March 27, 2017

Race Report: Winter Six Pack #5

The Winter Six Pack #5 was five miles long… which meant we were almost to the end of the six race series build up to 10K! I was a little nervous going into the 5 miler, though. Even though I had run the four mile distance just two weeks before, I hadn’t done any sort of running in between other than some Orangetheory classes, where I never cover more than about 3.5 miles in a class. Five miles would be the furthest I’ve run in a very long time, and I didn’t know what kind of pace I’d be able to keep.

But I did have a secret weapon, at least as far as motivation was concerned. I recently discovered that Orangetheory has their own Spotify station, and the music on it is… well, spot on. It’s a lot of pop hits I know and love, but all set to an aggressive upbeat. All the music is designed to pump you up, and I’ve taken to listening to it a lot at home while getting ready for the day. (And doing a lot of silly singing and dancing in the mirror while I listen.) This playlist was going to be my soundtrack for the race, and I hoped it would help me push as hard as I do in an Orangetheory class.

Even listening to Orangetheory Spotify on my way to the race didn’t really get my blood flowing though – I felt kind of sluggish and tired as I picked up my packet and prepared to run. Five miles seemed kind of far to run when I was that tired, but I set a goal for myself, reminding myself that the faster I could run the sooner I’d be done. My main goal was to finish sub-40; I figured if I could run a 7:38 pace for four miles, I should be able to go under an 8:00 pace for five. My dream goal if everything magically started feeling great when I started would be to go under 37:30 (which would be a 7:30 pace), but realistically, I didn’t think I’d be faster than 7:30 per mile when I was so tired. That meant I’d finish somewhere between 37:30 and 4:00, which is shorter than my typical 45 or 60 minute gym class – I could do this!

As I moved up to the start, I saw my frequent rival in this series, Heather, also at the front of the pack. And once the race started, we were side by side heading down the small hill from the starting line. Unlike the four miler two weeks before, I was trying to be really careful not to go out too fast (like the last time where I had gone out way ahead of Heather and then fallen back a half mile later). She was just in front of me, and I was content to follow – but I also made sure I didn’t get too far behind. Knowing that we are generally close to the same pace reminded me that I should be able to keep up with her, and even though I was feeling kind of tired, I didn’t want to lose the race because of a lack of ambition.

A minute or so into the race, another female runner I hadn’t seen in the series before whizzed past both of us. Aha – she was the one to beat. But I still didn’t want to blow it early on, so I stayed behind both her and Heather, even as the unknown runner’s lead was growing. About a quarter mile in, I started feeling comfortable with the pace, and found myself almost inadvertently pulling up beside Heather – and then passing her. Was I being too aggressive? I didn’t think so – this pace felt reasonably comfortable. But I kept checking in with myself to make sure.

We got to the place where we had turned around in the previous race, and I reminded myself that we had just a half mile further out before we’d turn around and come back. I really like this series of just adding a little bit of distance every time! The petite fast runner was still ahead of me, and thanks to the turns in the course I couldn’t really see where she was. A half mile comes quick though, and soon I could both see the turnaround and see her coming back the other way. I was only a few seconds behind her, so I hadn’t lost her yet.

The way back from the first turnaround spot was a bit windy, and I started getting tired. We passed the last race’s four mile turnaround, and I reminded myself that this was now just a 3.5 mile race that I had done before. Soon after that, I caught up with the unknown female ahead of me and passed her – but just by a little bit. There was now only one runner ahead of me on the course (a very speedy male I knew I had no hope of catching), but I didn’t feel confident at all in my female lead. Last race, I had lost my lead at almost exactly this spot, and I tried not to let myself fantasize about winning this time.

Not a huge lead, but I still had it! Now… could I keep it??

We came upon a water station at mile 2 – a bit of a novelty, as the shorter races in this series didn’t have any water stops at all. I slowed down to sip a cup of water, and the petite runner behind me caught up here. Oh man, was I really about to lose my lead at the water station? I quickly drank my water, tossed my cup, and got back to running – leaving her behind me. And I hoped she would stay there!

Now we rejoined the 5K course I had done three times, and within a half mile I started passing walkers who were doing the 5K distance. I was really impressed with how everyone was careful not to walk multiple people abreast, with the 5 milers coming up behind them. It was fun to get to see everyone on the course, and I decided I really like the double-out-and-back design. It feels much shorter than a single out-and-back because of how you can segment the course in your mind!

Soon enough I reached the three mile mark – only two miles left, and a half mile till the final turnaround. No one had passed me yet, which I kind of couldn’t believe, but I also hadn’t turned around to see if anyone was close on my tail. As I neared the turnaround, I saw the lead male coming back, and I gave him a thumbs up, which is my standard race greeting when I’m too out of breath to talk. I like to do my best to cheer people on in an out-and-back, even if I’m putting every ounce of energy into going fast.

I reached the turnaround and went around the cone, and immediately started looking for females coming up behind me. With only 1.5 miles to go, I wanted to make sure I didn’t lose my lead! Fortunately, that petite runner I had passed early on was about 30 seconds behind me. However, there was another woman only about 20 seconds behind her who looked to be picking up speed, and Heather was coming up behind her. No time for me to slack! I focused on the beat of one of the peppy songs from the Orangetheory playlist, reminding myself that it would all be over in about three or four songs. Just keep pushing!

By the time I got to that four mile mark, I was getting tired… but there was still no sign of any women coming up behind me. I felt odd looking back, so I checked over my shoulder behind me whenever I ran into a tunnel and I thought people wouldn’t see me being creepy and looking behind me. I know I should just run my best, but “my best” gets a little faster if I think I’m about to lose my lead… 🙂

Finally, though, my Garmin clocked only a quarter mile left in the race. Down a mini-hill and back up again, then around the corner, over the bridge, and a quick 0.1 mile sprint to the finish from there. Go go go! As the end of the race neared, I tried to push the pace a little bit more for a strong finish. I was about to outright win my first race ever! I couldn’t believe it.

And you can see by my ponytail flying that I am going FAST to the finish… I love this pic! Pretty sure it’s one of the only race photos I’ve ever had taken where I look like I’m actually running 🙂

I crossed the finish line with a huge smile on my face… but also crazily out of breath. After crossing the finish line and slowing to a stop, I stumbled a bit, and hurriedly tried to find a place to sit down. Was I going to throw up?? I hoped not. Fortunately, the out-of-breath terrible feeling subsided in a minute or two; then I was able to breathe more normally and realized I was going to be just fine.

Actually, more than fine. I DID IT!!! I had WON a race!!!! I could not believe it. My average pace this race was faster than when I ran the 4 miler two weeks prior, and I felt like I probably still had extra energy in the tank and could have gone faster – especially considering I had woken up not really feeling like running at all. This finish time is more than a five minute PR for me in the five mile distance too… I’ve come a long way in the last ten years of running!

I hung around the finish for a while to collect my award (1st place overall!!! AAAH!!!), and in that time also got to enjoy a free massage at the finish. Turns out, if you finish fast, you’re first in line for those. I could get used to this 😉

And I got to take a solo photo before everyone else got to the awards 🙂 WINNING!

So now there’s just one race left in the Six Pack series: a 10K. My 10K PR is a 52:03, which I was pretty proud of at the time (also back in 2007), and took me a lot of effort to achieve. I have always thought of anything sub-5o in the 10K as insanely fast and way beyond my capability, but… I could have definitely run another mile in faster than a 12 minute pace. Probably even at the same 7:30ish pace I had done in this race, which would mean around a 45:00 finish. So… I’m thinking I can break another PR?!

Dreaming big, I’d love to finish under 45 minutes. But that seems almost unrealistically insanely fast, at least in my still-getting-used-to-this-whole-running-fast-thing mindset. The race is coming up this Saturday, April 1, and I think I’m going to try to rest up on Friday so I’m ready to crush it.

But lest you think that means the end of running talk for this week… I ran the Spring Equinox Four Miler yesterday, and so have another race report to write before I can think about doing the 10K this weekend. This one was interesting – stay tuned!

Race stats:
Distance: 5 miles
Time: 37:37
Pace: 7:31/mile (7 secs/mile faster than Six Pack #4, which was a 4 miler)
Overall place: 2/139 (up two places with a field 44 bigger than Six Pack #4)
Gender place: 1/102 (up one place with a field 36 bigger than Six Pack #4)


10 thoughts on “Race Report: Winter Six Pack #5”

  1. This one kept me on the edge of my seat wondering how you would strategize the win! Nicely done!! Congrats on the amazing outcome!!!

    1. I ended up a bit slower than that (7:40/mile), but had some extenuating circumstances in the form of my most demanding week of work ever. But I’m still proud of my result and looking forward to giving the 10K another try!

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