Tuesday, November 25, 2008

ARR Thanksgiving Classic 5k

Race Report: ARR Thanksgiving Classic 5k by Chad Sayban.

At 5am, long before the break of dawn, I awoke to the sound of heavy rain and lightning. Oooff. Not exactly the conditions I was hoping for. But after 12 years of living in the desert, I have learned that storms have a way of ending abruptly here. Besides, I was going to run the race in anything short of the aforementioned lightning and I figured it wouldn't last long. It were still three hours until the start.

After a quick shower, I dressed in several layers of gear. I wasn't sure what the conditions would be so I wanted to be prepared for whatever nature would throw at me. I ate a Clif Bar and a bottle of Gatorade and headed out into the wet morning.

It rained some on the way to the Peoria Sports Complex, but by the time I got there it had stopped. In fact, as I got out of the car, there were broken clouds overhead and clearing skies to the west. The weather looked promising.

The race includes a 10-mile, a 5k and a 1-mile walk and has been around for more than 30 years, so it draws a big crowd. One of the great parts about having it at one of the spring training stadiums is that there is plenty of parking and full use of the stadium bathrooms. No porta potties needed at this race. I collected my race number, chip and t-shirt and headed back to my car. I had my race singlet, shorts, gloves and arm warmers as I began my warmup. I ran a mile and stretched. By the time I finished, I realized that I wasn't going to need anything other than the singlet and shorts. It was in the mid-50s and plenty warm enough. In fact, it was just about perfect with very little breeze. The 10-milers were sent off at 8 sharp and I did some strides during the 15-minutes before our start.

The race

The gap across the starting mat was pretty narrow with such a large crowd of runners (632 finishers), but it opened up onto a wide road. I staged myself near the front to get through it quickly and then went wide and found my pace. The first half mile is on one of the roads leading into the main complex and then out briefly to 75th Avenue. New this year, the 5k route didn't follow the 10-mile along the paved path. Instead, it turned and run along the packed dirt next to the canal. Fortunately, the rain hadn't made it too soft. We probably lost a little time on this mile and a half long stretch, but not too much. I knew I was pushing a pretty fast pace for my current fitness as I hit the first mile mark.

Mile 1: 7:27

Yep, even faster than my fastest quarter mile intervals to date. I knew I couldn't hold this pace the whole way, especially since I knew we had a gradual uphill waiting on the way back. We had a small pack of runners at the turnaround, but I ended up in front of all of them. I don't know if I have some special talent for getting back up to speed faster than other runners, but this seems to happen whenever there is a change of direction in a race (see my last race report where I left a large group behind at the top of a steep hill.) We headed back and I saw the huge groups of people still headed towards the turnaround. I wanted to make sure they all remained comfortably behind me.

Mile 2: 7:43

I knew I had slowed from the first mile pace, but I ended up slowing a bit more than I anticipated. I was still under what I needed to hit my goal of sub-24 minutes, but it was closing up quickly and I was now fighting to maintain as we came back out on to the pavement. There were two runners who were passing others right in front of me and I mentally latched on to them, letting them pull me along. I would eventually pass them both near the end, but for now I was happy to let them drag me towards the finish. It was at this point that we began the long circle around the stadium, which includes about a half mile of steady incline. I dug down and tried to find whatever was left to maintain pace. I passed a bunch of fading runners as I spotted the 3-mile marker and accelerated.

Mile 3: 7:52

I passed my two leaders and a couple of others who couldn't respond to my late surge. As I came up on the finish, there were a few of the 1-mile walkers. Right at the line one of them decided to cut right across in front of me and I nearly wiped out both of us on the slick pavement. Fortunately, I tap danced past her and finished.

Mile 3.1: :43

Official Race Time: 23:46 (7:39 pace)
104 out of 632, 10 out of 39 in AG

In all, a really good race for me. I don't think I could have done anything more with my current fitness. The average pace for 3.1mile was the same as my interval pace for 1/4 miles a week before. I will get faster. I have a solid training plan and as I continue to lose weight, my speed will increase and my fitness will get better.

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