This was my last 'real' race of the year so I took it seriously and focused my training for the last few weeks accordingly - track, temp, long runs, mostly on pavement. My goal pace a month out was sub 6 minutes and that was very much in reach heading into this race. Unfortunately I didn't get enough training in and am still clydesdale status with 10+lbs to lose before dropping down to 'race weight'. I shifted my goal pace to 6:05 min/miles putting me at a sub 1:20 time. It was tough to do but I knew that if I went out trying to race beyond my ability I would pay for it big time - I've learned this lesson once and that's all I needed.
The race is local, just 20 minutes from my house. A late wake up for a 9:10 start was great. I was much more relaxed this year having a couple longer distance races under my belt and a refined pace goal. It took any sort of pressure off and I was just racing my splits. This year the course was also certified so it had the potential to attract a deeper crowd (which it did). The forecast was calling for rain but improved to just clouds with a light SW wind. The temps hovered around 50 degrees and I found myself shedding race layers right before the start - ditched the arm warmers and opted for a singlet but still donned gloves and a hat.
At the start were several fast-looking guys but I had no idea beyond the guys I knew, who would be running fast today. Jim Johnson was a favorite along with Tim Livingston and Tyrus Parker smoked me last year plus ran a fast 10 miler last weekend. A faulty airhorn started us off and we looped the park then settled into our respective paces heading south down 16. I knew the first couple miles were fast and wanted to hold back a little. The only problem was there was a headwind that definitely affected the pace. I focused on hitting 6 minute pace and knew that the course would shift directions in a few miles and the wind would no longer be an issue. I was in 8th place a half mile into the race and would remain there for the majority of the race. I had a hot shot drafting me for the first two miles until he made a move to pass me before heading up the Burger King hill. I love hills (plus I saw Jaimie Gemetti) so I passed him back and for good. I slowly dropped him over miles three through six.
The course turns off 16 and onto East Side Road just before mile 5 and there's a small climb up to the covered bridge. Last year the turn off the covered bridge and onto West Side Road really slowed my pace down so I was constantly checking my watch to try and keep on pace. My splits weren't too bad, hovering around 6:05 at this point. There also wasn't much wind, probably because we were getting a little tailwind which is rare in that direction.
I passed a relay guy around the 7 mile mark and was now in 7th. The next few miles I kept my eyes on Tyrus who was starting to be gapped by the guy he had been running with for the first half of the race. I was gaining on him at miles 8 through 11 and when mile 12 clicked through I tasted the blood and started to pick it up. I was able to get a 6 minute mile in here and passed Tyrus just before the turn on River Road. I continued to pick up the pace and had just enough left in the tank to get another really good kick and was able to log my fastest mile of the race for mile 13. The 5th place guy also had a really good kick and he maintained a minute gap on me through the finish.
I crossed the finish line in 1:19:25. A great performance given all the variables leading into the race. If you told me a year ago that I'd be running this fast I wouldn't have believed it. But if you also told me that I'd be setting my sights on a sub 1:18 (5:56 pace) I would have told you to kick rocks! Until next year, hoping for a faster and stronger performance.