Today I ran the Canyonlands 5-mile race. I originally signed up for the half marathon back in December, but that was no longer an option due to my injury, so it swapped it out for the 5-miler. I wasn't certain if I'd even run the 5-mile race, but decided to give it a go by Friday. Basically my goals were to go out there, get in a race atmosphere, enjoy myself, be conservative and don't hurt anything, and keep the pace under 7:00/mile. But I really wasn't sure what to expect.
We got a good morning for the race: overcast with temperatures in the mid-40s. Not much wind, just an occasional weak headwind, but nothing of consequence. I hung out with Bethany before the race, and we warmed up by hiking along the little trail at the staging area. On the way back, we bumped into Brent and Sylvia, and chatted with them until it was time to get back and discard our warmup clothes. Didn't bother with strides or any jogging.
I started about three rows back, and spent the first mile of the race dodging and weaving through little kids, and worked my way up to the top 10 by the mile marker. My pace felt incredibly easy, and I was quite surprised to see 5:xx for my lap pace when I glanced at my garmin. It didn't feel a whole lot harder than those 9-minute miles I've been chunking lately. Thank goodness for race-day magic! For those who don't believe in race-day magic, shame on you. The garmin was off on the first mile due to spotty coverage in the canyon, but I went through the mile marker in 6:03. The garmin seemed about right the rest of the race.
There was a school from Shiprock, NM at the race, and all the young bucks were dressed in blue singlets and lined up in a row ahead of me. Some of the weaker members of the pack started to fall off during the second mile, and fed my appetite for roadkill. The main hill of the race (mile 9 of the half marathon), is much much easier in the 5-miler, I discovered, and even looks quite a bit smaller than I remember. Definitely helps to hit it during the second mile. I passed the last of the easy Shiprock roadkills on the hill (after getting bored with drafting), and then just tried to relax on the downhill. Second mile was 6:05.
After two miles, I was in 7th place, and that's where I stayed the rest of the race. There were about three guys not too far off from me, but they never really came back. For the rest of the race I focused on just trying to stay even and relaxed. I decided that 6-minute miles would be a good mid-race goal, and stuck to that. Third mile was 6:10.
I got out of the canyon and popped out on Hwy 191. This is by far the worst part of the half marathon, but again, was far easier and less grueling in a 5-mile race. Still, I was glad to see that yellow "Denny's" sign that symbolizes the turn-off of the highway. It was also the 4-mile mark: 6:05.
My hamstring felt no pain during the first mile, and then just slight twinges the rest of the race. During the last mile I decided that it felt stable enough to turn it on a little bit, so I tried to pick it up for the finish, and still stay relaxed. The last mile ended up at 5:47, and the garmin was reporting 5:3x at times, so I felt pretty good about that. Final finish time was 30:10 (although for some reason the web results have me 29:59).
I ended up 7th overall, and won my age group (since it was all college kids ahead of me). Due to coming back from injury, it actually felt pretty darn good to win my age group and come home with some hardware. It was a big confidence-booster to hit sub-6 pace at times and it have it feel very comfortable. In some ways, the race felt like tinman-tempo or marathon pace in effort, although my breathing is still a little labored, and my calves and ankles haven't yet adapted to pounding and harder running, so those got sore too. So I feel like my base fitness is there, and that this is a good stepping stone.
After the race, I met up with Stacy, and we watched Bethany finish, then got some coffee, and then watched everyone finish the half marathon. I took a lot of photos of everyone I could with Dave's camera, and hopefully some of them turned out well. I will post them later in the week when we get them uploaded.
All-in-all, a great weekend; time well spent with good friends. The cabin we rented was AWESOME, and we all had a good time.
My hamstring got a little bit sore after the race, but feel pretty good today (Sunday). I don't think I'll have any lingering effects from the race, and the hammie seems to be responding well to small levels of stress. Tomorrow will tell for sure.
(Axiom: 24 miles)