Who’s fast at 40?
Did a small 5k race last week while we were down in Florida. My wife found it randomly in the paper on Wednesday and I figured I’d take advantage of the light training week to “taper” for the Saturday event.
I haven’t done a 5k in over two years so I was a little nervous. While I’ve done a few hard, fast miles here and there since getting sick, I’ve shied away from doing full-on 5k style training/racing. I just don’t want to tax my body to that level. Still, I was interested in testing my new 40-44 age group, so I showed up at 8:00am to take a crack at it.
The field was very small. I’d be surprised if there were even 150 people there. The race was a fund raiser for a local group that helps abused children. There was a walk component to the event and many of the participants were grandparents walk-running with their grand kids.
What better way to crush the competition than to find a race full of retirees and children?
I love how, after racing and working with runners for so many years, I can size up the competition with just a quick look. It’s kinda like poker – everyone has a “tell” that lets me know what cards they could play out on the course. How fit someone looks is a great indicator, but sometimes it’s as simple as looking at runner’s shoes or his clothes. Other times it’s the way in which he composes himself in the final five minutes before the gun. Of course, there’s always that guy who delivers a thrashing performance despite having an iPod, wearing Nike Shox and a sporting a Abercrombie & Fitch sweatsuit, but for the most part who’s who is usually pretty clear.
In this race, though, I didn’t even need to look to see who had racing flats on. There were only four of us even warming up and one guy had his college track team singlet on! We were the race.
We line up and take off. The course was a zig-zaggy adventure over a grid of roads through a quite neighborhood. There were lots of turns. As expected, the four of us who had bothered to warm up quickly disappeared from the rest of the race. What was surprising though, was just how fast College Boy disappeared from us! I mean, he was gone after about 1/2 mile. I never saw him again.
The first mile went by for me in 5:40. I was pretty shocked and new I needed to cut back or end up a heaving mess on the side of the road. I settled into 4th pace, but tried to stay within striking distance of the guy in 3rd place. He got about 25 yards on me before I think he realized the same thing and eased up a little. The gap never grew.
Unfortunately, the gap never closed either. I ran the 2nd and 3rd miles in about 6:00, but couldn’t find the kick to make a move on him. I’d like to think that if I had just held on for a few more minutes I could have stayed with him and maybe made a push at the line. However, I doubt I would have been able to out run him. The entire time I was behind him he never looked back. Not once. Not even when we rounded the corners at the end of the block where a quick glance sideways would show him who’s chasing. This tells me that he was feeling pretty confident and not worried about someone sneaking up on him.
Through the line
I ended up with a finishing time of 00:18:26 which averages out to a 5:55 pace. Pretty fucking stellar considering I’ve not run that fast for that long in over 2 years. In fact, that’s a PR for me on the road. I should point out though that I’ve never done a 5k road race that was as flat as this one. The biggest incline was a speed bump near mile 2.
After finishing, and assuring myself that I wasn’t going to throw up, I started to feel pretty good about medaling. I knew the winner, College Boy, who finished in a blazing 00:16:52, wasn’t in my age group. I was also fairly confident that the 2nd and 3rd place guys were younger than me. There was an award for overall Masters and I thought I had picked it up.
Sadly, it seems that the 3rd place guy was also trying out his new age group and took the Masters award from me. I Googled him up after I got home and, judging from the other race results I found for him, he just turned 40 a few weeks before me. Damn!
All was not lost though. Since he won overall Masters, I won 1st in my age group. While it was a little bittersweet, I’m pretty thrilled about it. The irony is that my time would have had me winning the 35-39 age group. Oh well.
After the race, I felt pretty great for about 2 hours. Then I crashed. It felt super tired and really sleepy so I got into bed, propped my feet up to drain the blood and took a one-hour nap. This gave me a good recharging and, with the help of a coffee, held me through the rest of the day.
The next day I was fine as well. And, much to my surprise, I wasn’t even sore from the effort. Maybe a little stiff, but even 48 hours later I was free and clear of any DOMS. I took this as another good sign of my fitness and ability to run this hard. I don’t foresee adding a bunch of 5ks to my schedule this season, but with the other goals I have, I intend to do a lot of speed work. I feel that I now have a sense of where I can push myself and how hard I can go.
Onwards and upwards…