Saturday, August 7, 2010

Blue Points 5k

AM: 2 mile w/u + strides
5k race @17:23 (5:23, 5:37, 5:49, :33)
~10 min. break
5k tempo @18:55
1 mile c/d
Total: 9 miles

You know it's been a brutal summer when you wake up on race morning and are absolutely elated to see that temperatures are in the 70s and humidity is in the 80s. Such was the case today, and I couldn't have been happier. I'd heard plenty of warnings about the difficulty of the course from Paul and Jay, so at the very least it was reassuring to have the weather on our side.

Jordan and I left home just past 6 and headed Uptown. We parked at the Dowd, about half a mile from the race start but much less crowded than the suggested parking deck (and it didn't cost five bucks). Thus, our pre-warmup warmup was a light walk/jog down the hill to the Panther stadium. Things were already hustling and bustling when we got there, and before long a familiar group had formed. I warmed up a few easy miles with Jay, Spada, Billy and a few others, checking out part of the course for the first time. Basically it was laid out like this: 1.25 miles straight downhill, turn right, .25 miles uphill, turn right again, 1 mile uphill on Morehead, crest the overpass beyond the Dowd Y, then .5 miles downhill with a slight right turn to the finish. Though I had no doubt the final mile would be taxing, I was confident the course would be doable.

The gun/whistle blew at 7:30 and we were off. I quickly settled in around some of my now-familiar racing counterparts like Cory, Spada and Chad. Chad has beaten me in every single heads up race this year, so today my goal was to stay tucked in behind him for as long as possible. I accomplished that goal easily in the first downhill mile, coming through a bit faster than usual in 5:23. I'd expected as much because of the sharp downhill grade and also realized that I'd (unfortunately) make that back up on the return trip, so I tried not to think much about the splits. In an episode of deja vu from the four miler, I felt Spada coming up beside me and then passing me just before the mile marker, which meant for the second time in as many races I would rely on him to pull me through the middle section of the race. The righthand turn up the hill was a rude awakening from the cruise control we'd all been maintaining, and from there to the finish the race would be nothing but work. The worst part about coming up Morehead is that it's a straight shot as far as the eye can see, so while I had my sights set on the Dowd and the accompanying overpass for many minutes, it seemed to take forever to get there. Once I did the race was all downhill to the finish. By this time I'd overtaken Spada and Chad had distanced both of us, which again seems to be about par for the course these days. I kicked pretty hard the last 200 meters because I was gaining on a few college-age guys and it's always fun to pass them. (Mainly because at that age I know how much it probably irritates them to get beaten by a girl. It's a life lesson they might as well learn now.) For a few minutes after crossing the line all I wanted to do was drink some water and catch my breath. In that time I learned that Jordan had won (so predictable), that Jay and Paul had duked it out to the finish (with Mainers edging him out this time) and that Billy had finally accomplished his elusive sub-17 goal.

With everyone settling into the post-race relaxation phase it was hard to get motivated to run the course again, but fortunately my trusty domestique was willing to perform pacing duties so away we went. Jordan had come up with the crazy idea of taking it easy on the downhill in an attempt to negative split the course, a task that seemed daunting to say the least. However, since he rarely steers me wrong (at least in running scenarios) I decided to give it a shot. It turned out to be for the best, since the first 400 meters were spent weaving in and out of the throngs of people gathered around the finish area. The rest of the first mile felt just slightly faster than regular pace and helped me recover enough to push the last two miles. Don't get me wrong; I was still deep in the hurt tank coming up Morehead, but with Jordan's help and the knowledge that my workout was nearly over I managed to split 5:49 for the final mile, the exact same split I'd recorded on that mile in the race. (Whether this says more about the tempo or the race is beside the point.) And, miraculously, I'd accomplished the goal of negative splitting the distinctly un-negative-splittable course. For that reason in itself I deemed the workout a success.

Unfortunately I couldn't stick around to pick up the mini-autographed Panthers helmet and goody bag at the awards ceremony, as I had to shower up and then head to work. Even so, I enjoyed the time spent at the race this morning with friends and appreciated the hospitable weather. Another Grand Prix race is in the books.