Funny how things go from blah to okay. Must be the race-day magic factor. Ran a few miles to the race site and was not really feeling up to racing. Felt out of sorts. 30 minutes later, I was excited, raring to go. That is the funny thing about racing. It brings out the competitive spirit and ignites.
I stood there in the final minutes before the countdown when I bumped into Lee, Fran and another fellow runner. I love how the beginning of a race now feels like walking down your neighbourhood, if you actually run into friends in your neighbourhood.
We talked about the next race, about the cloud that was coming, and on what paces we would embark on. Me, marathon pace, then see. Lee, the same (though his marathon pace is something to behold). And Fran was doing the 5K but thought about turning around.
In the first kilometre, I reminded myself to hold myself back, favour the knee that complains on one day and is seemingly fine the next (it was whispering uneasiness, and I chose to listen at time). I thought today's mantra would be: pace, then race.
Pace, then race has been pretty much the way I've done this race in the past. I run the first half at marathon pace then lower the hammer for the last half. I treat it as a combo pace run with tempo end. It's given me weird times (fastest was 1:09:29 two years ago and a 1:15:48 in 2007).
Now my marathon pace is a little slower, I didn't worry about hitting those 4:30s and settled for 4:35s. So that was the goal: Go for 4:35s then if it felt right, then go for 4:20s for the last 6 kilometres.
I joked to Fran and Lee that 'there are 5Ker among us' which meant don't go out too fast. We were lucky that we had cloud cover for the beginning but that didn't last. It wasn't as hot as it had been in the past week but it was still warm.
The pace felt fine. I was not hurting at all, in fact, it felt pretty comfortable (as it should). That was a good sign. Because I did not go out too fast, I had a pretty large group of runners ahead of me. In fact, there was a line of runners for a pretty far stretch. I hadn't seen that in a while. I knew not to worry too much, and that if I kept a steady fast pace, I would reel them in if they had gone out too fast.
First 5K went pretty well. I was trying to run by feel and by pacing with people around me, making sure that if runners were slowing down that I would pick it up. I took water and Gatorade at the stops and was happy to see a misting tent.
We ran into the spit: not my favourite place to run, I only go there on ocassion when I'm doing a long run and want to burn off some miles. Air is suffocating at times, very little shade and no water fountains.
By this time, the running groups were breaking up. I found myself, as in other races, running alone trying to catch up to another group. It's simply the only way to race if everyone around you is slowing. As you can see from the splits, I wasn't really going much faster than my average but I was gaining ground. A few other runners gained on me, but I caught some of them later on.
Reached the half way point at around 37:19. My 5K to 7K splits were not on target. I realize looking back that I really wasn't checking my splits, I was just concentrating on keeping decent form, not losing any major pace and saving some energy for the second half.
In past years, I decided to lower the hammer for tempo speed for after the 8K mark, but I knew that I was pretty warm and I maybe would have risked overheating. So after the half, I decided just to run strong and do a little bit of racing. Most of the last half I spent passing people, not by major bursts.
Was pretty happy with some of these splits. Was feeling strong and comfortable as much as running in heat can give you. I sipped on Gatorade and water that I brought with me in between stops and they were a major boost. Also ducked back under the misting tent when other runners didn't. That gave me an idea for the last bit.
The last three or so kilometers were pretty fun. I was with a few guys and I decided to relax and just do pace for a bit, trying to get under whatever shade I could find. At the second last water stop, I dumped water over me. Felt awesome. Then I realized that maybe that would get me through the end. At the last stop, I took another cup over my head and cool water spilled on to my back and front of my singlet. A little more water than I wanted, but it had an immediate cooling effect. Kept up the pace and went on hunting for more.
Great last kilometer, where I finally hit tempo pace. Hit the end at 1:13:42. I was pretty happy with the result. I could have gone out more aggressive.
First half: 37:07
Second half: 36:35
Pace: 4:33 kilometres (7:19 miles)