Sunday, October 20, 2013

Witch City 5k

AM: 2 mile w/u
Target: win, don't get outkicked by old guy
Actual: 17:46, first female, second overall (to Jordan, not old guy)
1 mile c/d
Total: 6 miles
PM: 5 miles easy
Daily total: 11 miles

The 11th of 12 installments of the YMCA North Shore Race Series took place right here in Salem, starting at the Willows and essentially traversing the Thursday night Wicked 5k course. As per usual, Jordan and I were planning to set up the Karhu tent and also hop in the race. However, this particular event was going to be special because Jordan's dad was in town visiting and would be running his first 5k ever! A few months ago he asked Jordan to structure a run/walk program for him, which he has been following diligently, and when I discovered that this race was taking place the same weekend of his visit, I suggested he sign up. The stars were aligned for his first attempt at the distance.

Setting up our tent near the water, it quickly became apparent that yesterday's calm air had given way to a biting 20mph wind. We would essentially be running the first two-thirds of the course with it directly into our faces, then (theoretically) get a nice little boost for the last mile. On my short warmup with Jordan, my legs felt like bricks. Ever since Thursday they've been heavy and stiff, and I had struggled to maintain 7:30 pace on what should've been an easy 15-miler on the Boston course with Stef the day before. As Jordan took off on a few pickups during our warmup jog, I could only chuckle. At that moment, I honestly felt like running faster than 8-minute pace would be impossible.

We returned to our tent to peel down to our racing costumes and had to laugh as Jordan's dad walked up. Having just arrived from 90-degree Palm Springs 12 hours prior, he was bundled up in not one, but two long-sleeve cotton race shirts plus two other long sleeve tops. Ever the vigilant Craft rep (and embarrassed son), Jordan quickly dug through the inventory in his car and produced a Be Active Extreme baselayer. Gary was sternly advised that he could pick one other piece to put on top of it, not a race shirt (first sign of a noob!), and he was sent toward the starting line much lighter and leaner than he'd originally planned. As we all queued up, it seemed as though Jordan's victory would be all but guaranteed. There were a few younger guys up front who also seemed fit, as well as some familiar faces from previous YMCA races, but I was relieved to realize that I probably wouldn't have to go to the well.

We took off at what felt like a sprint, likely due to a combination of the cold wind, my slight wine hangover and, well, the fact that my legs already felt like crap. Within the first 400 meters it was obvious that Jordan was going to sail away unchallenged, and I found myself eyeing the two younger guys who had started out a few steps ahead. Suddenly, out of nowhere, an older gentleman whom I've seen at other YMCA races popped to the front of the group and easily put a few strides on us. We split the mile in 5:40--not fast, but a near miracle given my dead legs--and I summarily dropped the two younger guys, but my gray-haired nemesis continued to push the pace. For the next 10 minutes I kept expecting him to pull away from me, but instead he seemed content to maintain a five meter gap. With 400 meters to go, I pulled up alongside and then found another gear to put some distance between us. It's embarrassing how relieved I was, but I knew Jordan would never let me live it down if things ended differently.

As soon as I crossed the line, Jordan and I began jogging the course in reverse to find Gary. We spotted him just past the two-mile marker, looking fresh and strong (and not the least bit cold!) while maintaining his run/walk intervals. We trotted along next to him for the final mile until I darted across to the finish to snap this great father-son shot. It was fun for Jordan and I to finish 1-2 overall, but I'm way more proud of Gary for embracing the challenge of his first 5k and then absolutely hitting it out of the park. It's never too late to become a runner!