I won't lie, on Friday, I was considering making this a DNS as I was hacking up my lung, trying to clear it of, well you know, stuff, after my cold this week. Lung power is something I need for this 5K distance. I've made great improvements over the years at this distance. Last year, I raced in three and broke sub-20 minutes in all, two of them in hot and humid days.
For me, a primarily long distance runner, the 5K requires a strong uptake of oxygen, good leg turnover and just the mental strength to hang in there. Any disruption of my breathing, by mucus or anything, wouldn't let me work at full intensity. I ran 20K on Saturday through the hills of Burlington and I had to slow down several times to clear my chest.
Anyhow, this morning, I woke up and started coughing again in the bathroom and R. told me I sounded bad. A few hours later, I did a 200 metre jog out my front door to the start line near by. Didn't feel too good. I met my friend Tom (who did fantastic at the race, a sub 21 5K) and I told him I'd do a feel striders. I returned and said 'no, today's not the day'. I had leg speed, but my lungs/chest were not operating normally. I told Tom about my game plan. Go for fast first kilometre, if that went well, maintain that for the second, 'hang on for dear life' in the next two, then bring it home in the final bit. If not, then run it at a tempo pace and aim for a slower time.
That aside, it was a perfect day. About 6C and sunny with slight wind. I still gathered near the front of the start.
1K: A crowded start, had to hold back because of a crowd, but that's actually good cause we're always tending to start out fast. There's an incline here so after 400 metres, you start gaining on those who are out of their speed league. This is followed by a downhill up Spadina Ave. I checked my watch at the 1K split and it was sub 4 minutes. Okay, not a surprise. Split was about 3:52
2K: A lot of corners and already I was beginning to feel it in my lungs. I selected a runner ahead of me and decided to not lose him, he seemed to be going strong. In another race, I would have turned it up just a bit once I found my stride, but it was just not happening. And so early in the race, I was looking up at the sky trying to ignore the spectators and other runners. Not good. I think this was a slower kilometre (my GPS went wonky recording a 3:45 kilometre, I knew it was slower than that)
3K: From the 2K to the turnaround, I was gaining a little confidence from the people I was passing. I had the choice to pace off these slowing runners or not. A girl who went pass me after the 2nd kilometre was in sight so I targetted her. I avoided the water station and took a wide curve and quickly spun around, shaking another runner. I'm learning to run corners after these years. Split in about 4:08
4K: This was the 'hang in there' kilometre. I was hurting but because this was an out and back, I could see all the runners behind me and I just kept on asking myself to keep on strong. I was not losing ground to runners ahead of me. I caught and passed the girl I was tracking but she passed me 400 metres later with a burst of speed. I knew halfway through this kilometre that I could keep up a strong pace through the rest of the race. Whether it would mean sub-20 was another matter. Split in 4:04
5K: The last kilometre starts with the killer hill and I charged up it -- I love this hill and yesterday's training in Burlington reminded me on how to run it. I passed a few runners, hit the top and was ready for the gradual downhill to the end. With about 600 metres to go, I saw the watch and I knew that it was close, that I could still hit sub 20 so I turned it on. I would have started the kick earlier but I knew I wouldn't have much gas at the finish so I held back.. Probably a bad idea. Picked it up and kicked it up near the end, saw R., waved (which probably in the end lost me that one second!) and then kicked it higher. I actually saw the clock switch 19:58, 19:59.. as I was reaching it so I knew it was mighty close.
Hit the finish in 20:01 watch time, which was confirmed by me chip time. Amazing that I missed sub-20 by 2 seconds, probably even less. I would probably be disappointed by this if I were chasing the 19:xx time but I'm not. For me, this 20:01 was earned through a cold (and probably run when I shouldn't have) and with four days off running. I think this run tells me that my potential to do the distance in that time is still there, or that my experience gained in running allows me to pull off that time, something I wouldn't have done a few years ago.
I love this race because it includes free beer, chili, cookies and a box of Lucky Charms. St. Patrick's Day indeed.
Overall: 66/1339 (95 percentile)
Gender: 61/578 (89.4 percentile)
Age group: 21/199 (89.4 percentile)