|Post-race coffee club (L to R: ER, TPP, SIOR)|
After many months of resisting the call of competition, I returned to racing at the Jingle All the Way 5K in Seaford today. Joining me on this chilly morning were fellow Runsketeers SIOR and TPP, both of whom finished first in their age groups. The early results showed TPP at #1 and SIOR in the top three, but later she was bumped up to first as well. I'm sure there was no bribery involved in that decision. Well, pretty sure.
I didn't podium, but I had my best race performance in a year, finishing 5th in my division. This meant something to me, because my performance has suffered since January and I'd lost confidence in my ability to attain a credible pace (even on a 5K). There's still room for improvement compared to past years, but I did beat my expected time by over a minute.
I arrived at Cedar Creek Park in Seaford around 8:00 AM and missed the registration area as I drove through the park. I ended up parking about a quarter mile away because I saw a group of people, some of them running, and figured that was it. That turned out to be a soccer game, but I was quickly redirected by some kind spectators and made my way to check-in.
I dropped off my toy (the event is sponsored by the John Theissen Children's Foundation), got my number and found SIOR. She and I headed back to my car so I could store my jacket and affix my bib number. Unfortunately, the package contained no pins, so I ended up back at registration to get some. Along the way, we ran into TPP who was doing a warm-up jog and the reunited Runsketeers all headed toward the start.
This race is fairly small, with only 222 people participating, but they did a nice job, including placing wood burning stoves where you could toast marshmallows (and keep warm in the 30° temps). The downside of that was the possibility of smoke inhalation. After they played the national anthem, we were ushered toward the road for the start. I got a fairly forward position because there was no timing pad at the starting line and I wanted my net and gun time to be as close as possible.
That position probably helped me overall today, because I kept up with many people for the first mile, which turned out to be my fastest. The course itself is not that interesting. It's a lollipop-shaped route with a turnaround at the bottom of the "stick." Heading toward the turnaround, I first spotted SIOR among the leaders. Not long after that I saw TPP and soon rounded the bend to start my way back to the top.
My biggest concern about this race was being able to hold a brisk pace for the duration. Even though it's not a long distance, I've done very little to prepare for prolonged running intensity. Last weekend I played a bit with speed, but suffered some glute, hamstring or sciatica pain afterward. I decided to push harder than I normally would on a training run and see how it turned out. The course was relatively flat, but there were some elevated sections, including one that had us running directly into the wind.
Once I got to the circular part of the route I knew I had only about a mile to go. I maintained my speed, but didn't overdo it. Had I looked at the Garmin, I may have upped the effort enough to make up the 25 seconds I needed to average in the 8 minute range. As I got closer to the finish, I saw TPP's boyfriend JC who was on his bike, cheering us on. JC shouted some words of encouragement as I passed by and I soon entered the finish chute where I saw TPP and SIOR watching and cheering me in.
JC left to do a two hour bike ride (he's a hardcore triathlete) and SIOR and TPP located a Starbucks for our traditional post-run coffee break. SIOR was taking her daughter and her friends into NYC for an important birthday (13) so she needed to leave first. TPP and I hung out and caught up for a while before we headed off to start the non-race portion of our day.
I'm very pleased with today's result and proud of my buddies who led their age groups. I checked to see what I needed to pace to have podium-ed today and saw that there was a lot of distance between my finish time and the third place runner. I'm going to have a low mileage week but that's okay. I wanted to give my "injury" time to heal. I did feel soreness during the race, but it was minor.
Tomorrow I'll do some easy miles. The weather is supposed to be warmer and I'm looking forward to a nice recovery run. I'm not sure if I'll race again before January, but at least I'm back in the game.