Race report – Vail Valor Memorial Day 5-mile

*This race report has been a little late in coming because between wrapping up a cadaver study at work, moving between apartments, and trying to prep for some upcoming travel things have been a little busy!*

I got a 5-mile race PR on Monday!!!

(Ok, so it was a race distance that I’ve never raced before…but I’m still giving myself a little pat on the back.)

It’s tough finding local non-trail summer races in the land of ski resorts and ultras so I’ve had this particular race circled on my calendar since volunteering at it while injured last Spring. The race is locally hosted and serves as a part of the town’s Memorial Day events, with many racers running in honor and memory of relatives and friends. The hard-core endurance runners tough out the hilly 13.1 and marathon courses, but there’s also a relatively flat 5-miler and a 1-mile kids race for those of us with a desire for something shorter and faster.

Unlike last year the weather was gorgeous and sunny, and I enjoyed a comfortable warmup around the awakening village before stripping down to ¾ tights, a Oiselle tank, and arm warmers. The long-distance folks had taken off half an hour before, so it was just the 5-milers and kids on the starting line, making for a more consistent group pace and reasonable open start conditions. I did the whole “where should I line up?” scouting bit and ended up behind the kids and next to an impressively buff gal in a patriotic-themed race outfit (she even had a star-spangled tutu!).

The race director counted us off and the first row of other 5-milers and I took off after letting the kids get a few steps on us. Having the kids in front of course led to a bit of chaos as they dropped items of clothing and stopped to grab them, and generally zig-zagged haphazardly across the course. Trying not to trample any small, adorable children made the first half mile go by quickly, and then they veered off onto their own course back to the start/finish and the 5-mile group followed our designated lead cyclist onto the paved bike path and out of town.

The tutu-gal had already gapped me at this point and I spent the rest of the ‘out’ section of the course trying to convince my brain that I still had a chance of catching her. I’ll admit her super ripped physique was already putting doubts into my mind – watching her power up the hills didn’t inspire much confidence in the idea of her fading later in the race. Due to the slightly uphill first mile and a couple steep rollers, my legs already felt heavy and I was struggling with the feeling of being maxed out on pace in spite of not being very out of breath. I focused on keeping her tutu in sight but had let the gap grow from 5 seconds to almost 15 at the turnaround. I was still feeling decent except for the heavy, sluggish legs and thought that just maybe I could regain my pep and throw down the last couple miles to catch her.

However, she realized where I was on the turnaround and must have picked it up much more than me on the slight downhill heading back because the gap rapidly widened and she passed the guy in a Mexico Tri Team kit who had been steadily pacing her for the first 3 miles. In order to keep some sort of mental focus even as she pulled further away I focused on seeing if I could catch him too, and very gradually reeled him in over the fourth mile. The downhill did put some more spring into my legs and I was able to pass Tri guy as we turned into the last mile through downtown. I kept pushing all the way to the finish and, although I didn’t even come close to catching Tutu-gal (she finished 45 long seconds ahead of me) I held Tri-guy at bay and finished as the 5th runner overall with 3 men and Tutu-gal ahead of me.

I was reasonably happy with me time – the pace was about 10 seconds per mile slower than my recent 5k and corresponded to a predicted 5k just a few seconds faster than the Moonlight race – and really enjoyed the chance to run a 5-miler, which was my favorite tempo distance in college but isn’t a common race distance since it’s easy to add on a mile to get a standard 10k. I also got to cheer for several friends along the course during my race and for some more endurance-savvy friends after the 5-miler as the longer distances started to come in. Overall it was a very social event with several good speeches and moments to honor those being remembered and honored by the racers and attendees.

 

A few take-aways from the race:

1)       Even if things don’t go as planned (couldn’t catch lead gal), I can create new goals mid-race to help motivate myself (catch Mexican Tri guy)

2) Sometimes is pays to ‘just keep running’ and avoid thinking about the number of miles you have left

3) I *really* need to get some turnover back in my legs…time to bring back the strides, drills, and some more consistent leg strength/power work!

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