When I think of an ideal race day I think of the following: mid-to-upper 40s, cloudy or sunny, doesn't really matter and no wind. When I woke up on Sunday morning, it was 46 degrees and raining. I wasn't thrilled about the rain, but I was hopeful it would stop by race-time, which it pretty much did. We had picked up our race packets on Saturday afternoon, so we didn't have any need to get there super early and since it was a short 10 minutes from our house, we didn't have to leave all that early.
It was a little difficult to warm up in the rain, I purposely had worn a different pair of shoes to the race in hopes of keeping my race shoes as dry as I could, but it was almost impossible because I didn't want to wait until the last second to check my gear. At any rate, my legs were feeling fantastic pre-race. I had taken Saturday off, I had pretty much only run slower, longer miles for the past week and my legs were feeling like race horses in the starting gate.
Because we had run the course earlier in the week, I knew that immediately after mile marker 1, there was a long, somewhat steep hill. In trying to figure on how to best attack this race, I decided that a fast start was the best way to go and I was able to follow form, running a 6:00 mile through mile marker 1. My thinking was that if I ran the first mile a little fast, I would buy some extra time to take it a little slower on the hill which allowed me to conserve my energy a little bit for the 2nd half of the race. It worked. As soon as I hit the hill, I geared down a bit and then resumed pace at the top. The water station at mile 1.5 was a god-send because even despite the slower pace I was still breathing pretty hard.
Mile 2 was a series of rolling hills. I couldn't really tell if this was detrimental to speed or not because for every small uphill, there was a small downhill so I figure it probably evened itself out. I knew something was wrong though then I passed the mile 2 marker at 10:45. In order for that to have been true I would have had to have just completed a 4:45 mile on a very hilly section of the course and well...that couldn't be right, I've never run a 4:45 mile in my life! A few of us started saying out loud that it must be wrong and we were all in agreement, but kept plugging along.
The course evened out a bit over mile 3 which had me actually feeling good going into the final stretch. In a 5K, it always feels like the 1st half is so hard and then your body adapts and gets used to working really hard and then just when you start to feel good, it's over. In this race I happened to know where the finish line was and I kept looking at my watch thinking, "I'm gonna blow my PR out of the water!" I crossed the finish line at 18:03 fist pumping and the whole bit (would have been a PR by over 2 minutes). Then I started to think about it. I remember thinking that we had made a premature turn somewhere before mile marker 2. Then I heard a few people talking about a "2.9 mile PR". I noticed that the female winner of the race who had finished just behind me had been wearing a Garmin GPS watch so I asked her how far it was...2.88 miles. I found out later from the men's winner that the lead-bikers had made a wrong turn...slightly before mile 2...that ended up shaving about 0.20.
I don't think I've yet overcome the disappointment I feel that the race wasn't the full distance. It's not often that you get PERFECT racing conditions and my body has never felt that good leading up to a race...so it's disappointing to me that I didn't even had a chance to run my first-ever sub-20:00 5K. I take a little solace in knowing that I was on-pace for it and likely would have done it had the race been the full distance, but I can't say that "without a doubt" I would have done it. Having said that, I'm still very pleased with my time. My 6:16 pace through 2.9 miles was easily the fastest I've ever run in a race and my 6:00 Mile 1 was the fastest mile I've run since high school. This race removed any lingering doubts I have had about my ability to run a 5K under 20:00 so I am grateful for that.
My wife, Leslie (her race report here), also ran in the race and set a 2.9 mile PR and I was very proud of her. Only a few weeks removed from having her wisdom teeth taken out and other medical ordeals, she is almost back to where she was and is looking to make massive leaps forward in the next year or so. She thinks that she is going to have to get used to not PRing every race, but I think she will continue to improve race after race for awhile. We're both looking forward to our next race which will be Nov. 12th in Villa Park.