Some days are better than others; some races go better than others. In the greater scheme of things, this wasn’t a terrible race for me, it’s just that in view of last week’s race, my time was disappointing. Where last week was cool and humidity non-existent, today was in the 80’s with 97% humidity. It was gross.
I was feeling crummy about the time – 24:03 – and feeling like it should have been better, until I saw the results. I mean, the winner today was preposterously fast – really good runners are preposterously fast if it’s cool or hot or humid or what. Needless to say, I’m not a really good runner. But my 24:03 time was good for 28th in a race with more than 28 runners – 324 in total, although that said there were a fair number of walkers – so its clear to me that the weather slowed a lot of folks down.
The course has a fair amount of elevation gain, and as it turns out, I’ve run the course a couple of times already this year without realizing it so I had some experience with it. I should’ve done a long run today, The Marine Corps Marathon is only a few weeks away now, but I committed to doing this and looking back I’m glad I did because I think it would’ve been an ugly mess.
I’ve generally stayed away from 5ks other than the ones my running club puts on because I’ve been focusing on the longer distance races, sometimes though a quick short race is helps let you know how you’re progressing and I think that’s what was accomplished today. So no personal records, but a demonstratively solid progression.
I wasn’t going to run this race – there was a 10k trail race I was looking at and was leaning in that direction. I like trail races, they’re physically challenging and generally inexpensive. This one was less than $20 after a coupon code. BUT, I was beseeched at my Thursday fun run and couldn’t resist: there’s something about running with your tribe that makes racing fun. When you know people, and can hang around before and after, the experience is great.
The course is pretty (read here: very) flat and most folks come up just short of 3-miles on their watch. I registered exactly 3.1 on mine and I’m not sure what that says about my stuff. The course starts and ends just off Worcester’s Kelley Square – future home of the Worcester Red Sox – by the DCU Center (or as we old timers call it, the Centrum) up to Main Street, and back. It’s also put on by the Hibernian Hall, which is evident by the fact you’re given 2 beer tickets on your bib…with 1 food ticket that you can convert to a beer ticket if you want.
I found the course over all well marked and staffed, my only issue was just coming out of Kelley Square, the course got a little tight and it was clear not everyone lined up according to their projected pace, so there were a bunch of people bottlenecked and weren’t moving as quickly as I would have preferred. Other than that, it was great.
At about mile 2.2, I started to realize I had pushed too hard and actually walked a bit. I was competing back and forth with a teenage girl from a local school team and when she started to walk, I felt like I had just been given a pass that I took. I realized, though, that I had an opportunity to PR and didn’t want to quit on myself so I picked it up again.
Going back to the whole tribe thing, when you see your friends volunteering on the course, it’s super helpful to your morale. As it happens I saw a few friends spectating and volunteering especially at the last half mile or so and when you see these folks cheering for you, it’s the best motivation in the world to keep going. As I came down the last bit of course, under the bridge where I really just wanted to quit but didn’t, and around the corner where I could see the finish, I pushed through with every little bit I had left.
I’m pretty sure I was close to death as I crossed that line: I honestly cannot remember the last time I left everything out there on a 5k course. Fully gassed. I thought I would never be as fast as I was for the Celtic 5k. I remember feeling great that day, running with my kids, and just blowing the lid off. I didn’t feel particularly great for this race but I felt confident. I wasn’t going to run this race, but I’m happy I did.
To make it even better, I helped Team Sneakerama win fastest team.
The Jay Lyons 5k is now in its 18th year – a memorial race for one of six Worcester Fire Fighters who died fighting a warehouse fire in 1999. If there is a race worth running, certainly it is this one.
I have to say I wasn’t quite sure how this was going to go. It was a gamble and one I may have lost had I gone for that additional lap yesterday. The day started much later than usual – even for a weekend day – and when I did actually get up, I had a hard time actually walking around. I was pretty much 90-years old all morning.
After 3-laps at FIT last year, I couldn’t walk for a week. I mean I really hammered myself good. This year, while sore, I’m self ambulating so that’s a good sign. I may not have been with an additional 3 miles and 1400′ of gain, so I may have learned a lesson.
So, today was pretty much lazy – I did some laundry, did some errands, but otherwise laid pretty low. According to my Fitbit, by noon I had accumulated maybe 1,800 steps, when I’ve been averaging about 20,000 daily.
By the time I had my bib, and the National Anthem began playing, I still wasn’t sure how well I was going to be able to run: the ibuprofen started to wear off and I was very much feeling the dents and dings from yesterday’s course.
The fire truck horn sounded and the runners were off. My first mile was pretty good, but it was clear to me that it was going to be a bit of a battle and that first mile was definitely going to be my best: a 7:20 pace. Mile 2 was reasonable, but clearly slower at a 7:40 pace. I was feeling the wear and tear by that point and when my watch went off with the 8:04 pace for mile 3, I knew I had only a little more course left and with what gas was left in my tank, I laid it out there. The course was really, really flat and a little more than a 5k – I recorded 3.18 miles, and in that time I hit a 6:41 pace. Now, I’m left to wonder if I could have pulled off a better pace had I paid more attention to my mile 3 time although I’m quite sure it would have had the opposite effect.
It’s a nice, pretty easy course, that I think I would normally have had a good shot at a personal record. Even still, it wasn’t a bad time at all – a friend noted that a few months ago that would have been close to a personal record, and indeed that is true. I’m happy with the overall result and glad I took the opportunity to run.
Team Sneakerama took home quite a few individual trophies and a team award – I have to say for a relatively small race, funding a great scholarship for one of Worcester’s High Schools, there were a HUGE number of awards.
I haven’t been “into” 5k’s very much in some time – I run my running club’s weekly 5k races, but other than that I haven’t been seeking them out. I’m trying to be more of a longer distance runner — I’ll choose a longer distance over the shorter most times. I was asked to run with the primary sponsor, Sneakerama, so why wouldn’t I do that?
As an aside, Sneakerama is a small, local business that just does some really great running centric stuff: Steve sponsors a lot of local races, does a free weekly “fun run” from the store, packet pick ups for races. Things like that. And look at the Yelp and Google reviews. Steve conducts his business the way you would hope a business owner would: he gives back to the community, and doing good by the community is always good business.
The Celtic 5k is part of a trifecta of “St. Patricks Day” races in the area, and there’s usually a pretty big turn out so they do a nice job of swag. It’s a fun take. The best part of the day was that the family got involved too: the kids both registered and my wife volunteered giving out the Celtic FC stylized shirts.
It’s a very simple, flat(ish) and fast, out-and-back course. As a large race, it caters to runners of all skill levels and abilities: it’s more about the party than the race itself, and that’s fine. As I said earlier, it’s a good time. When you’re finished, you get some finisher swag, a bottle of water, perhaps a banana or a slice or two of pizza if you want it. Beer? Hell, yeah. This is Worcester. There are no less than 15 official after-parties and a beer garden.
A quick warm-up around Worcester’s Elm Park and I was ready to go. Good as clockwork, the National Anthem played, and at 11 AM sharp, the horn sounded.
The first mile was smooth. I thought it would be more difficult getting past some of the slower folks that some how decided it was a good idea to crowd the finish line, but it didn’t play out that way. Dodged and weaved, ultimately finding some clear running room. When my watch buzzed after a mile, I couldn’t believe how fast a pace I was running: 6:58. Mile 2 was a little less speedy, about 7:2. I was struggling a bit as the first mile and a half or so was a slow ride down hill, a turn around to start the out and back meant that the distance we’d been running slightly downhill was now slightly uphill…although when I’m going up, it always seems far more significantly up than it was going down. #Perception.
Now into mile 3, I was definitely feeling it and were I not racing I would have slowed, walked, or maybe even paused the Garmin, today I pushed through. Where yesterday I emotionally gave up, today I doubled down. I was angry with myself after the race yesterday and I was determined not to be that guy again today. I was far too close to a personal record that I was not going to give it up.
Over that last mile, I went back and forth with one of the guys from my running club. He usually bests me and the fact that I was even close to him was exciting (and yes, he’s in his 60’s and crushing it on a regular basis. He went by me at the turn, I went by him a little before the second mile marker, he came up behind me and offered some encouragement as he went by, and just past the Mile 3 marker, the finish line in sight, I pushed through, passed him, and crossed the line in a personal best 22:46. My goal was to beat yesterday’s time, and get as close to 23-Minutes as possible. I was suffering at the end, I mean it took a LOT to push that last 0.1 mile, but it happened for me today. Who knows if I’ll ever run another 5k that fast, it’s not easy for a squat guy with stubby legs to move that quickly – a runners’ build I do not have – so I will cherish the feeling of today.