I ran the Magic Shoes 5k this weekend up in Newport Beach. Originally I had planned to run the Encinitas 5000 last weekend, but things change and this race looked promising. Previous years had an elite field with winners in the high-13s and low-14s so I knew it could be a fast race. It also seemed pretty flat and I was looking for a good time trial.
My grandparents live in Newport Beach so I drove up the night before. They live literally two miles from the race start so it was a breeze getting there and parking was well managed. I showed up about 45 minutes early to pick up my bib and warm up. The race ended on the track at Corona Del Mar High School and the expo was on the field. I stretched and did my warm ups and hurried over to the start when they called. It was a mosh pit of young kids on the line, mostly from a club called the Equalizers. The RD called for seeded runners to the front. I shrugged and made sure I was on the starting line, knowing I was shooting for a 16:30. There weren’t any key elites this year, but there was a heavy showing from the Cal Coast track team.
After the gun went off, I did my best to avoid the mass of kids and cheerleaders who lined the street. I managed to find space quicker than expected, although there was a lot of annoying passing in the first mile. I don’t like having to surge for position in a road race. I went out at my 5:20 goal pace and stuck it. My friends who came out to watch got some good pictures of me at the first mile marker. 5:23. Not as fast as I thought I was going and not as fast as my watch was telling me. Second mile was downhill until the turnaround and then uphill all the way back to the starting line. I never felt fresh in this race, but my breathing was considerably less labored than those surrounding me so I pressed. Second mile 5:23. At this point I was approaching a pack of 3 kids on the Equalizers squad. They were hanging tough but I slowly overtook them. I picked up the pace in that last mile and started suffering for it with about a half mile to go. In those situations I keep telling myself that’s what I’m there for and that I only have to suffer for another 3 minutes or so. I hate looking at my watch for distance and did it far too often in the last mile. We ran through a parking lot and directly to the track for the finish. At this point, a 13 year old kid goes blowing by me with about 400m to go. I was at 99.5% and wasn’t going to have that long of a kick. He put 5 seconds on me in the last 400m. Holy crap! Mile 3 marker was on the turn: 5:15. I crossed the line in 16:25. Good for 8th place overall and 2nd in my age group.
I was ecstatic. I was shooting for 16:30 and for once I was slightly under goal rather than slightly over. Better yet, I was only 6 seconds off my PR! I’ve run 16:19 twice and both times it was unexpected. My next two fastest times are in the 16:40s, so it was nice to bridge the gap and amazing to see how much my fitness has come around. I haven’t run this fast since my hip injury. Maybe sub-16 is on the horizon this summer!
The other plus was that my finish was a lot smoother than in most races. My Garmin has me at 4:07 pace for the last tenth but I didn’t feel like I was kicking. I felt like I was running hard but it wasn’t an all out pace. It’s a subtle but important difference. This bodes well for my summer racing. I may have some PRs on the horizon!