I ran my second 5k of the year this last Saturday, March 29th, the Blackberry Farm 5k Spring Gallop in Aurora, Illinois. Blackberry Farm bills itself as a “historical village”, and is part of the Fox Valley Park District. It has a few paths surrounding the property, which made for a nice run through a mix of forested trails. Most of the race was on paved trails (using the Virgil Gilman Trail), with a short section on crushed limestone.
I missed the online cut-off for signing up (which was something like a week ahead of time), so I got there early to register. I had no problems registering, but had about 45 minutes to kill before the 8:30 am start. Unfortunately, it was a rather miserable Chicago day – gray and windy and cold – so I spent the pre-race time huddled in the warmth of my car. I spent most of the time debating my clothing options, and ended up sticking with my running jacket. I walked over to the starting area about 10 minutes before the start, and was immediately glad I had opted for the jacket. Too cold for March 29th!
My Race – I lined up towards the front a few rows back. The gun went off and I took off like an idiot, racing like it was a 100 meter dash (I really need to work on that negative split thing). I didn’t feel particularly out of breath or tired in the first half mile, but knew I was definitely going faster than I should have or could maintain for the full 5k. In fact, I was a little scared to glance down at my watch because I wasn’t sure I really even wanted to know my pace at this point, in fear it might psych me out. I worked up the courage to take a peek at the half mile mark, and found I was doing a 6:30 mile – way too fast for my slow legs! So I dialed it back a bit to a more comfortable pace and finished mile 1 in 7:01.
I settled in and felt pretty good in the second mile, still pushing myself but nothing out of control. I managed a 7:33 in mile 2, and just hoped I could maintain that pace in the third mile. I was still feeling pretty good until around the 2.5 mile mark, when I started to feel fatigue in my legs (hmmm, I guess sprinting out of the starting gate is not an ideal race strategy after all).
I started battling another runner with a half mile to go. I would get passed and then they would pass me. Soon enough though the other racer got a good 10 yards on me and seemed to be gaining speed, while I was slowing. At this point, the race meandered and winded its way through a section near the finish, with lots of little turns. I knew we were approaching the parking lot where the finish line was positioned, but couldn’t reconcile why my watch was telling me we still had .25 miles to go…since the finish was in sight. This made me nervous because I didn’t want to start my finishing kick too early, or too late. But as we approached it became clear that there was one little loop left in the parking lot before heading to the finish line. Ah, I instantly felt better being able to see the remainder of the course, and confirm that my watch was not playing some evil and cruel early April Fools joke on me.
Anyhow, I still had my competing racer in sight on the last stretch, and was able to muster a strong sprint finish over the last .10…and managed to outkick the other racer by a good 2 seconds! Ok, confession time – the racer I had been battling the last half mile was an 11-year old girl! No, I am not proud of beating her (barely beating her), as I really was just battling and pushing myself rather than racing against anyone else. And yes, that 11-year old girl is 10 times the runner I am, or will ever be. She ended up being the second overall female finisher – and obviously has a very bright running future ahead of her. Mine is much more questionable!
So I ended up finishing in 22:32 (7:16 pace), which put me in 30th out of 394 runners, and 5 out of 25 in my age group (but would have been 1st in the 1-14 Female group, which as you know is my primary competition). So this was easily good enough for a PR over my 24:18 back on February 2nd, which I’m obviously happy about.
Swag – The goodie bag included a long-sleeve t-shirt (not a tech shirt, but still ok), a bag with the race logo on it, and various other trinkets such as a key chain and stress ball which my daughters were very happy to take from me.
Overall – While the weather didn’t cooperate (missed it by just one day, the Sunday after was close to 60 degrees), this was a nice course and I was thrilled with my time. Doing more short runs where I focus on speed rather than distance has helped with my cadence and quickness for these shorter races. All in all a great morning, even if the weather wasn’t very “spring-like.”