Headed to Wolfe's Neck Farm in Freeport yesterday for the Wolfe's Neck Trek 5k to test the waters, so to speak. And, while it went well, I'm not really sure I learned what I wanted. I was hoping to use this race as a measuring stick to see just exactly where I am. Unfortunately, the course had other ideas. I knew from running at Wolfe's Neck a lot in college, that the terrain was going to be primarily dirt road, but we ran on more of the campground roads than I expected and the singletrack was much more rugged than I remembered. I was really looking forward to racing here, 1.) because I was actually able to get my sleep deprived butt to the starting line and 2.) Wolfe's Neck is the site of my "8k" PR. 8k is in quotes because the course we ran that day was definitely short, and it was the first race of my junior year in a dual meet. That should give you an idea of the success I had during my college career...but I digress.
Once I realized that the course was two loops, not one (Thanks, Val!), I went out for my warm up on the course. Pre-race I was debating road shoes vs. trail shoes. I went with my trail shoes, and that was definitely the right call. The main dirt road in front of the farm was plenty firm enough and close to pavement, but the roads through the campground were a lot softer. The singletrack section, while short—quarter of a mile maybe, was rugged: lots of roots, steep up and downs and two slippery bridges. Additionally, the campground roads are very twisty and had quite a lot of leaf cover. In short, that all added up to a lot of fun, but not particularly fast, even though it's fairly flat. Subconsciously, I realized this on my warm up, but didn't think much of it on my easy one lap tour.
As the race started, I settled into a comfortable pace after weaving through the usual cast of characters that sprint for the first 50 yards. I was in about 12th, and feeling very relaxed. I tucked in behind a couple guys through on windy spot, and stayed behind them as we reached the singletrack. Even though there were only a handful of people in front of me, we still bottlenecked. I was clearly more comfortable on this section than everyone around me, but I had no reason to not play nice. Plus, it was such a short section I just hung tight and stayed relaxed. Once back on the campground road, it started to feel like a race, but I was still focused on staying relaxed. I went through the first lap, 2.5k, in 11:04. This split was a shock. I was running way too hard for it to be that slow.
The second lap hurt. Shortly into the lap, one guy passed me, but I was able to stick with him into the singletrack. I closed the gap in the singletrack, but once back on the road he started to pull away. My upper body was starting to tighten up: back, shoulders, arms. Not good times. As the road through the campground makes it way back up to the farm, there is a slight uphill. It was slight, but it hurt. At one point the road takes a sharp left, then right. I ran hard through these corners in the hopes of putting some distance between me and my closest pursuer, even just for a psychological edge. It didn't work. In the last 400 meters, a small child blew past me. OK, he was fourteen, and I tried hard not to laugh. I definitely laughed on the inside. His head was titled way back, and it was clear he had spent all fall running high school cross country. The last time I ran 400-meter repeats he was probably just learning to walk, so I knew I couldn't hang with him. I heard a loud, "Go Snowman!!!" (Thanks again, Val!) and tried to stay strong through the finish.
I finished in 11th place out of 106, 3rd in my age group, in 22:47—results here. (That's an impressive positive split.) Post-race, everyone was astonished at their times. No one could believe how slow they were. One guy I spoke with after the race had raced the 10k in Freeport last weekend, and he noted that his 5k split from the 10k was faster. So, I wasn't alone. Looking at the results, my per mile pace is listed as 6:54. A 22:47 5k works out to 7:20 per mile, but 6:54 pace is correct if the race is 3.3 miles. So, my guess is that the course was not only slow, but also long. Either way, the course was fun and the race was well organized. And, the setting us beautiful—you run right along the ocean. I hope it fits into my schedule next year.
It was also great to see Trail Monster Linda as well. She ran great and had a really strong finish. And, once again, thanks to Val for cheering.
As far as using this race at a litmus test, I'm not sure I got what I wanted. The vagaries of the course make it tough to have any definitive conclusions. That being said, overall, I'm pleased. Aside from strides following 2 of my last 3 runs, I've done nothing to help myself run fast. (No surprise I got outkicked.) With some creative math, I can probably come up with some numbers for workouts and goals, etc. But, not quite yet. I should have a better idea after the Feaster Five. I'm just not sure if I'm going to run the 5-mile or the 5k. We'll see.
Today, I did an easy 3-mile recovery run. Aside from a little extra tightness in my hamstrings, no complaints. I felt better with each step. Onward.