Today I ran my first 5000-meter race (aka 5K) in a little over two years. My last 5K was the 2009 Aurora Labor Labor Classic (Cleveland, Ohio), where I ran a 17:39 (5:39 pace) to set a new PR. At today's Trot 4 Our Troops 5K in Parker, I finished second overall with an 18:31 (5:58 pace), out of 122 finishers. Not bad for a cross-country course with some muddy spots, run at 5,900 feet in Salisbury Equestrian Park. Also, considering I haven't done much speed training in the last 5 months (during my Leadville 100 training), this was a pretty solid result.
The cool thing about Trot 4 Our Troops is that it benefits Youth for Parker as well as Project Sanctuary (for veterans), both nonprofit organizations involved in the Parker community. Anytime you can can help our troops, that's a good cause!
The race started about ten minutes late, due to a delayed flyover of four biplanes. The weather was perfect--50s, sunny and very little wind. These were "no excuse" conditions. Going into the race, I kind of figured I could win. But as soon as the gun went off, Scott Schrader, who I later found out lives in my neighborhood, was off at a blistering place. Seeing Scott work it, I realized he had an extra gear I didn't have. Still, I was working hard and trying to gain on him. My first mile, which consisted mostly of grass and dirt trail, was 5:59.
Not long into mile two, I started to feel the elevation. Going balls-to-the-wall at nearly 6,000 feet isn't easy! My second mile, which I ran in second place with a young, fast kid of about 16 not far behind me, was in 6:09. I wasn't happy with that split, but with lots of dirt, a little bit of mud, and some small hills mixed in, this wasn't a PR course.
Mile three was hard! The kid behind me seemed to be gaining on me. By this time, Scott was way ahead and so I wasn't worried about him anymore. The course was scantly marked in a few areas, adding a little bit of pressure as this kid was now nipping at my heels! I ran mile three in 6:07--two seconds faster than mile two.
The last tenth of a mile was a doozey! With the finish line in sight, lactic acid becoming a factor and the threat of oxygen debt, the kid behind me decided to drop the hammer. About 100 meters before the finish line, I could hear him behind me and quietly said an expletive starting with the letter "F," because I knew these last 100 meters were going to hurt. There was no way I was letting a kid pass me within 100 meters of the finish. So I dropped my own hammer and charged into the finish line in a full-on sprint. I beat this kid by maybe a half second a la a Mark Cavendish sprint finish! At the finish, I shook his hand--the kid had balls to try to take on an old man more than twice his age! Turns out he's a track star at nearby Legend High School. I like his attitude!
Now for my confession. I've bolded this paragraph because it's maybe the most important thing I've written all year. This was an important race for the following reason. At times this year I've secretly questioned whether I've lost my edge--the killer instinct. As a runner, I'm not very gifted talent-wise. What's helped me do some decent things with running has always been my killer instinct. I learned at the 5K today, when I sprinted for the finish to hold off that hard-charging, gutsy kid, that I'm still full of competitive juices. In a way, the ending of the race, however physically uncomfortable, provided a relief. I now know I still have the killer instinct and am not washed up. I need to let it guide me for the rest of the year and in the years ahead. In a way, it's really all I have as a runner. God didn't bless me with blazing speed or tremendous climbing and descending skills. Without the killer instinct, I'm just a guy out there going through the motions--and why bother to do that? It's good that I even recognize this now.
Back to the race.... The post-race festivities were great! With Anne and Noah there the whole time, we hung out and enjoyed pizza, barbecue and other treats. Scott and I talked for a little and exchanged phone numbers. Congrats to him on his win! He and I will be meeting for a run soon. I also got my second-place trophy at the award ceremony and collected a Best Buy gift card.
Trot 4 Our Troops is a great local race that I highly recommend. It's only in its second running but this year saw a sizable increase in the number of runners and many more vendors and sponsors. My only complaint is that the course could have been better-marked. Hats off to all finishers and the organizers for putting on a great race that benefits our troops and Youth for Parker.