Sunday, April 15, 2012

BAA 5k Race Recap

2.5 mile w/u + strides
Target: 5k @16:50-59 and/or top 15
Actual: 17:10, 15th place
3 mile c/d
Total: ~9 miles

When Emily and I originally decided to run the BAA 5k a few weeks ago, we decided to approach it both as a hard, painful rustbuster and also as an opportunity to participate in marathon weekend without actually running the whole silly marathon. (This was a decision made long before the Marathon Monday weather forecast took on the life of its own that will now live in infamy, but as the weekend progressed that would only further reinforce the soundness of our thought process.) That said, I would be lying if I didn't admit that a large part of me was planning on swinging for the fences and setting a big road PR. After all, my training has been going well as of late, and if I'm hoping to throw down any remotely fast times on the track later this spring then I need to demonstrate some semblance of progress now.

I woke up early on Sunday morning feeling excited and energized but with a tinge of nervousness. For the upteenth time in the course of a few days, I realized how appreciate I was to Emily and Matt for hosting us at their house all weekend. To say they're conveniently located to the marathon festivities is a drastic understatement, as their front steps are less than two blocks away from the famed Boylston finish line. Since this landmark would also serve as the start and finish for today's 5k, that meant my transportation to and from the race would consist of little more than walking out the front door and trotting down the sidewalk for a few minutes. Long port-a-potty lines? Not a problem when your "hotel" is just as close as the nearest facilities and much less crowded.

To say, however, that the entire pre-race experience was stress free is omitting one tiny detail: Jordan forgot my race number. In the Airstream. Which was over at the Seaport Convention Center. To be fair, I'm the one who initially forgot it the day before after picking it up at the marathon expo. But after multiple texts and one phone call during which Jordan assured me he was putting the number in his bag, I didn't think twice about it. Fast forward to 7am on race morning, t-minus 60 minutes until go time, when I began quietly rummaging through Jordan's backpack while he slept off a beer or four in the bed beside me. After a few unsuccessful minutes, I nudged his groggy rat-tailed head and asked him to find it for me. Several frantic minutes and muttered expletives later, Jordan stumbled from the bed, hastily pulled on his speediest Karhus and sprinted out the door. He would be making the four mile round trip to and from the Airstream, hopefully with number in hand, in time to pin it on my kit and send me to the starting line in a little less than an hour. In contrast, I set off on a leisurely warm-up jog with Emily, forcing myself not to stress and reminding myself that Jordan excels at running while hungover. This is an underappreciated, but often quite useful, talent that would come in handy today.

Sure enough, less than five minutes before the start of the race and only two minutes after a heavily panting Jordan arrived with my bib, Emily and I squeezed through the dividers and wiggled our way to the front of the race. I immediately spotted several familiar faces, including my friend Kim Smith and my friend and former D2 rival Sarah Porter, but overall I was shocked by the sheer number of race participants and fans who had turned out. When my dad ran Boston in 2005 I joined him for the BAA 5k, but at the time I remember it being more of a lackadaisical fun run where we ambled around Boston Common and back. Nowadays it's serious business, with a legit elite field and prize purse on the line. I was starting to feel a bit out of my league, but fortunately Emily was there to remind me of our primary goals: run hard, run fast and enjoy the experience. As the gun sounded and we set off down Boylston Street into the morning sunshine, I felt nothing short of inspired.

No doubt it was that euphoric feeling, coupled with the breakneck speed at which the actual real elites sprinted off the starting line, that apparently caused my adrenaline-addled brain to convince my legs that they had only signed up for a mile race. If I had to put a conservative estimate on it, I'd say I charged through the first 400 meters at around five minute pace. When my legs finally got the memo that they had never, under any circumstances, actually run an entire mile--much less three consecutive miles--in five minutes, they immediately pulled back on the throttle. Unfortunately, the damage was already done. My fate was sealed by the time I hit the Boston Common hill toward the end of the first mile, a marker I passed in a 5:28 that felt far too labored. It was around this time that Esther Erb, a Zap Fitness athlete, came bounding past me. If you take a gander at the results and see how her finishing time differs drastically from mine, you'll understand how she, more than anyone else in the race, inadvertently taught me a lesson. Though I don't know her following two splits, they undoubtedly got faster from there thanks to her measured and conservative start, while I sputtered agonizingly backwards.

Unfortunately, thanks to my rookie tactical mistake, I didn't really enjoy the remaining 10 or so minutes as much as I'd hoped. I did hear a surprising number of passing cheers from people who actually knew me--Lauren and Jay Holder, Jocelyn Sikora, Betsy Burke, Chris "Gundy" Gunderson, Donna Sterns and my high school coach Tony Collins come to mind, though I know there were others--but I wasn't able to put on much of a show for them. I felt like I was crawling as we made the uphill turn onto Hereford Street before taking the final left onto Boylston. As I'm sure thousands of marathoners would realize the following day, that last stretch is a lot farther than it looks. I kicked for home for what seemed like an eternity, finally crossing the finish line in a decidedly underwhelming 17:10. Emily finished just a few steps behind me, quite impressive given her recent retirement (and subsequent un-retirement) from running. The flat course and stellar weather had primed many people for fast times today, but for whatever reason I was unable to capitalize on them. I didn't bomb, but I didn't achieve that highly sought after "breakthrough performance" either. Still, Emily and I accomplished the goals we set out for ourselves, and with an exciting Marathon Monday ahead of us and some freshly baked muffins awaiting our return there was little reason to dwell in disappointment.