I like to run. I've learned that it really isn't about where you're going, it's about the getting there - the how, the why, the who with. This blog is just a little repository for my thoughts along the way; the setbacks, the lessons learned, and the occasional triumph.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Race Report: Ravenswood Run 5K

It was a big day today. Yes, I was excited about running my 6th Ravenswood Run 5K, but even more than that, I was finally going to get the chance to try out my new racing comps in an actual Race. Woohoo!

I’ve done the Ravenswood more times now than any other race. (There are a couple other events that I’ve race 4 times.) Why do I love this one so much? Well, because it happens practically in my back yard. The entry fee has gotten a little pricey (it’s now up to $30), but it’s hard not to love an event so close by that you can literally stumble out of bed 30 minutes to race time, walk down the block and you’re there.

The Ravenswood Run is also just a well-organized, tidy event. This morning was the 13th edition of the race, but ever since its 3rd year, it’s been organized by Fleet Feet Sports, one of the top running stores in town. There are plenty of 5 & 10Ks in the city every year, but this is one of only a handful that are run in the heart of a north side neighborhood. The April date makes it one of the first big races of the season, so it’s always been popular with all the local competitive runners. I remember, too, that it was one of the first events in the city that offered chip timing, even though, technically, it was still a small event. Back in 1997, at the inaugural running, there were just a couple hundred participants. By my first year in 2004, the total was up to 1229 finishers. After they got really serious and started using chips, the total jumped to 2433 in 2007 (after a bad weather year in ’06), and 2502 last year. Entries were capped this year at 3500, and they announced this morning that the race had been sold out. I’ll wait to for the results to see how many official finishers there were.

So, enough plugging for the event, right?

My race was a complete success. I tried to keep my expectations low these last two weeks. I’ve been having really good days of training but also really rough ones. Even on the good days, my legs have been feeling worn down. The real focus wasn’t the 5K this morning, but the marathon in Kenosha next Saturday. Last year at Ravenswood, after a similar schedule – but also after a couple of Ultras in the month before – I ran a good, decent race, but 50 seconds slower than my PR. In the only other 5K I ran last year, on Thanksgiving, I managed to break 22 minutes for the first time by just one second, with a 21:59. If I could just run 7 minute, even splits from start to finish, I could cut my time down to a 21:45. I felt like that would be reasonable, if I didn’t go out too hard and then blow up in the last mile.

It’s been the same route now all six years I’ve run it, but last year, for some reason, they decided to reverse the direction. They kept the new direction again this year, so it still feels kind of new – not a bad thing at all. I didn’t move up toward the start line quite far enough before the race, so in the first ¾ mile, I kept getting stuck behind slower runners here and there. I wanted to be patient, though, and not go too hard the first mile, so I didn’t let the slower folks bother me, or weave around them too much.

The half miles weren’t marked, but since it’s my neighborhood, I know how far it is between many of the streets. When I saw we were coming up on Berteau, I knew that was the first ½ mile. My watch said 3:25, so I was on target for just under 7 minutes, and the pace still felt relatively easy to me. A good sign, and permission to relax mentally and trust the feet. I hit the first mile split in 6:52.

In last year’s race, everything started to feel like forever to me in the second mile. That’s when it all started to feel a lot harder than it should have. Not a problem this morning. The water stop came up just past the 1.5 mark and I cruised through without pausing. We made the turn onto Leland and I knew I’d soon see the 2nd mile marker. I passed it with a split of 6:59. I might have relaxed a wee bit too much. I wanted to see if I could keep my 3rd mile split below 7 minutes, something I’ve never done before.

I’d have to push again just a little for the final mile. But it’s a fine line between lengthening my stride and increasing my turnover rate. Longer strides don’t help so much, and the short, quick steps that do are still not instinctive for me, yet. It’s something I have to focus on. There was a guy in front of me who looked strong and lithe and steady, and I tried to link onto him as a pacer. That seemed to help me too. We shifted up to Giddings, turned south on Leavitt and with over a half a mile left to the finish line, made the final turn, east again, onto Wilson. The small overpass for the commuter trains is a white, steel bridge right in front of the finish line and I could already see it looming down the street.

It was too soon for me to “kick”, but I did want to let the finish line pull me in, so I thought hard about running with power, like a muscle car cruising along in the low end of 5th gear. Soon, I could see the 3rd mile marker waiting and I hit the split button on my watch just as it ticked over to 7 minutes – 7:00.16, to be precise. So, yeah, my splits are all unofficial at best, but I’d missed that one little goal. The good news: I was still on personal best pace.

I didn’t have a whole lot left for a true kick, but I did start to stretch out my stride some and pushed it hard for the final .1 mile. I stopped my watch when I crossed the line at 21:32.21, nearly 30 seconds better than I’ve ever run before. A new PR! It’s also the first time I’ve ever recorded an overall race pace that was less than 7 minutes a mile, with a 6:56 average pace.

Not bad for a guy 2 months shy of 35, who never ran a race in his life until 2003!

I’ve still got some work to do this week, but mostly it’s maintenance work, a lot of stretching, a handful of “easy” miles. And then Saturday, we’ll see what I can do for 26.2 miles. The weather forecast currently looks ideal, mid-50s, partly cloudy and a gentle wind. Who knows if the predictions of rain and wind will hold, but there seems little chance that the temperature will be much different, so I’m much relieved about that. (Especially since we got up to 80 both yesterday and Friday.) If my legs keep healing, and nothing crazy happens, I’m starting to feel optimistic again about my chances.



David Ray said...

Good pacing and congrats on the PR!

GTI said...

Thanks, David! It's taken me years to figure out how NOT to go out too fast in a shorter race. Always easier said than done.

704 Studio said...

Cool race report! I did not hang out much in Ravenswood, but I remember riding the brown line home from work, and a couple times I took it to the end of the line to see what would happen :)

That is a good time, it is inspiring to see how strong you are getting. I have a feeling the marathon report coming up is gonna be good news!