Monday, April 26, 2010

2010 Midtown Classic 5k Race Report

On this past Saturday morning, Joshua and I toed the line for the 4th Annual Midtown Classic 5k. It was a very stormy and rainy night leading up to this race, and I honestly wasn't even going to go because of the massive lightning-filled evening we experienced only hours earlier. But, God smiled on us and the storms ended an hour and half before the start of the race.

Josh and I arrived at the venue (local church) and got in line to pick up our bib numbers. The race was not chipped, which I don't like very much because of the unreliability of the results, but it's for charity, so what's the harm?

When we arrived, I was really surprised at how many people were there, and at how big of a production this race obviously is. There was a local high school band belting out tunes, a live band absolutely jamming, local restaurants had booths set up giving away free chow, goodies, donuts, etc. Definitely alot more substance and carnival-like than the traditional 5k's I'm accustomed to.

Anywho, we secured our bibs, grabbed our swag bags and dropped them back off into the Hummer, and proceeded the long walk to the Start line. Joshua was going to run this race "by himself" and so was I. I really wanted to break the 22:00 mark and I was pretty confident that this course would allow me to do it. I didn't "know" the course that well, but I knew the area VERY well, and I couldn't recall any road feature that would provide a significant obstacle to my beating 22 minutes.

The start line was interesting. Because there were at least a few hundred people there, and because there were many, many different ability levels present, the race director (RD) used a megaphone to call out expected finish times for the race, and seperate the runners/walkers based upon that factor. He had everyone expecting to finish in sub 18:00 to ocme forward first, then sub 20:00, and so on.

When he called for sub 22:00, I stepped forward in faith :) Joshua hung back with a friend from school, so he had someone to run with also. Before long, the RD gave the starting call, and we were off. I absolutely LOVES me some race starts !

I darted down the first section of roadway, crossing a major intersection as we headed towards a neighborhood on the other side. Since there were only about 25 guys in front of me (no women, actually), I was able to get a pretty quick take on who is going to be running it faster than me. Within about 500 yards, I found a couple of guys that I decided to tuck in behind and try to dial in my pace.

It didn't take long for me to realize that I had zipped out of the start chute at a pace that was faster than I really needed to. At around the 3/4 mile point, I checked my Garmin and was surprised to see that I was running at 5:45 pace. Now, for me that is FLYING. And for me, I knew that I would be headed for a quick burnout if I didn't get smart FAST.

With that realization, I slowed my pace a bit. It felt much, much easier, but the Forerunner still indicated that I was running a 6:30 pace. Still too fast for this section of the race. I was finally able to dial it back in to a 7:10 pace. My race strategy had me running a 7:07 - 7:13 pace for the first mile, 7:10 for mile two, and an all out sprint for the remaining 1.1 miles.

I hit the Mile 1 split at exactly 7:04, which was good. I felt great about finally getting it in check, and I had recovered from the early afterburner start I had engaged in. Not a smart move, guys, so learn from my mistake. Luckilly, it didn't affect my performance too terribly much.

After crossing the Mile 1 marker, the course still continued on a relatively flat level. There were a few rollers here and there, but nothing significant. I began to notice several people ahead of me started to fade, which always gives me a psychological boost. At this point, noone had passed me on the course, and that's always good.

Mile 1 - 2 passed uneventfully. I crossed the Mile 2 mat with a split time of 7:07. I felt good about my mile 2 split and had been spending the past 5 minutes or so mentally preparing myself for the pain and suffering that I knew was coming very, very soon. You see, around mile 1.4, there was a nice, long, downhill section that led us to the park that we circled on our way to the turnaround point in the course. I found this downhill a great place to let gravity help with the work and I picked up some good time going down it.

Should have realized...

Remember the old saying about "...everything that goes up must come down"? Well, I'm starting a new saying today for road races, and it goes like this:

"..everything that goes down, likely goes back UP"

You guessed it. That nice downhill stretch had to be traversed on the way to the finish line.


Now, if you have read this blog for any amount of time, you know I don't mind hills. Big hills, little hills, HUGE hills... I actually enjoy them. But, I enjoy them in marathons; not short races such as this. When you are running at essentially lactate threshold pace for the majority of the race, being pressed on an uphill climb of 3/4 mile is a tough hurdle to clear. With so little energy left in the tank, a hill such as this one can forcibly require you to expend every last nugget of energy you have rattling around the tank.

Having said that though, I managed the hill without too much problem. Make no mistake about it, it was a tough climb. I slowed my pace to around 7:50 pace and just ran the thing. Many, many people were hurting on this one and I passed a few on my way to the top. When I arrived at the top of it, I was definitely winded and my legs were on fire, but the remaining stretch to the finish line was straight and flat, and the race was on !

I tried to shift gears and power down the remaining straightaway that led back to the Finish chute, but I had a difficult time getting my pace below 8:00. As hard as I tried to find that next gear, I couldn't seem to get locked into it.

I pushed hard to the finish tape and passed a couple of runners in the process, and crossed the line at an unofficial 22:40. There were guys in front of me that just beat me across the tape, but the majority of them were vomitting profusely in the finish chute.

Lovely, huh?

I can honestly say I've never experienced that little piece of enjoyment during a race, and I hope I never do. Actually, I witnessed MANY guys of differing abilities, vomitting all over the place at the finish area. Not sure why, but possibly the humidity and temp. It had rained all night, so it was muggy. The temps were around 70, so it wasn't cool by any means. Not sure, just glad I wasn't a participant in puke-fest.

I headed back down the finish chute area to the start of it, as I began to look for Joshua. I wondered how that long uphill section would affect him in his attempt to break his 5k PR of 28:31. It was really awesome to see such a huge crowd of people from the community as they lined the finish zone area. I had to walk a good bit to get past them and be able to see the runners coming down the street toward the finish.

Within a couple of minutes, I caught sight of Josh. He was running HARD... REALLY HARD. I started cheering for him as loud as I could, and he heard me - he started to kick it. His face was blood-red, and I could hear him breathing hard as he jetted past the onlooking crowds ... I knew he was going to be close on his PR, but I couldn't see the finish clock from that part of the chute, so as he whished past me, I sprinted behind him to the finish to get a look at the clock...

28:06 !!!

Awesome - ABSOLUTELY Awesome!

I found him in the crowds at the end of the chute, and he was completely, utterly spent. I had him bend over while I poured an ice cold bottle of Dasani over his head, and his first words to me (after he was able to breathe again) was...

"...Dad, can we get something to eat?"

Like I said, Awesome.

Long story short, Josh PR'ed, but inexplicably fell short on winning his age group. I missed my PR be 3 seconds, but ended up placing 3rd in my AG. Nice bronze medal, but no PR. I would trade one for the other...

Here is the thing I take away from the 2010 Midtown Classic 5k, and I didn't learn it from my own race, either. I learned in this race from the look I saw in our 11 year old's eye as he ran that final 100 yards to the finish. It was a look of 100% focus, determination, and being absolutely willing to EXPEND IT ALL in the pursuit of a goal. I can't begin to count the number of times I've pulled up short with a less-than-all-out-effort just because "...I didn't feel good". What I saw in Josh reminded me of what Steve Prefontaine used to say about effort:

" give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift"

Great run, Josh. Thanks for unintentionally showing Dad what it means to run your heart out, strive for the prize set before you, and leave it all on the course.

BTW: 2010 River Road 5k is in two weeks :)


  1. Glad you weren't a participant in puke-fest - that's just wrong.

    Congrats on the 3rd place finish. I've never placed, but I understand that a PR would be more important to me than the medal.

    Way to go Josh - that is awesome! A PR and an all out effort. Impressive and inspiring.

    Nice report!

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Amanda. Don't worry, you'll place before you know it. (I've placed quite a few times from being the only person in my AG!)