Friday, March 1, 2013

By George 5k - February 2013



Hains Point - Washington, DC
February was a pretty quiet month for me with only one race - the By George 5k.  The race took place at Hains Point, which is a peninsula in Washington, DC.  It is a fast, flat, out-and-back course which starts and finishes at East Potomac Park.  The only things to slow you down are a 180-degree turn around a cone, and some wind which can range from mild to downright nasty.  The wind was on the mild side on race morning, with very cool temperatures in the low 30s.

The By George 5k was held over Presidents' Day weekend, and hosted by Potomac Valley Track Club (PVTC).  The race only cost $10! I am proud of myself so far this year, because I have now run three races - two 5ks and a one 20k - for a total of only $40!  There is no t-shirt for this race, but for $10 I wouldn't really expect one.  Also, I already have about a million running t-shirts anyway. And I don't really feel like making a quilt out of them, so I just end up donating a lot of them.

There was a small field of 50 runners competing in the 5k.  It was actually a 5k/10k.  The 5k started at 7:50, and the 10k started 10 minutes later.  Only 40 people ran the 10k.  I think the cold weather kept many people away.  Also, most runners are not in peak shape in February, and are not usually looking to race at that point.  With 5k/10ks, oftentimes the 5k is far less competitive.  I have actually raced some 10ks before where my average pace per mile was faster than that of the 5k winner! So, if you are looking to win an award, the 5k is often a smart bet.  I didn't really care if I won an award in this race. I wasn't even planning on running it all-out. My goal was just to hold a steady 6:00 pace, and get a good workout.

I was glad that I was not running this race too seriously, because the night  before the race we actually ate Indian food!  We went out to dinner with our awesome new neighbors - who are also runners!  We had a really fun time at Bollywood Bistro in Fairfax (Bollywood Bistro), which is an excellent restaurant with delicious Indian food.  Unfortunately though - as you might imagine - Indian food is not the best pre-race meal. I had to make a couple of "pit stops" the morning of the race, including one just 10 minutes before the race started!  My stomach didn't feel terrible while running, but I probably would never eat Indian food before any serious racing effort.

After my last-minute pit stop, I hurried over to the start line.  When I looked around, I was surprised at how small the field was.  I only noticed a couple of other competitive runners who would have any chance of beating me - although there were also a few high school runners who I wasn't sure about.  However, I knew that one of the runners was very fast - faster than me.  I recognized him from some previous races where he had usually been down in the 17s for 5ks and 35s for 10ks. 

Michelle and I both won our age groups - and cherry pies!
The race began, and I opened up with a 5:55 first mile.  I want to work on running my first miles a little more even this spring, so that I don't crash and burn later in races.  At the 1-mile mark, there was only one person ahead of me - the person I had recognized earlier - and there were two other runners not too far behind.  I ran the 2nd mile in 6:05, and was right on pace for the 6:00/mile average that I was shooting for.  I had put some space between myself and the two runners behind me by this point.  The first place runner was not too far ahead though. I picked a landmark around 2 miles and counted that he was only about 12 seconds ahead of me.  If I were running all-out, I probably would have been running right with him, or even ahead of him.  He didn't seem like he was really going all-out either though - given that he usually runs his 5ks in the 17s.  It was sort of like we had an unspoken agreement. I knew that he was faster than me.  But he didn't want to run all-out, and neither did I.  So, as long as I didn't try to overtake him, we could both just continue cruising along at our comfortable paces.  I am fairly certain that if I had picked up the pace and tried to run him down, he would have really taken off and blown me away.  Running races as workouts can be a perilous endeavor.  It is hard not to get caught up in the emotion of racing.  But today I was perfectly happy running my 6:00 miles, and pleased that I was still in 2nd place.  I slowed down a bit on the 3rd mile and  ran a 6:13.  The last mile was into the wind, which slowed me down some.  And I think I lost concentration somewhat too, since the first place guy was too far ahead of me and no one was really pushing too much from behind either.  I crossed the finish line 2nd overall in 18:56 (6:05/mile pace)!  (Race Results!)  My heart rate during the race never even got up into the 180s, so I definitely could have pushed it much harder if I wanted.  But I got the good workout I wanted, and it's hard to complain about 2nd place overall.

They don't do overall awards at this race, just age group awards.  My wife and I both finished first place in the 30-39 age group! PVTC gives out funny prizes at their races.  For their Thanksgiving race, they give out loaves of cranberry bread. At their Christmas race, they give out Christmas-themed popcorn tins and decorations.  Since this race was on Presidents' Day weekend, they gave out cherry pies as the age-group winner awards!  I guess it was in honor of George Washington and the cherry tree he allegedly chopped down? So, it was a fun day and a fun race.  On the way home from the race, my wife and I stopped at Starbucks for some coffee to go with our pies.

Now it is on to March.  I have two races planned for this month - the Reston 10 Miler and the Gainesville Middle School 5k.  The Reston 10 Miler is a very hilly and challenging course - not a smart one to run if you are looking for a PR.  I am hoping to hold a steady 6:30 pace.  It should be a great tune-up for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in April.  And I am really looking forward to the Gainesville Middle School 5k later in March.  I have run this race twice, and finished 3rd overall both times.  So, I am looking forward to getting out on the course again and really seeing what I can do.  I don't know if I will break 18 minutes, but I know that I will be going all-out that day - no Indian food the night before that one!  It is fun to run the same races from year to year, because then you can really compare to previous years and see how your fitness has progressed (or regressed!) 

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