I didn't play up this run too much as I haven't done a 5K since June and I had no idea what to expect. My training over the summer has resulted in some great results (for me) in the longer distances, but none of those were sub-8 paces (which is what I would be shooting for in the 5K).
We drove down to Eugene yesterday to stay with friends of Rod (who he's known since law school days some 20 years ago). They own an art gallery and have a lovely house filled with a nice blend of Asian art and antiques, plus sophisticated but comfortable contemporary furniture. Very nice.
I got up early this morning and Rod dropped me off a couple of miles from the start at Hayward Field (which is across the street from the law school; the run is a fundraiser for a law school memorial scholarship fund). I ran (jogged) over there to start my warm-up.
Of course I was WAY early and there was nothing going on yet. Which is just as well, since I didn't want to stand around waiting and I also wanted to get at least I little more running in. The trick would be getting in enough miles but not wearing myself out for the race. Of course I am used to running pretty long distances before doing speedwork so that would help a bit.
So, time on my hands, I ran on past Hayward Field on Agate till I got to a main road (the location for Track Town Pizza--lunch-to-be) plus the great Thai restaurant where we ate dinner last night). I turned left and ran past the front of the University of Oregon for a while, till I seemed to be out of sidewalk and thought I should turn around.
I backtracked, then just before I got back to Hayward Field I turned on 13th on a whim and ran through the grounds of the University. I should point out that I was completely unfamiliar with the area and being driven around a bit yesterday was no help whatsoever!
I am, however, familiar with the way colleges tend to be enmeshed by the town around them, and so I wasn't completely surprised, as I reached the edge of campus, to see the Duck Store (university bookstore) across the street. The significance of this? (Aside from the opportunity to buy vast quantities of Duck memorabilia in its native habitat?) One thing I did remember from my tour of Eugene yesterday was that Starbucks was just down the block!
So I headed over to SBUX (still plenty of time) and ordered a double short latte, used the bathroom, and sat down to pass a bit of time drinking my coffee and reading the paper.
One sign that I'm in Eugene: there were two marijuana-related articles in the local section of the paper! One was about grow bust where the 48 plants hauled away by police each measured about 8 feet tall and about 10 feet wide! (That's not a plant, it's a tree!) The other was about a grocery store in Cottage Grove where the owners were allegedly not only selling pot, but allowing buyers to purchase it using state food benefits cards (the modern version of food stamps). Can you imagine?
I also read a piece about a state Fish and Wildlife department poster which apparently (mistakenly) features a picture of a nutria instead of a beaver. Oops!
After those fascinating diversions it was about time to go, so I made one more visit to the bathroom. It's so nice when there's a convenient Starbucks bathroom near a race.
Warm-up part two: about three quarters of a mile back to Hayward Field. When I got there I did see people with numbers on (whew, I had a small fear that I had mistaken the location or the day of race), but I didn't see any check-in point. So I asked a guy where to check-in, and he said, inside the law school. Oh. Of course.
I crossed the street and a few minutes later I was in possession of my bib number and race shirt.
Rod was going to meet me at the race but I was not at all sure we would connect before it began. Luckily other people were already leaving their stuff in the grandstands, so I figured it would be safe to stash my race shirt and the jacket I was wearing till after the race.
Warm-up part 3 (and final): two laps around the track at Hayward Field. That was a great opportunity because it allowed me to finish warming up just 10 or so minutes before the start. My early miles had been so long ago that they may as well have hardly happened, for purposes of warming up.
The actual race started on the opposite side of the track, so shortly before 8:30 the entire race field (don't ask me how many, it was a good crowd though not huge) walked the 200 meters over to the starting line (also the finish line).
I lined up near, but not at of course, the starting line. My idea was to be behind the true speedsters (yes, I will be using that word freely from now on), but ahead of the joggers, walkers, and baby-stroller (who were directed to the back anyway--though two of them passed me during the race). I figured anyone who was faster than me but less assertive in lining up could just pass me. Better them than me!
Listening to the talk around me, I gathered that I was starting next to a 60-something man and a 70-something woman. So I didn't feel like I was overreaching.
The race started with a loop and a half around the Hayward track, then out the main entrance and through the Oregon campus in a convoluted route which I couldn't possibly describe, even if I was familiar with the area. I was counting on having plenty of people to follow and course assistants pointing the way, both of which were true. Plus, there were lots of arrows chalked on the ground, which was extremely helpful.
At the sound of the starting horn, I hit my Garmin and burst across the line along with a surge of other runners. This was the nicest track I have ever run a 400 on, and I treated it like a 400, running my heart out, almost (keeping in mind that I didn't get to just stop after a quarter mile). Although I really, really did not look much at my watch during this run, I did catch a glimpse about halfway around and saw a momentary pace of 6:53 (which coincidentally was the pace of my best 440 on Wednesday). They had a guy with a stopwatch calling out times as we crossed our starting line, and I think I heard 1:47 as I passed. Not bad! Of course, I still had the equivalent of about 12 more of those to go....
Both time when I passed the field entrance I looked around for Rod, but didn't see him. Turned out later that he was there--though actually I don't know where on the track he was--but I was too focused to see or hear him.
As we moved out into the street (and at times sidewalks), I settled into what seemed a reasonably fast but runnable pace. I was breathing pretty hard but wasn't sucking my lungs into my throat or anything. I resisted looking at my watch because I didn't think I could run faster even if I saw a pace I didn't like.
I had a couple of concerns near the beginning which I was afraid could derrail me but thankfully went away (or out of my head) pretty quickly. I had apparently not tied the drawstring on my pants very well, as it had come undone and I could feel them sagging a little around my waist. They are very snug and stretchy overall, but for a while I was worried about the chance of my pants falling down! Didn't happen, of course. Also, in the beginning I felt a bit like I had to, um, go...but there were no accidents of that sort either.
One potential slowing factor which I had no control over was all the twists and turns in the course. Each time you turn you slow a little, and the sharper the turn the worse it is. All I could do was try to keep my speed up as much as possible and push it in the straight stretches.
This also was not a flat course. There were several decent inclines (and accordingly, some declines too). I didn't look at my pace on the ups (what will be, will be), and just tried to take advantage of the downs.
When I got into the last mile I resorted once again to concentrating on a landmark ahead of me, running hard to that point, then doing it again, and again, and again... My landmarks were only about a block apart, sometimes less, so there were a lot of repeats.
My only almost-mistake was when we returned to Hayward Field--I almost ran right past the entrance! Luckily I caught myself and veered sharply right and into the stadium (maybe losing a second or two there?).
Onto the track and past the 3-mile mark--only a tenth of a mile to go! Time to draw on all that track practice, right? I pounded toward the finish clock as fast as I could.
I could see it was in the low 23's as I approached in the last 100 yards. I was almost guaranteed to finish under 24...and I did!
I noted the time on the clock as I passed but can't remember it now. I did hit the stop button on Garmin as I crossed the line, and it says 23:49. I think that's pretty close. We'll see when the times are posted online. Regardless, it's a PR! (Previous 5K PR was 24:21.)
After walking through the finish chute and handing over my tag (timing is old school, no chips, who needs 'em?), I got some water and looked around for Rod. He actually found me, I think I was still befuddled from the run.
He had taken some pretty good pictures with my camera and some really good ones with his. He'll email them to me when we get home. Hopefully I'll get them all. He has a habit of deleting photos he doesn't think are up to photographic par. I don't think he realizes that at a race, any picture where your runner is actually in the screen is a good picture! (Funny thing, both times he's taken race pictures with me, he's taken a picture of someone he mistook for me because they were wearing the same color shirt!)
I didn't stick around for the awards because we had things to do. Also, I can't imagine winning an age group place in a town like Eugene. Although the group wasn't all that big, and maybe there weren't many in my age group...well, we'll see when the results are posted online, I guess.
After we left the stadium we headed over to the Duck Store for a little shopping. They didn't open till 10, though, so I was happy to detour to Starbucks for another latte and a shared pumpkin scone (yum).
Once the store opened I got myself some socks and Rod scored a U of O Law School Alumni hat from the clearance rack (the only one they had). I was seriously tempted by a nice green Columbia fleece jacket. I didn't get it because how much Oregon stuff do I really need?...but I really liked it. And it would be hard to order online because I don't know whether to get a medium or a large. Darn...maybe I made a mistake.
After that we hustled back to the house to change and watch the game. For lunch, yummy pizza delivered from Track Town!
I don't know what the rest of the afternoon plans will be. Right now, I'm contemplating whether it would be too party pooper-ish to go lay down for a while. Hmmmm....
Oh, guess the game is over. Oregon wins! Go Ducks!
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