Race Recap: Know Your Craft 5K

Most people run a marathon with the primary goal of completing the 26.2 mile distance. Easter weekend, I ran a 5K, about an eighth of the distance of a marathon, with the same goal – don’t quit before crossing the finish line.

I have a lot of respect for those who race shorter distances. If you are racing a short distance, you have to run hard. And to run hard is, well, hard.

So, even though I’m scared of racing a 5K and have little experience at the distance, I signed up for the Triple C’s Know Your Craft 5K on March 26th.

In the days leading up the race, I was a bit nervous about the nagging knee pain I’ve been experiencing lately. I cut my mileage (only ran 21 miles the entire week including those from race day) and took some anti-inflammatories in the two days prior to the 5K. Fortunately, I didn’t feel (or at least didn’t notice) any pain during the race.

The fast 5K started out at a ridiculously speedy pace. I was the only girl lined up on the starting line, but about half a second after the gun went off, another female flew past me. I was in the chase and there wasn’t five seconds on the time clock. I looked down at my watch in the first minute or so of the race and saw a sub-five minute pace. It’s possible my Garmin was confused, but I was not…The pace was insanely fast.

I let Miss Speedy go…I didn’t know who she was, but I knew even if she was the fastest girl in Charlotte, that pace was too fierce. Perhaps she got caught up in the race excitement or maybe she wanted to see if she could break my spirit early by putting some distance on me in the first mile. (I met Miss Speedy after the race and she told me that she noticed me before the start and thought “that girl might beat me.” Lesson learned. Maybe I should have stood on the second row.)

Anyways, if Miss Speedy’s goal was to break my spirit with a quick start, it worked…a little. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some dark thoughts creep in near the beginning, mainly questioning if I was in good enough shape to be racing and worried my 5K time would be an embarrassment. I feared that I had stood on the starting line like an 18-year-old boy heading in to war or, in other words, with the delusional belief that I was immortal – Despite my low mileage, long layoff, and shaky knee, I was going to be able to step up and perform.

I did my best to calm my nerves and settle in my pace. Miss Speedy felt like light years away when my Garmin beeped to signal completion of the first mile in 5:34.

We continued to run further away from the brewery and slightly uphill and in to the wind on the busy Tryon street. I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized Miss Speedy was steadily coming back to me. I caught her and another guy as we rounded the corner on to Tremont Ave. The pace felt slow during this stretch. Regardless of whether I wanted to win or not, I knew I needed to keep pressing if I wanted to post a fast time.

I tried to give myself a bit of a mental boost by thinking about how it was a great thing we ran in to the wind when we headed out from the brewery because now the foe would turn friend and encourage us along the light-rail trail as we headed towards our victory beers. Still, I was not celebrating yet. Mile two was the worst – 5:52 average pace. Not quitting during the hump mile was the day’s greatest success.

Two miles down, I started telling myself “only about a mile to go.” A minute or so later, “less than a mile to go.” I felt like I was dying and was ready for the stress test to be over.

Then, we cut off the runner’s path sooner than I had expected and started winding back towards the brewery. I enjoyed no longer having a long straightaway in front of me. The twisting and turning during this part of the course helped keep my mind off of the distance left to cover. The downhill helped too.

When my Garmin signaled the end of the third mile (5:44 average pace), I was surprised that the race was almost over. I was already congratulating myself on the hard effort before I turned the corner and realized that I hadn’t suffered through the worst of the day, the steep uphill close to the finish. When I felt my legs burning with the buildup of lactic acid, I pulled back on the pace and slowly trudged up the hill like a mountain goat. A guy passed me in this final stretch, but I didn’t care – In fact, I really don’t remember him. I only know this to be true because of the race results and the below photo.

Photo 1

What I do remember in the final stretch towards the finish line was staring at the clock. My goal was to not quit, but a sub-18-minute finish would have made me feel like the kid who found the golden Easter egg. I stared at the clock trying to figure out if I was just too far away or if the sun was casting a glare. Finally, I realized that it was not working. So, I maintained pace, crossed the finish line as the fastest girl of the day, and then spent the next 10 minutes trying to catch my breath.

Gun time (since there was no chip time but it hardly would have mattered) showed me completing the 5K in 18:08, less than 10 seconds away from my sub-18 goal. I may have tried to run harder if I had seen the clock at the end, but I’m skeptical I could have shaved nine seconds off. Interestingly, my Garmin showed a 5K effort of 17:56. However, I think it is only in the Strava world that I have a sub-18 5K.

Unfortunately, when I attempted my long run on Easter Monday at the beach where my dog Sugar and I jetted shortly after the race, I could no longer ignore my achy knee. As I write this post, a week and a half later, I can say that I am 99% sure I have IT Band Syndrome. The good news though is that with all the glute exercises I am now doing perhaps I can look like this beach babe by swimsuit season…

Beach Babe

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