I posted three running goals to start this year. Two of my goals are still off in the distance. I don't plan to even attempt a full marathon until the fall and the sub-20-minute 5k was a stretch goal to start with. My first goal was to qualify for the A starting wave for the Peachtree Road Race this year. I needed a time of 23:01 or better on a USATF-certified course before registration opens to qualify. I'd run a qualifying time back in November, but it wasn't on a qualifying course. This made the goal seem pretty simple except I'd run 3.1 miles that fast exactly twice before Saturday's qualifying attempt and I was suffering a bit of hamstring origin tendinitis, as I'd mentioned last week. On the plus side, I was running on a barrier island in Georgia (pancake flat), and the weather was in the perfect range for hard running (in the 50s).
I set off pretty strong, posting a 7:17 pace at the first half mile and 7:15 at the mile. That was already better than my fastest ever 5k time and I was feeling good, but there was plenty of time to blow it still. I wasn't breathing hard. My legs weren't tired. I just focused on keeping even effort and running forward. When I checked my pace at the end of mile two, I was a little shocked. I was starting to feel tired by this point and I didn't feel like I was floating down the road like I did in the first mile. Instead of seeing my pace drop, though, I was now at a 7:10 pace. I'd just run a 7:07 second mile. That's fast for me. Really fast. At this point, I knew I pretty much had my time. A 7:20 pace would get me the qualifying time and only a disaster would cause me to lose enough time in the final 1.1 miles to even end with that slow of a pace. My final pace wasn't the blistering pace of the second mile, but it was still faster than the first. I ran a 7:12 split for the final mile to finish the race in 22:12, 49 second faster than I needed and my fastest 5k time ever.
That photo at the top of this post is me coming in to the finish line. There was a group of boys, probably about 10 years old, who were trying to get high fives from all the runners. My wife said the first finishers ignored the poor kids, but I was perfectly happy to pretend I was Meb Keflezighi and soak up the adoration after a heck of a run.
Yes, I realize the time for that day on my Runkeeper widget on the right of your screen claims I wasn't that fast. That's because I didn't stop Runkeeper until a bit after I crossed the finish line. There's this weird thing I experience at the end of a hard run. I'll feel great as long as I put one foot in front of the other, but as soon as I slow to a walk, it feels like I run into a brick wall. I'm gasping for air, dizzy, and exhausted where only seconds earlier when I was running, I was breathing easily and felt fine.
As for the tendinitis, it didn't flare back up as bad as I had worried. I'm going to take it easy on the running this week and start some stretching exercises to see if I can get it to clear up.
As for the actual race, I'd recommend the event, especially for non-competitive runners. Super Dolphin Day is a long-running series (more than 30 years), of races on St. Simons Island, Ga. There were about 500 runners just for the 5k and I was worried that the parking situation could be problematic. Because it's on an island, access to the starting area is limited and parking is not exactly ample. Surprisingly, however, we easily found a spot when we showed up to check in and get our numbers and the event seemed to be well run. There had apparently been some confusion near the end of the 10k that morning before we got there and several runners ended missing the finish line because they missed a turn, but that wasn't an issue for the mile and 5k. Every turn was manned by at least a couple of volunteers waving us in the right direction and water tables were placed at every mile. I wasn't entirely happy with the mile run, though. I run the mile with my four-year-old as a warm-up when I run at events with kid-friendly milers. This run was just a hair shy of six-tenths of a mile, despite being advertised as a mile and they didn't even have an informal time-keeping method. My son was a little upset by this because he wanted to place higher in this race for his age group than last time. On the plus side, he rocked that race. The 10k and 5k had timing chips on the race number and so there were no issues there. I plan on running this race in the future.