Jun 8, 2009

RaceReport: REACH 5K in Suffern, NY

Cruising along at 9:20, not knowing what lay ahead of me

I found out about this race only a few days before it happened, from the signs that were posted around town. I hate to pass up any racing opportunity that is logistically easy & fits in my schedule - and when the starting line is a mere 3 miles from where I roll out of bed every morning, it's impossible to pass up.

Despite the proximity, however, I don't run the location of this race very often (never) for a couple of reasons: there's little to no shoulder, and it's the road to the local dump, so it has lots of garbage truck traffic. This lack of experience on the road would prove to be a real disadvantage, because I was not aware of this:

elevation profile

But I get ahead of myself.

Alex woke up feeling sick that morning, so with Joe still asleep I woke up and headed out the door of a quiet house alone at 7:20am. I was in my parking spot by 7:25am. I had already checked in on Friday, so I had some time to kill. I quickly found my friend Carl, who was there to support Cathy, who was running her first race. Both of us were really very excited for her. While Cathy prepared for the race, Carl and I chatted for a few minutes until it was time to line up.

Cathy is a much faster runner than me, so I wasn't going to keep up with her - but from the starting line it seemed she was going to take it easy today, so I figured I'd try to match her pace, which I did at least for the first mile. The main feature of first mile are short rolling hills (that I knew about), and in a race this short, I attacked them aggressively and passed a ton of people (including, briefly, cathy). Shortly after mile 1 another hill started. I couldn't see the top of this hill because of some curves in the road, and even after the curves there were false summits - At first I assumed the rolling hills were continuing. As it turns out, I was charging up this thing at a 9:20 pace:

elevation profile
yes, it's worth repeating

yeah. There's this giant hill half-way through the race. Had I known about that, I wouldn't have gone out as aggressively, wouldn't have tried to keep up with Cathy, and I wouldn't have DIED a few hundred meters before the actual summit of the hill.

So then, for the first time in my life, I walked in a 5K race.

It was only for a couple hundred meters, and I started running again as soon as I summitted - but the damage had been done. I recovered quickly and charged down the hill very fast, letting gravity do what it does best and turning over my legs very quickly. By the time the hill bottomed out, the finish line was in sight a couple hundred meters out. My pace was right for a 30-minute finish - a PR was out of reach but I figured I could sprint and knock a few seconds off that time - which I did. I had a surprisingly fast kick and really felt great crossing the finish line, 20 seconds below what my pace had been just a few hundred meters back!

Net time 29:40

Given the topography, I am very pleased with this time despite the walking break. It is my second-fastest 5K ever. I am pretty sure I could have done better had I not charged that hill so fast, but hey - lesson learned.
"When you run there are no mistakes, only lessons. The art and science of ultrarunning is a process of trial, error and experimentation. The failed experiments are as much a part of the process as the combination that ultimately works."
- Keith Pippin

Photo credits: Carl Cox CarlCoxStudios.com