It was race day this morning. I ran the Arizona Sunrise Series 5k at Rose Mofford Sports Complex on the west side of Phoenix. As always, I was up early and just a bit nervous. 5k races are the hardest. You basically start out fast, remain fast in the middle of race and then try and try to hang on to your pace. Today was no different.
After my usual morning routine, I left my house at around 5:20AM to Rose Mofford Sports Complex. The Arizona Sunrise Series is usually attended by some pretty fast runners. It was a hot and humid this morning; hence times were expected to be a minute of so slower. It wasn’t going to be an easy race. 5k races never are!
I got there at around 5:50AM. The race was to start at 6:30AM. As expected, there was nervous energy everywhere. People were jogging, stretching, zenning and doing their own peculiar pre-race routines. Time ticked slowly in anticipation or race start. The announcer made announcements every ten minutes to build up the excitement. An Asics booth was giving away free shoes in a raffle. A physio-therapist was providing stretching tips. Lines were forming for the restrooms; longer for women than men. I ran a quick 1-mile warm-up with a couple of 30-second bursts to get my juices flowing.
At 6:25AM, we all gathered near the starting line. I was number 329 with my iPod starting the race off to the Rhythm of The Black Eyed Peas. My goal was to do a sub-7-minute pace for a time of around 21:30.
The Race Start and the First Mile: I was lined up a few of rows back out of courtesy to faster runners. The start was somewhat chaotic because a few slow runners were lined up in the front. I don’t know why these slow runners do that, but every race has them! They simply don’t know runners’ etiquette. Of course, I’m still glad that they are running. Anyway, there were about a dozen runners in front of me after we settled into a smooth rhythm. The first mile is slightly uphill but we had the wind behind us. The course went under the Peoria underpass to add a bit of undulation. I was running smoothly and saw that my pace was at 6:30. This was slightly faster than I had hoped but I kept going. A couple of faster runners passed me comfortably and I passed a few slower runners. We all settled into a rhythm as my Garmin buzzed me at the 1-mile mark.
1st Mile Pace: 6:31
The Second Mile: I was running steadily behind a tiny and fast black girl (I would come to know later that her name is Rose). She had a smooth stride and slightly slower cadence than mine. She was my key for this race. The course is an out-and-back route. Right after the Cactus underpass, just before I approached the turn-around point, I saw the faster runners running towards me. I was cutting all corners in the slightly zigzag course. I was starting to feel uncomfortable and noticed that my pace for the second mile was slower and my heart-rate was already near my max at 170+. As I approached the turnaround at the half-way point, I took comfort in the knowledge that it was all slightly downhill coming back. I tried to welcome the pain. “Relax and Flow” I told myself. A slight but stiff wind hit my face as I turned around. Rose was too far in front of me for me to draft her. I looked back and saw the runner I had passed was running about 10 second behind me. I was on my own in the slight breeze and ran on through the Cactus underpass and on to the last mile.
2nd Mile Pace: 7:00
The Third Mile and Finish: It was now time to hang on. I was feeling the heat and was reaching the threshold of my pain. “Relax and Flow.” If I was feeling it, everyone was feeling it. As I ran through the Peoria underpass, I knew I had about a quarter mile to go. Rose was still about 10 seconds in front of me and I could see nobody behind me. All I had to do was maintain my pace and I’d finish okay. “Relax and Flow.” As I saw the finish line, my pace was relaxed. I didn’t have anything left to pick up the pace, but I knew nobody could pass me. It was painful but satisfying as I crossed the finish line.
5k Time: 21:16
Average Pace: 6:50
My Garmin showed a total distance of 3.08 miles which is just a bit shorter than a 5k. I had cut the corners well!
I soon found out that I had placed 14th overall (out of 195 runners) and 2nd in my age group (out of 19 runners). Not bad!