It was kind of a last minute decision. Deciding if forking over $40 for a race was a little tougher a decision than I planned on. Having a few financial things come up over the past couple weeks has put a hinder on some bigger plans I've had this year, but that's ok. There are plenty of local races I can get into. Like this one!
The Lake Monona 20k, taking place in my own backyard. Literally. It's less than a half mile walk to the start from my front door, so there was really no reason not to do it. My wife and I went back and forth with her doing the 5k of the race with our baby girl in a stroller. But we came to the last minute decision that she shouldn't with the possibility of rain, we didn't want to waste our money if it was raining and we don't have a water proof stroller quite yet.
So needless to say, my buildup to race day wasn't supreme. I wasn't in any sort of taper mode, so I decided to use it as a long tempo day and see what my legs had in store for me after a pretty good week of training already.
The weather was consistently changing and I kept wondering who was going to show up to the race should it stay sour. But when I woke up this morning, the clouds were here, but ther was no sign of rain and it was already 50 degrees at 7am. Perfect day to race. Not much wind, not too hot, and no scorching sun to speak of.
One thing I have trouble with at some running races is that they don't have a good place for bag drops or a secure place to put belongings. I didn't want to walk around for 45 minutes in my race gear, getting cold or spending too much time warming up just to stay warm. So I had my wife drive down on her way to the Farmer's Market downtown and grab my stuff about 20 minutes before race start. Which was 9am. Weird for me. I'm usually close to finishing races by that time.
After a good half mile of jogging and loosening up I waltzed over to the start line. It was kind of funny to see who was up front and who was holding back. I just walked right to the front since I'd rather not have to jostle around people in a mass and just stay to the side for those who are faster than I am.
So standing in the second row at the start, besides another dozen guys lining up toe to toe, most people starting packing in about 10 yards back, like they were weary to be up close. Better that than overcrowded and some shoving going on.
We toed the line and the gun went off right at 9am. Everyone switched their watches on and took off. We were cruising, and I gave myself the first 200m to get my legs under me before I looked at my watch to get a pace level. I was around 6:29/mi, which I knew I couldn't hold, so I slowly backed it off. Especially knowing this course so well, I knew where the hills were and where to push if I had the muster to do it.
Within the first 400m we're on the first hill. A long steady pitch that is about 400m itself heading up on to the top of Monona Ridge. Some people started to fade right away, which I figured was good. Really separate those who can pace vs those who just gun it at the start and fizzle. This thinned things out pretty quick. And by mile 2, there's another short but steep hill to push the weak towards the back even more.
I was feeling pretty good through the first 3 miles and hit the 5k mark at 21:10. Right around 6:48/mi. A little closer to where I was hoping to end up at. I thought I could go out at between 6:45-6:55/mi and have a kick. This was the story for the first 5 miles, but around the 5 mile mark, I started to feel my legs dragging a bit, so I grabbed my one gel from my pocket and took it in. A little earlier than I planned, but I'd rather suffer at the end with my adrenaline pumping than in the middle.
After a few minutes I got another little surge and hit the 10k mark in 42:39 (6:51 pace). Still right in where I wanted to be, feeling pretty good. But something happened around mile 7 and I couldn't quite get the turnover I needed. I felt like I started to reach for every step instead of being able to roll over one to the next. I started working back and forth between my old running style of reaching with longer strides and a shorter, quicker turnover to not burn out either way. I couldn't quite hold on to either for longer than 4-5 minutes. But it seemed to be working ok.
I came into the 15k at 1:05:09 (6:59 pace). Crap, the wheels seemed to be coming off a little. But I knew I could have some sort of kick the last mile or so. I always seem to be able to muster something up. So I held on as much as I could through mile 11 where I posted close to 7:10 marks on both 10 and 11 miles.
Once mile 11 hit, I just started cranking everything I had left. There was one more short, kind of steep, hill and a small rise then a drop and flat to the finish. I worked the rise as best I could, concentrating on reeling in the runner in front of me and not my time. Thinking it more of picking him off rather than what my time was. So I ran all on feel the rest of the way in. Just whatever I had left in the tanks.
I turned the last corner and kicked it the final 100m and did the last mile around 6:50 and final .4ish in a 6:29 pace. So I had a kick, which is always a good thing. However, I came in at 1:26:39, a 6:59 pace. Not too bad. But I was really hoping to be under 1:25:00, even with this as a training run to test where I'm at. My goals were a 1:25:00 and I'd be really happy and sub 1:20:00 I'd be ecstatic about where I'm at. So I fell a bit short. But I'll take it.
Some things I learned were that it's tough to get a good night's rest the night before already, then add in a teething baby to the mix and the sleep dwindles even more. But that is my new normal and all my training has been based around her and it has been working out much better than I thought it would.
It feels good to have the first race under my belt and have those jitters gone. Especially in a low key, close to home race. Hopefully you guys are out there racing or ramping up for your first race. Good luck and see you out there!