I kept it close to home this weekend, really close. The start line of the Save Our Swinging Bridge 5k is only 1.5 miles from my house, so I figured there was no reason to not give it a try.
I've never run a race from my house before. On the surface, you'd think it would make things extremely easy, but in reality, it was somewhat stressful. Normally, I just throw a whole mess of stuff into a giant bag, throw said bag into the car and go. With the giant bag, I'm guaranteed to have everything I need at the race. With the race starting only 1.5 miles from my house, there was no way I was going to drive to the race. So, I put a couple items in a small backpack and ran to the race as part of my warm up. But, before I could head out the door, I had about 2 hours of daddy duty. D was off kicking ass for 20 miles at Pineland, and her parents offered to babysit while I was racing. I'm not going to get into the gory details, but there was A LOT of screaming because she didn't want to nap, an english muffin that nearly burned the house down, and a burnt finger rescuing our home from the same english muffin. By the time my in-laws arrived, I had battled The Girl to a nap, but I was pretty frazzled. It was a huge relief to get out the door.
After a relaxing run down to the race registration, I grabbed my number and finally started thinking about racing. Of course, as I started thinking about racing, it seemed that every one I saw looked fast. Or at least faster than me anyway. I hate it when that happens. I did another mile or so to keep the blood flowing, a few strides and headed for the start line. It was a bit disappointing to see that only 43 people showed up to race. I knew it would be a small race, but I didn't expect it to be that small.
I took my place on the front row, said "Hello" to the official starter, my former college coach, and we were off. After 300 yards, I settled into a pace that was uncomfortably comfortable, and soon found myself in seventh place. Before I knew it, the top 4 were pretty far ahead and 5th place was pulling away. The guy in sixth was being dragged by his dog, which nearly took out the top two guys in the first 100 yards, but he dropped his phone, and that was the end of him. Yup, uncontrollable dog and a smashed phone...smart.
A word on the course: that sucker is hilly. In fact, the entire second mile is basically uphill. Granted, the third mile is mostly downhill, but the consensus from all the runners is that this is a tough course. Next time I run a 5k, it's going to be flat. I really want to find out how fast I can go right now. You know, without any actual speedwork.
I was sixth heading over the Swinging Bridge (you can't save it, unless you run over it), and I knew that the seventh place guy was right behind me. Up a small bump, around a nearly hairpin turn, down a touch and up a big hill. I ran this hill fairly hard, and that was the last of seventh place. I could see the guys up ahead, but I never really got any closer. No mile markers on the course, but I knew approximately where they were. I hit two miles and thought "OK, two miles time to assess and see how it all...wait a minute! I only have a mile left! Run, you idiot!" I guess I forgot it was only 5k. The end of the race closes with a steep downhill, and frankly, it hurt. Stupid roads. I crossed the line in 19:48, good enough for sixth overall and first in my age group.
My goals going into the race were to break 20:00 and win my age group. Looking at last year's results, I figured that was realistic. Mission accomplished. That being said, I'm not entirely happy. I wimped out at the beginning. I should have gone with the top guys, but right now, I just don't have the confidence to take a risk. I ran well, but I didn't run great. I might be fitter than I think. I just have to realize that. One thing's for sure: snowshoe racing has definitely gotten me comfortable redlining. I was going pretty hard after the two-mile point, and I was able to maintain it through the finish. Of course, it's not like I've been doing any 5k training, so all in all, it was a good day. I would definitely like to come back to this race next year. I know I'll be back to one part of the course, anyway, as I'm planning to use one of the hills as part of my hill workouts for Mt. Washington. Yup, the course was that hilly.