The race started at 6:30 PM at US Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox. Time was short after work and I needed to do race-day packet pickup. Plus, I hadn't laid out any of my race gear in advance. This resulted in me rushing home from the office, smashing a protein bar into my mouth, stuffing a gear bag together, and tearing my dresser drawers apart trying to decide at the last minute what to wear. Nothing like being prepared, eh?
In connection with the White Sox, whose team colors are black and white, I opted to wear black shorts and a black tank top. I hopped into my car and made the quick trek down to 35th Street. Parking in the ballpark stadium lots was a cinch. I love races like this with easy logistics!
We've been having an unseasonably cool summer, and Tuesday night was no exception. The temps were in the mid to upper 60s and it was breezy and overcast. Zenaida texted me before the race and said that we should go for PRs tonight! I cautiously agreed.
On my way to packet pickup, I ran into Amanda and Melanie. We chatted for a bit and took a prerace photo:
|From L to R: me, Melanie, and Amanda|
Packet pickup was a breeze. I dropped my belongings off at gear check, which was also a breeze. Then I went off on my own to do a one-mile warm up, adding some acceleration gliders at the end. My legs were a little sore from an intense yoga sculpt class the day before, but otherwise I felt pretty good.
Time to line up. I ran into Zenaida at the starting line. Shortly afterwards, we saw that Melanie was standing right behind us. Yay for pre-race company!
Zenaida's coach had instructed her to take things a little easier tonight, and Melanie was dealing with some hamstring issues. As soon as the race began, we all went out at our own paces.
After starting out so many 5Ks too quickly and then crashing and burning at the end, I wanted to work on running even splits. I focused on trying to do an average per-mile pace of 8:20. If done successfully, this would result in a PR. During the first mile, I told myself to keep things steady. The first quarter mile or so was crowded, but the runners spread out fairly quickly.
|Runners in front of the US Cellular Field welcome sign|
(Photo from the Strike Out ALS 5K website)
I had studied the course map in advance. It was filled with turns and back-and-forths. (Unfortunately the map is no longer available on the race website, otherwise I would have shared a copy of it here.) I put forth a very strong effort to run the tangents. Since there were so many turns, this took some concentration. It seemed like as soon as I rounded one turn, it was time to work my way over towards the tangent on the next turn.
My Garmin was indicating that my pace was right on target during the first mile. As I was approaching the Mile 1 marker, I realized that I hadn't turned off the autolap function on my Garmin. While still trying to maintain my pace, I fumbled to changed my Garmin to the manual lap setting. Almost immediately afterwards, I passed the Mile 1 marker and hit the manual lap button. Mile 1 was done in 8:20. PERFECT!
|Runners charging along the course|
(Photo from the Strike Out ALS 5K website)
I was feeling really good. My breathing was comfortable, and my stride was fluid. Hitting 8:20 exactly on the nose buoyed me even more. I started thinking, "Oh my goodness - I could PR today! I could actually do this today!"
Very early into Mile 2, I looked down and saw that my Garmin was indicating a pace of about 9:00. I thought for sure that it was wrong. My pace hadn't felt like it had dropped off at all, especially not to that extent. I figured that maybe switching to the manual lap function had thrown something off? I didn't dwell on it. I just kept going at what I felt was the same pace.
|Runners passing some of the US Cellular Field statues|
(Photo from the Strike Out ALS 5K website)
I was still feeling really good. As it turns out, there was a reason for this and I was feeling TOO good. I saw the Mile 2 marker from a distance. I glanced down at my watch and realized that my elapsed time was higher than what it should have been. My Garmin had been right all along (darn it!)
I did Mile 2 in 9:02 and was displeased. How could such a significant drop in pace feel so completely unnoticeable to me? Usually I'm really good at being able to tell when I've slowed down, haha.
Thankfully, this didn't faze me. When I am running a 5K for time, I am generally gritting my teeth by the time I enter the third mile. Not this day. Plus, I was looking forward to an upcoming portion of the course which lapped the warning track on the US Cellular playing field.
I started trying to push the pace a little more. We were starting to see some of the front-runners now looping their way back to the finish line. Into the stadium we went. While circling the playing field, I did my best to try to enjoy the surroundings and observe the scenery while still running those tangents.
|This is NOT a picture from race night, but it gives a sense of what it looked like to the runners at field level.|
I knew that after we exited the field, that the finish line was not too much farther away. It was getting windier and it was starting to rain, so that jolted me to keep trying to push the pace.
I finished Mile 3 in 8:18. Around the corner, and there was the finish line. I completed the final 0.1 mile in 0.48.
|(Photo from the Strike Out ALS 5K website)|
Immediately after crossing the finish line, there were two computers set up where you could enter your bib number and get a printout of your results. My bib number was 465. But, since I was challenged in reading my bib upside down, I first entered 495. This gave me a printout with some random guy's name who hadn't even finished the race yet. I was about to complain to one of the volunteers about the inaccuracy of the results. But then I realized my mistake. =) I got back in line to try again and this time, I got it right.
My printout showed that my final time was 26:28, which was right in line with my Garmin. But... my printout also showed that I had placed first in my age group.
Who wins their age group with a time of 26:28? That HAD to have been a mistake. Either that or, my age group must have been really small. And when I say small, I mean really, REALLY small. As in, I wondered if perhaps I was the only person in my entire age group?
I found Amanda and Melanie again. We also ran into Eric briefly. His results indicated that he had also placed in his age group. (THAT I had no trouble believing, given how speedy Eric is!) We went back to claim our bags at gear check. Then we went to check out the post-race party. This year, in lieu of broadcasting the MLB All-Star game on the Jumbotron, the post-race festivities were taking place at the ChiSox Bar and Grill, which was connected to the stadium.
|From L to R: me, Melanie, and Amanda in front of the entrance to the ChiSox Bar and Grill|
|Melanie, Amanda, and me in front of the outdoor seating area at the ChiSox Bar and Grill|
Here are some pictures of the post-race party festivities in full swing both outside and inside the bar:
Amanda, Melanie, and I chatted for a bit and walked around the party. Then I went to go find Zenaida, who was inside the bar with some other friends.
|Zenaida and me|
While we were there hanging out, Kim McIver (the race director) came by to tell us that the awards ceremony was going to be starting shortly. I showed her the printout of my race results and asked if I had really won my age group. She consulted some papers and confirmed it!
To quote the great Haray Caray:
What a thrill it was to receive personal recognition at the awards ceremony! This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime honor for me. To illustrate, I looked at the times for the females one age group younger and one age group older than mine. The winning times: 22:50 and 23:27, respectively. So I obviously squeaked in on a statistical anomaly of the greatest proportions, ever. (Maybe I should have bought some lottery tickets last night?!?)
I used to dread the 5K race distance as my least-favorite race distance. But, the experience of feeling so good during this race in tandem with receiving this honor (even if I didn't deserve it) has completely changed my whole outlook on 5Ks!
Admittedly, I am discontented with myself for zoning out/ignoring my Garmin and not running a more even split in Mile 2. I know I could have done better. But I am fired up to go for it next time!
Now I am genuinely excited about running more 5Ks in the future. Bring on the paradigm shift. =)
My next race: the Esprit de She 10K on July 24