So technically this was a training day for me, but I decided to spice things up a little and enter a 5K road race that was located close to where I live in Playa Del Rey.
It was a perfect morning. Slightly damp in the air and overcast. The start for the race was about 2 miles away so I decided it would be a great warm-up for me to run there.
I was due to start at 8am so I tried to time it so that I wouldn't be hanging around too long but this backfired on me a little as the race organizers delayed the start at first by 15 minutes but eventually by 30 minutes.
I must have warmed up 4 or 5 times that morning. In contrast, I normally do not warm up enough at all and really suffer in the races so this actually wasn't that bad. It was also somewhat closer to the situation in triathlons so it was great practice.
The delay also allowed me to meet one of my running heros growing up. The great Zola Budd (Pieterse), who was at the event as a special guest and would be participating in the 10K.
Zola is a middle distance runner and has some very impressive times under her belt. Check these out:
1500m - 3:59.96
1 Mile - 4:17.57
3000m - 8:28.83
5000m - 14:48.07
She also won Gold at the 1985 and 1986 IAAF World Cross Country Championships.
For more info on Zola, please check out Wikipedia.
I had a really good opportunity to chat with Zola before the race and we talked about our new love for Newton running shoes and also my travels around her homeland, South Africa. I also managed to get her to sign my race bib and a fellow LA Tri Club member, (Thanks Beth), kindly took a picture of me with Zola.
As you can tell, I was already having a great day.
So, finally it was time to head up to the start of the race. The expo was in the beach car park where the finish line was but the race would start up on the main road that passed along in front of the airport.
While warming up, I bumped into my good friend Simon Gowen, who has coached me on my running and really helped me realize my potential. He was scheduled to run in the 10K but due to the delays, switched to the 5K at the last minute. At first this was great but all of a sudden I realized that I knew someone racing against me which put the pressure on. Simon's friend Brent was also there next to me on the start line so this was turning into a real race for me. In previous training runs, both Simon and Brent have been faster than me, but this was last season so I had no idea where we would stack up.
I felt like I did a great warm-up. I ran to within 1 minute of the start. The clock counted down and the gun went off for the start.
I felt good right away. One guy was clear at the front but I was keeping at the back of the front pack. Even though I felt good, I has a feeling I wasn't going to be able to sustain the pace so I slowed slightly. My Garmin watch later told me I had started off at a 5:30 pace but slowed to 6:00.
Just before the first turn around point at 0.75 miles, first Simon and then Brent came past me. It was a steady pace but it was still hard for me to latch on to their heals. As they started to gap me I felt that I had to stay in contact with them. This was just like my last triathlon. I knew I had been able to hold on before so I made an effort to catch up to their heels.
I was able to pull in the gap, but at the same time, Brent was catching Simon so I looked up the road and decided to but in a push to catch the next runner ahead. This was about 10 yards further but I was able to close the gap fast.
At this point, I was afraid that Simon and Brent would have seen this move and as I slowed to a steady pace, would jump on my heels again. I spotted the next couple of runners and decided to repeat the move. One at a time, getting on the heels of the next person, recovering slightly and repeating the process.
These burst of speed were around 5:30 pace with some as low as 4:45. Each one felt good, but as the lead pack disappeared, it left fewer and fewer runners to track down that were in my range.
As the 2 mile marker came into view, I slotted in behind the last runner in range. My breathing was a lot heavier now so remaining at this pace felt good.
At the entrance to the parking lot, a volunteer cheered me on and told me to up my cadence. They were right of course. The first thing I do when I get tired is drop my cadence which creates a snowball affect which makes me more tired.
We had dropped down on to the beach parking service road. This was the last stretch and I felt like I wanted to finish strong. I was still right behind this one last runner with the lead pack way ahead, probably already finished.
I decided that I was going to stay with him until the 3 mile marker and then make my push for the line. I glanced at my watch and I realized the pace was dropping to a 6:20 pace and my average was reading 6:02. I decided to go earlier and picked up the pace with about 0.2 miles to go. I wanted to make sure I was not followed so I made sure the pace was fast for me. It was under 5:00 pace with a maximum pace of 4:18 reading on my watch. It felt good and I have realized that as long as I know where the finish line is, I could probably keep that pace going for longer if I needed to. Something to remember for next weekends race.
I have also never been competitive before in a road race. Although the really fast guys were nearly 4 minutes faster than me, I still finished 4th in my age group and 21st overall. This was my best 5K by far.
In comparison, the last 5K road race I did, about a year earlier, had me finish in a time of 21:13 and placed 13th in my age group and 102nd overall.
Things are looking up for me in the world of running. It was fun.
Incidentally, Zola said this was her fastest 10K time in 10 years. She finished second overall in a very fast 36:41. Good work!
The full results can be found here: 5K 10K
Next up, Strawberry Fields Sprint Triathlon.