Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Race Report: Cleveland Oktoberfest 5K Bier Run

So it's been since I was a 20-something since I raced...seriously raced a 5K. Back in the late 90s, I'd head to downtown Norfolk, Virginia and do speedwork with the crowd from the only specialty running store in the area, Running Etc., and was introduced to speedwork sessions like "Yasso 800s," ladder runs, tempo runs, fartleks, etc. I ran all kinds of 5Ks, 10Ks, 1 mile races, etc. Those were the days when I knew no better...e.g. not a clue what ultra-running nor trail running was. :-) Jump ahead to my "year of the 40" and I run because I love it, enjoy it, and truly embody the commonly heard phrase "Run Happy." If I don't enjoy it, then I probably won't do it. However, curiosity and an invite from a good friend, Nicole, had me consider a Labor Day 5K. Back in the late 90s, I ran a 19:41 5K. That's somewhere around a 6min, 21sec average pace. That's my PR, I believe. (personal record) In this current day, I don't do those speed workouts anymore but instead just "run hard" time and again when I feel like it, charge a hill here and there and just have fun with it. But, I thought "heck, why not give a 5K a try and race it...just to get a good feel of where I am and then we'll call it quits." So the planning began: a 20min flat finish equates to 6:26 per mile. I can run the Navy's physical fitness test of 1.5 miles in under 9min so I know I can hold my own in the very short term but double that distance up on an unknown course...hmmm. Probably not. Those Navy efforts are ALL OUT. So I set my sights on that 20min finish. My plan: hit mile 1 within 5 seconds of 6:26 and if I do, hold that (while suffering) for the 2nd mile. If I could, I could just lay it all out there during mile 3 and get my sub-20 minute finish.

Race morning, it was super humid and cloudy. We made the 1 hour drive to the east of Cleveland to the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds and met up with Nicole and her family. Great conversation and laughter filled the time until it was race time. I warmed up (so as not to hurt myself later) and was sweating profusely immediately. Yep...thick as mud. I don't breathe mud well. Luckily, it was chip-timed so the crowded "cattle start" wouldn't matter as long as I could break free after crossing the start. I made my way to near the front and was ready. The buzzer sounded and we were off. We immediately made a right turn out of the fairgrounds, I high-fived my 10-year-old and into the local community near Baldwin Wallace College we went. Lots and LOTS of turns on this course and one hill. That basically sums it up...and a bunch of runners who lack courtesy and have no problem running into you when the road is wide open. Luckily, I'm a big guy so it's like a Yugo running into a Mack truck for them. I stay the course, they bounce off. I ran the tangents on the turns like a good racer does and at Mile 1, I nailed it: 6min, 25sec. I was surprised! That hill was in Mile 1 so I was sure I was done right there but hills tend to be my strong suit so I was encouraged and empowered on. I was definitely not loving life at this point but I sucked it up and pushed to mile 2. (these are the longest miles known to man, by the way) As I crossed mile 2, I looked at my old Garmin and hit the split button: 6:45. UGH!!!! I seriously thought I had sped up and expected to see something like 6:20. Well, I knew now that only if I ran the 3rd mile in crazy fast time would I crack 20 minutes. Let me tell ya...that wasn't happening! I promised myself to leave it all out there and I was...lungburner, for sure. To try and distract myself from the longest mile in history, I actually broke out in song. Imagine an old-school version of Amazing Grace being sung by me...who cannot sing...outloud. Yea, that was my distraction. I figured "hey, why not add in a little worship while I'm out here?!", right?! That sorta-kinda helped and soon, we were approaching the fairgrounds again. I sure wasn't speeding up but was hanging in there the best I could. I was even telling runners around me "Great job!" but not a one returned the call. Hey, I'm a trail runner. We talk to each other. Well, I talk to them, in this case. They weren't trail runners.

Approaching the end, I knew I had to put on a good show. Heck, my little girls and wife were there with the camera ready. Gotta represent! I saw that digital clock moving and approaching the 21 minute mark and really tried to get under it. Unfortunately, it just wasn't enough even for that. 21 minutes and 4 seconds! I ended up averaging 6:48 per mile. That last mile wasn't slow by any means but it sure wasn't as zippy as mile 1. I had nothing left and left it all out there. I turned the corner at the finish and hit the ground. That soft grass was all too inviting for me and I became one with it.

Regardless of the finish time, I felt good because I gave it all I had.

So there you have it, folks. My first 5K in over a decade and NO desire for another one anytime soon! I'd say my second success of the day was not injuring myself. Pushing one's self hard like that without the proper training can easily invite an injury. Post-race and the morning after, I was good to go. No issues...just felt the effort a bit in muscles not commonly used. :) It's all good. The final stats put me at:

  • 7th of 41 in the 40-44 age group
  • 53 of 815 total finishers
  • Top 6.5% percentile
Like the farmer tells Babe in the movie "Babe": "That'll do, Pig."

Here's a very short picture montage of photos at the finish. Go Team Red, White and Blue!


Yesterday, I took my girl, Bristol, out for a gentle, rolling 6 miles through the country. I was a bit beat down from the 5K effort but all in all, all systems were good! Bristol, on the other hand, suffered that last mile. My intent was 7 miles but I knew by the looks of her tongue hanging at Mile 3, it was best to cut the run a tad bit short.

So that's it, friends. Fun, yes. Last 5K for a very long while? Yes. Pretty happy and thankful for my finish...not too shabby for a long distance, slow, goofy-looking ultra-runner.

Run Happy, friends!

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