September 6, 2017

Race Report: Superior 5K

Two weekends ago, I got to run a race I was incredibly excited about: the inaugural Superior 5K. (Superior is the name of my town… though it’s kind of fun that it sounds like a superlative for how great the race is.)

I love my town so much, and have been thrilled to get to know more of my neighbors over the last 2.5 years I’ve lived there. I’ve also been trying to get involved with the town government as much as I can, and have gotten to know the board of trustees. So I was really excited when the town announced that they were going to be organizing the first annual town 5K – basically combining my two favorite things!

Although my town isn’t very big (4 square miles), the race was being organized around the brand new town center that’s currently under construction – which is an area I typically don’t run in. So, I tried to plot the course ahead of time to figure out the elevation changes. It’s funny what an about-face this is for me: when I did marathons, I often didn’t even bother checking the course map before starting the race, and usually didn’t have a pacing strategy beyond “get to the end at some point”. Now, I pore over 5K course maps and try to figure out goal splits for every mile based on the elevation profile. I’ve learned that it makes a huge difference in short-distance running!

The profile for this race didn’t look great, but didn’t look bad either. It was a lollipop course, and I thought it was going to be flat for the first half mile, uphill for the next mile, downhill for a mile, and then flat to finish. If a course isn’t going to be flat throughout, I’d rather have the uphill at the beginning (when I’m trying to take it easy and not go out too fast anyway), so this seemed reasonably in line with that. However, when I actually started running, I learned I had gotten the elevation profile wrong. (You just never know with an inaugural race, especially in an area that isn’t fully developed and so may not be accurate on Google Maps.)

The day before the race, I had been camping and sailing and tubing and drinking. So, not exactly resting! But I was able to sleep reasonably late on race morning and leave my house just 30 minutes before the gun. Hooray for hyper local races 😉

I arrived at the Sports Stable where the race was starting and finishing, and easily found parking in the large lot. Then, I was so excited to see several people I knew at the start! I feel like I so rarely know people at the races I do – I’m used to showing up solo and just kind of hanging out on my own. So this was great to say hello to my across-the-street neighbor, a friend from HOA events, and one of the town trustees.

Then, the organizers had us line up into groups that would start 30 seconds apart. Little kids held up signs with estimated finish times, and I saw that the first group targeted those planning on running 21:00 or faster. Theoretically I could run 21:00 or faster, so I chose that one to start in… but then I found that there were fewer than ten of us in that group. That made me second guess my choice a little bit (I don’t feel like I’m that fast?), but I stuck to my guns, and instead, calmed my nerves by chatting with some of the others lined up in the group. There were a few guys who were planning to go sub-20, and a woman aiming for right around 21:00 – so I thought I’d try to stick with her.

My goal going into this race was pretty simple. I didn’t care what place I finished, or whether I got an age group award; I just wanted to see if I could go sub-21:00. I knew that it wouldn’t be easy to PR at altitude, but I told myself that the course was much easier than the Run for the Roses where I had just missed a PR. However, that was before I ended up doing all the things the day before the race, and not being either fueled or rested going into it. I felt pretty blah, and not at all PR-ready… but I thought I’d still give it a shot.

Before the race, an instructor from the local 9 Round kickboxing gym led us in a kickboxing warmup of punches, kicks, jumping jacks, and burpees. I found myself not wanting to join in the exercises – not because I was trying to conserve my energy for the race, but because I was lazy and kind of tired and just not feeling like exerting myself. Uh oh! That’s not how I should feel before starting a race! That was my second clue that the race might not go as I hoped. After the warmup and a few welcoming remarks, our group headed over to line up at the start, while the other groups cheered us on. Here goes nothing!

This was just a few feet from the start, but the three of us in the picture ended up being the three women on the podium.

The race began and we headed up a teeny tiny incline to circle the Sports Stable complex, then took two quick lefts to turn us back around. This meant we were now on a slight downhill through the parking lot, but we then took a few quick turns to put us on the paved bikeway that runs along the highway – and this was a pretty decent downhill. Not what I was expecting at all, and this was not good! This meant we’d be coming back up that hill at the end of the race – yuck.

I’m by no means an expert in 5K pacing, but I feel like I’m finally starting to get the hang of it, and I knew that a downhill early on would just encourage me to go out faster than I should. I was trying to go out easy, and definitely wasn’t trying to keep up with the guys who were shooting for sub-20 finish times. But sure enough, I found myself the leading female for the first half mile or so, around a 6:30 pace that was totally comfortable thanks to the downhill. Thanks to how easy that part was, I started getting delusions of keeping the lead for the entire race… but at about the 3/4 mile mark, we hit flat ground, and another woman passed me. So much for that!

The course turned uphill from here, as we left the creek path and headed into Original Town Superior. I was happy when we got to Founders Park, as I knew that the end of the park would be the end of the uphill (and the turnaround point for the lollipop loop). But I was bummed when another woman passed me just before that halfway point. I didn’t want to lose my spot in 2nd place, but I also didn’t really feel like passing her back. That pretty much describes my attitude for the course as a whole. I was working hard, but definitely not giving it everything I had.

After we circled the park and then did an out-and-back around some new patio homes being built, we linked back up with the runners still on the outbound. It was really fun to see some friends in this part. I waved to the mayor, who cheered me on with a “go Laura!” I love my small town so much!

But this final mile was brutal. Sure, the first half of it was flat to a tiny bit of downhill. But right around mile 2.2, we started our climb from the creek path, and I knew it was uphill from there to the finish. I was tired, but I also knew I wasn’t really racing and giving it everything I had. And yet, I couldn’t motivate myself to push harder. I felt content to give about 70% effort throughout, and I was disappointed in myself that I was okay with that. Overall, this kind of felt like a standard run rather than a race – and I’m disappointed in myself for treating it as such. Last week, Ali On The Run did a podcast with a sports psychologist and it made me realize I really need to work on my mental game so that I can prepare to push and give it my all on race day rather than running it at a training run pace.

Continuing on this theme… when I got to the switchbacks that took us from the bikeway to the Sports Stable parking lot, I could see the second-place woman about 30 seconds ahead of me. However, I didn’t really care enough to pick up the pace and catch up with her. I was just too lazy! 🙁 Instead, I just kept counting down how many songs to go until I’d be done: three songs to go, two songs to go, one song to go. Almost there!

I knew I wasn’t going to PR, and since my PR is 21 minutes even, that meant I had also lined up in the wrong corral at the start. Oops! But there wasn’t anybody coming close to passing me so I didn’t feel too bad about starting 30 seconds ahead. Finally, I looped around the Sports Stable and could see the finish line in front of me. I did at least pick it up for that final tiny stretch of downhill to the finish, even though it wasn’t an incredibly strong kick.

No one finishing right behind me, at least?

I had finished in third place overall… and I was proud of that, even though I wasn’t proud of how I had actually run the race. This was both ironic and unfortunate, given that going into the race I didn’t care about my placement at all and just cared about my time! But that was my own fault for not pushing harder.

We got pint glasses and Stem Ciders as our awards, which cheered me up a bit. I love Stem!

On the bright side, doing this 5K taught me some lessons about racing and pacing. First, I really need to get a better handle on course maps and elevation if I want to make a true PR attempt. And second, I need to figure out how to get my head in the game better, so I’m actually pushing my hardest when I’m racing rather than being lazy and telling myself I just don’t feel like it that day. I think that’s kind of a holdover from running marathons, when I was much more focused on quantity over quality. I’m trying to switch to a speed focus, but my brain is still stuck in “just get it done” mode.

On the non-running front, I am so excited that I got to run in my town’s inaugural 5K! I’m really looking forward to continuing to run this race every single year and someday being that old-timer who says that I’ve done it for 30 years and was there for the very first one 🙂

>It was also really fun to see so many people I knew at the start and the finish. After crossing the finish line, I got to chatting with the other male and female race winners. Turns out, most of them were good friends who regularly run together. We exchanged contact information and are looking forward to running together soon and even just hanging out in the neighborhood. So that is a huge win for the race!

Next up: more non-racing racing. This past weekend, I did the Waneka Classic 5K on Saturday, and the Broncos 7K on Sunday. It will probably not surprise you to learn that I PRed in neither. More to come

Race stats:
Distance: 3.1 miles
Time: 22:04
Pace: 7:07/mile
Overall place: 8/194
Gender place: 3/109


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