw a friend of mine only about 20 yards back.
**** Side note. Every year several of my friends run this race. One of my friends, Henry, always tries to beat me. Now we are not overly competitive with each other but for some reason every Thanksgiving there is an unwritten competition between us. This year was no different. I completed the Ironman in September and ended my season. He ran his PR at the Chicago Marathon and ended his season so we were pretty similar. We both are a little fat and happy and really don't care about our Thanksgiving 5k time. But guess what...that unwritten competition remains and I want to make sure he doesn't beat me.****
Returning to my story I look over my shoulder at the turn on Pawtucket Boulevard and sure enough 20 yards back is Henry. I knew I was starting to lose it but I threw in a "surge" and tried to increase my pace. I was hoping he was hurting too and hoped if I accelerated he would be discouraged and shut it down. I refused to turn around and check if it worked and kept pressing. I passed through mile 2 in 12:46 (another 6:23 mile) and kept pressing. Unfortunately, the wheels were starting to come off. My breath was fine. The problem was I just couldn't increase my leg turnover and I was starting to fade. Several people passed me over the next half mile. I still refused to turn around and ran as hard as my dead legs would carry me. I rounded the turn on Old Ferry and sprinted to the finish in 20:18. I really died toward the end but all things considered I think I did OK. Henry finished in 20:33. Come to find out he thought he would get me after the turn on Pawtucket Boulevard but just couldn't close the gap. Fun race on a great day.
Time: 20:18 Overall Place: 20th Age Group: 6th
If you have followed my blog posts or seen my race history you will know I love to race. Due to all of my Ironman training in the last 18 months I have really had to cut back on racing due to all of the training. Now that I have completed my first race I feel like I am back in the game. It may be premature but my next race is going to be Sunday. Yes... this Sunday. I have entered a new half marathon in Mine's Falls Park in Nashua, New Hampshire called the Wolf Hollow Half Marathon. Look for my race report next week.