When I was starting out with this running lark, no so long ago, the 10K was my favourite distance. The 5K was pretty darned uncomfortable, and the half marathon might be an interesting thing to try. The full marathon was not even on my radar yet. So I used to run 10Ks fairly regularly at Lake Merritt, and PR’d as often as not.
This Sunday I realized that I had not raced around the lake in quite a while, what with marathon training and other racing. I did not really feel like racing, but showed up and first checked that there were enough volunteers. “Doing fine, thank you”. Oh well, better enter and put on the racing shoes. Off came the sweats. Warm up. The conditions were cool, but just OK for singlets and shorts. The old enthusiasm was coming back.
Since introducing chip timing this year the LMJS has experimented with different starting and finishing arrangements, and the current arrangement has the 5K and 10K starting on different lines as the same time, with the 10K being a few yards further back. This gets the distances exact on the loop course, and everyone crosses the same mat at the finish. The only snag is that the faster 10K runners have to go right through the 5K field, which makes the start somewhat interesting to say the least. Perhaps some further adjustments are in order.
After doing the requisite zigzagging, I attached myself to the tail of a loose lead pack of 5k and 10K runners. Going too fast? Probably. Mile 1 – 6:42 Hold this for the race? I wish! Slow a little. I kept a constant distance to the two guys in front. Mile 2 – 7:11 Oh, too slow. Just then a young woman came past. I accelerated a little and followed her as she passed the guys I had been pacing on. Yes, this is sustainable I think. I wonder which distance she is running? Mile 3 – 7:11 again. Those guys must have been slowing.
I ran the tangents well towards the end of the lap and was briefly in front of my new pace partner. White bib, she’s running the 10K, easily leading the women’s race. I grabbed a cup of water from the table as we finished the lap. There was a handful of guys in the 5K finish chute watching us go by. Hm, that has to be most of the people who were in front of us. It’s going to be a lonely second lap.
And so it was. No one visible in front, I glimpsed someone behind, but next time I checked he was further away. Then he was gone. Zeta, for that was her name, kept a steady pace, and it dawned on me that my division position was now immutable and I might as well try to beat her. I had let her get about 40 yards in front, so proceeded to close that gap. Once I had done so, I had to make a decision. Should I continue the surge and go on past, hoping she does not catch me at the finish? Or should I stay close behind and try to out-kick her? I decided on the latter, which in retrospect was probably an error. Miles 4 and 5 – 6:57, 7:02.
Zeta dealt with me expertly. As we went up a slight incline in the last quarter mile she strengthened her pace a little so I was getting extended just to keep up. My kick was getting burned away. Mile 6 – 7:05. When she kicked I did not have an adequate response, and she beat me over the line by 2 seconds. My chip time was 43:50, which knocked a minute off my 10K PR. Nice, although I probably still have some work to do there. I won the 50-59 age group by a pretty good margin.