Sunday, March 10, 2013

St. Patty's Day 8k Race Recap

4 mile w/u + strides
Target: 8k @27:45 or faster
Actual: 27:42; 2nd place female
4 mile c/d
Total: 13 miles

I've widely stated my view that DC is the best urban running scene in the country, and this race is a great example of that point. For a few hours on a beautiful, crisp, clear Sunday morning, the most important street in the world was closed down just so I (and about 6,000 other people) could enjoy the privilege of toeing the line to a breathtaking view of our United States Capitol building at sunrise. 

In an unprecedented turn of events, I was actually in DC not for work but for--dare I say it--a Nedlo family vacation. My parents, along with dad's running partner Tim and wife Pam, were touring the District for spring break, and it took little convincing to persuade me to join them for a few days. Given my affinity for and familiarity with the area, I was happy to act as the de facto tour guide and share some of my favorite sights/sites. The fact that the St. Patty's Day 8k would be taking place the same weekend was just an added bonus. As it happens, I was in town the same weekend two years ago and not only ran the 8k but also the Four Courts Four Miler the day before. (And, in a completely unrelated coincidence, developed a wicked case of ITBS the day after.) I briefly entertained the idea of pulling the double again this year, but luckily nature intervened in the form of another delightful spring snowstorm and postponed my Friday night flight to Saturday morning. Fortunately I arrived to DC at noon on Saturday and was greeted with perfectly clear blue skies and temperatures in the low 60s--perfect for soaking up the sun and touring around the Mall all afternoon. I capped off the night with a quick trip to Jilane's and a visit to Ted's Bulletin for a few of their homemade pop tarts before returning to my parents' hotel and settling in for the night.

Blueberry cheesecake, peanut butter bacon, Nutella many tasty options!

Like the previous day, race morning dawned with the promise of clear blue skies and perfectly crisp temperatures. I jogged down to Freedom Plaza, location of the start and finish area, and literally the first person I bumped into was fellow Charlotte expat and former CRC member Brian McMahon. We chatted for a few minutes before setting off on our respective warmup routines, and before I knew it the time had come to toe the line. I was more than a little nervous, having not raced anything this "short" in quite a while and with the bad taste of my Mercedes Half debacle still fresh in my mouth. To make matters worse, my secret hopes of surprising all the locals and charging triumphantly through the tape were dashed when I spotted Claire Hallissey, DC resident and 2:27 British Olympic marathoner, standing a few feet away. Clearly I would be striving for runner-up at best. 

In the beginning, however, the lead seemed somewhat within reach. Either Claire was starting off conservatively or I was going way, way too fast. Both scenarios would inevitably yield the same outcome, but the latter had the potential to hurt a hell of a lot more. As I passed the first mile marker in 5:28, just a few steps behind Claire, the answer was still unclear. This was slightly faster than I'd planned, but not so outrageous as to result in certain implosion. Once we reached the first 180-degree cone turn--of which there would be five throughout the race, barring this from being labeled a truly "fast" course despite its near pancake-flat topography--she no doubt saw that a stranger was relatively close behind and decided to hasten her jogging pace. She powered away decisively and I was never in contention again.

But if it turned out that the former scenario--Claire taking the race out at a relaxed effort--were true, so too might be the possibility that I was in over my head. After a first mile that was arguably a touch too quick, I summarily dispelled all debate by splitting 10:50 for miles two and three. For you mathematicians out there, this breakneck tempo had me careening through 5k somewhere in the neighborhood of 17:01. My 5k road PR is 17:05. On the one hand, this unexpected development could be considered a cause for rejoicing. On the other, more rational and realistic hand, the race was barely halfway over. Not unexpectedly, the fourth mile got pretty ugly. I'm embarrassed to say how close this mile was to six minutes, but shame is a powerful motivator--powerful enough, at least, to force me to somehow pull it together and cover the final .97 miles somewhere in the vicinity of 5:30. The final 10 minutes of this race were some of the more painful in recent memory, but with Claire out of sight and no other women threatening for second I was able to use the men nearby to drag me down Pennsylvania Avenue all the way  the finish line, which I crossed in just over 27:40. I hung around the finishing chute to see my dad and Tim come through in impressive fashion before setting off on a wonderful solo cooldown around the Mall. 

Objectively, despite a suicidal early pace I would consider this a solid effort. I bested my 8k PR by over 30 seconds and ran almost a full two minutes faster than at this race in 2011. (Although, in defense of past me, I was probably a little bit less fresh having raced the four miler on Saturday.) Incidentally, I credit my result almost entirely to the Ted's Bulletin pop tart, seeing as its pre-race consumption had the same positive effect at the Army 10 Miler, and I might just have to pay Jilane to overnight one to me before every race going forward. With the BAA 5k coming up in just over a month and a soft PR that I now have no excuse not to shatter, I may need to call in that favor sooner than later.


Unknown said...

NICE PR!!! How was this not on Facebook?? Great work.

Jilane said...

Behold the power of the Ted's pop tart!