Monday, June 21, 2010

Father's Day 5K - Fort Collins

Preface
A nice tradition in many towns is a citizen race on Father's Day. Fort Collins, Colorado has such a tradition, with the Father's Day 5K. It's one in a long line of 5K races that serve both as vital community events and fundraisers for some local charity, scholarship, or foundation. The 2010 Father's Day 5K in Fort Collins was Sponsored by the Primrose School of Fort Collins, and benefited reduced or no-fare youth activities at the City's North Side Aztlan Community Center. I think it's pretty cool that by fueling my running habit, I can also directly support a number of these organizations.

Runner Disposition
They say that the important night for sleep before a race is two nights before, because it is often difficult to sleep the night before the race. Plus, there's the getting up early and all that. Unfortunately, I felt like crap two nights before the race, so didn't sleep well for two consecutive nights before this race. I usually find a way to tone down my expectations before a race, and this was what I used to tone them down this time. I really didn't know what to expect given I felt fairly fatigued the morning of the race. Still, I set out to run my best race under the conditions.

Course
The Father's Day 5K in Fort Collins is run on a pretty fast course. I had guessed that when I saw the map. As an out and back course with a little bit up elevation change, there is as much uphill and downhill and most of it is barely noticeable when racing. There is one place in the course where there is a dip, so astute runners can really attack on the downhill and then go easy on the uphill, so they don't burn themselves out.

Conditions
Lately 8am has been about as late in the morning as I want to be out on the roads running around, because it has been hot. On this day, however, we were fortunately that although it was humid, there was enough cloud cover to keep the sun at bay so it stayed cooler until about 9am, when the sun really started to break through and warm things up.

The Race
The start:  I try to start near the front, because I don't like to weave around people. The start of this race was crowded enough that even starting about 3-4 people back from the front, it was still pretty slow going for the first 100 meters or so, as I had to hold up and look for safe routes around children and slower runners who had somehow managed to get out in front of me. I felt like I might have lost some seconds here, but knew it wouldn't make or break my performance.

Mile 1:  I wanted to go out pretty fast, but not go for a land speed record in the first mile. It generally works a better for me to go out at a little faster than my goal pace (but maybe 5 seconds in a 5K, depending on the lay of the course). So, I wanted to run the first mile at a comfortably fast pace. As it turned out, that was a 6:49 miles. This is not my fastest first mile in a 5K and not my slowest, so I thought it was a good start, considering.

Mile 2:  Not long after the start of mile two, the sharpest elevation change on the course occurs. The course dips down with moderate steepness to an intersection , then climbe back up to a little higher than before, but then remains level before dipping the same dip is covered in the other direction as you come up on the start of mile 3. I really tried to attack on the downhill, focusing on god downhill form, and then tried to take it easy by strong on the uphill side of the dip each time, and finsihed off the second mile with a split of 6:55 split.

Mile 3:  My hope was just to hold on to that mile 2 pace through mile 3, which I thought would be a little easier because mile three was mostly a slight downhill, with the last quarter mile swinging back up slightly. When I say "slight" here I really mean it. Barely perceptible from ground level. I started feeling a little of the fatigue at this point in the race (usually do in a 5K), however, so I struggled to keep my pace to a 7:02 for Mile 3, and for a time I felt I was going to lose it altogether. Still, I managed to hold on.

The finish:  The last 0.1 mile I didn't know if I would be able to pick up the pace, but I found a little bit of anaerobic capacity and managed to run get from the end of mile three to the finish at a 6:12 pace. It helped that I remembered this time to look up at the clock and see that I was going to be able to hit a Personal Record (PR). That gave me the extra incentive to dig deep for whatever kick I could must, and I came across the line in 21:20, a PR by 41 seconds.

Summary
It was a fun and worthwhile event, overall, and I'll probably run it again in the future. My only suggestion for organizers is to use chip timing in the future. I think there are enough participants to justify it, and I hope the organizers will be willing to charge a little extra and spring for chip timing in the future. I went home from the event very happy.

Postscript
After the race, I took advantage of the free snacks and complimentary root beer floats from a brewpub that sponsored the event (I went back for seconds on a free floats), then accosted a member of the Fort Collins Running Club that I saw checking results. I had joined the club a few weeks before at the beginning of race season, so there had not yet been any club functions where I could meet anyone. It was good to finally start putting faces to names I had seen on the website and talk running with someone who is obsessed with it as I am at present. We even agreed to a potential carpool arrangement for a half marathon later this year. I think I'll be getting more involved with club events and maybe will volunteer for, instead of run, The Firecracker 5K in Fort Collins, which is organized by one of the Club members.

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