Saturday, June 10, 2006

RACE REPORT: 2006 Easy Does It 5-Miler

Ready to run

I awakened at 5:00 AM to get myself all gussied up for the 2006 Easy Does It 5-Miler, the 25th and final running of this race.

The dire predictions for the weather proved to be unfounded. We were blessed with an absolutely ideal morning to run; temperatures in the 50’s, and mix of overcast and sunshine. The only quibble might have been that it was rather breezy with strong winds coming out of the east. But really, who could complain? There was bound to be a good showing for this event.

I arrived at the registration area on the Hazelden grounds to pick up my packet and number. The race director was there shaking hands with all of the runners, thanking them for their support over the years. A very nice gesture.

A clumsy self-portrait of yours truly arriving at the race today!

After I picked up my goodies, I munched on some of Jelly Belly’s new “Sport Beans” (!) and wandered around the grounds since I had some time to kill. Medicine Lake was looking quite beautiful this morning. I also saw two families of wood ducks with a total of 20 ducklings (yes, I counted...20 of them!). Yes indeed, it was going to be a really nice day to race.

Prior to today, I had not run a race longer than a 5k since last October, so I really had no idea what to expect. I was fearful that I would start off at my normal 5k clip and then crap out over the last couple miles. My goals were to A). not start too fast, B). run comfortably, and C). save something for the end. With any luck, I could improve on last year’s time.

Let’s Go Racing!

A little before 8 AM, the street started to fill with runners. As I mentioned in a previous post, this is a pretty competitive race. Because of the MDRA affiliation and points race, this one brings out all the heavy hitters. All the local elite runners, various teams sponsored by local running stores, they all show up.

The race course runs east down 36th Ave in Plymouth and turns through a residential area that eventually points you towards Medicine Lake. Then you do an out-and-back down E. Medicine Lake Blvd. before returning to the Hazelden grounds to complete the 5 miles.

The horn sounds, and we are off! The starts of races are always a little congested and chaotic, but I managed to get around some slower folks and settled in to a pace where I felt comfortable.

36th Ave. runs ever so slightly uphill to the turning point into the residential area, and today it was also into the wind. The mile 1 checkpoint was right at the turn, and I checked my watch. 7:22. OK, that was a little bit quicker than I had intended, but I felt good, so I decided to keep up that pace.

We make a few turns through the neighborhood, and soon I am at mile 2. 14:30. Hmmm...that mile was quicker than the first. But, all was well, so I stuck with it.

Soon I emerge from the residential area and make the sharp left on to E. Medicine Lake Blvd. There is a nice, steep downhill stretch at the start that is perhaps the length of a football field, and it is a tremendous amount of fun to run down (of course)! Then things level off, so I settled back into my pace. This is an interesting stretch because you run down the road, eventually making a 180 degree u-turn, returning on the bike path all the way to Hazelden. What I am trying to say is that you get to see all of the leaders absolutely screaming past you in the opposite direction!

I hit the mile 3 checkpoint. 21:30. Yikes! Now I was slightly concerned. I am running at a pace that would have rivaled my best 5K time. This was too fast, I thought. Was I going to hit the wall before this finish?

But I was still in really good shape. I didn’t feel like I was exerting too much, and was quite comfortable, seemingly with something left in the tank. Onward!

For some reason, I missed the mile 4 checkpoint. I have no idea where it was or when I went past it! Oh, well. All I knew was that I was moving along rapidly towards the hill. Remember that fast downhill stretch I told you about? Well, we have to run back up it! Still feeling pretty spry, I attacked the hill, passing several people who were running out of gas.

Once you crest the hill, it is only about a half a mile to the finish, so I gave it hell and put the hammer down. Picking up the pace, I passed a few more people on the bike path. I couldn’t believe I still had this much energy. I rounded the corner back into Hazelden and immediately got goose-bumps when I saw my time.

A shot near the finish line at Hazelden with Medicine Lake in the background

Numbers, statistics, and personal records

I crossed the finish line in 35 minutes and 13 seconds. Overall, I finished 148th of 589 total runners. Among my gender, I finished 120th out of 328, and was 12th out of 30 in my age group. I bested last year’s time of 39:06 by a whopping 3 minutes and 53 seconds. More significantly, I also eclipsed my personal best 5-mile time by 1 minute and 46 seconds, and in doing so established a new personal record! I couldn’t be more excited.

This race was a fantastic learning experience. I learned that I can sustain my 5k pace over the course of 5 miles, something which I did not know I could do. I also learned valuable lessons about managing my race. Even though I thought I might have started too fast, it turns out I didn’t. In doing the math, I felt totally comfortable and kept getting faster as the race went on, so I ran exactly as I needed to.

Perhaps most importantly, I realized (once again) that we are capable of doing things bigger than we can imagine. I never dreamed that I would run my fastest 5-miler today. It reminds me that I need to keep setting goals, no matter how ridiculous or far-fetched they seem at the time.

Hello, Goodbye

The Beatles hit song “Hello, Goodbye” appropriately crossed my mind as I headed home from the race. Last year was the first year I ran in the Easy Does It, and this year, after 25 years, this race is no more. How sad that I only got to run in two of them! Hello, goodbye, indeed. This race will be missed.

There will undoubtedly be other races to take its place, but at least I saved my best for last.

So tonight, I celebrate! Copper River salmon for dinner, a little NASCAR night racing, and a glass of something really good. Here is to dreaming big! :)

Until next time,

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