After 2.5 years of missing the burn of a hard 5K race (not), I registered for one per a friend’s suggestion. Promises of a post-race OC Fair visit and lunch with said friend were my motivations to sign up. I wondered whether my legs remembered how to run fast and was curiously excited to find out.
In the weeks leading up to the 5K, I logged two workouts: 12 x 400 and 5 x 1K. The 12 x 400 was basically a wake-up call for the small amount of fast twice muscle fibers that I possess. It certainly wasn’t the fastest speed workout I’ve ever done, but I met my goal of completing all 12. The biggest win there was that I did it solo! I decided on 5 x 1K for the Tuesday before the race and though my pace crept up with each 1K (not ideal), I successfully completed all five. Again, I ran alone and am pretty darn proud of that.
Before heading to packet pickup on Saturday, I knocked a 15-mile long run out. As I re-build my base, weekly mileage and tired leg efforts take priority over speed. I’m very excited to feel my fitness returning and legs responding well! With the two “fast” workouts + a day-before 15 mile run, I thought that I would run 20 – 21 minutes on Sunday.
I arrived at the OC Fairgrounds with plenty of time to relax and warm up before the 8:00 AM start. Bob and I jogged around on the course for 2 miles and I predicted that the middle mile would be my slowest. While the first mile is straightforward, mile 2 would take us inside of the fairgrounds and weave through fried-food stands and fair rides. I did a few strides, said hi to Rudy, and then waited for the (delayed) race start. We finally took off and I settled into an effort which felt hard, but sustainable. I began to worry that I’d started too quickly when I could still see Bob and the leading ladies up ahead, but just continued to run by feel. A younger runner fell into pace next to me right around the mile 1 marker and we entered the fairgrounds together.
I focused on staying in the rhythm during the second mile, but there were a few seconds of slowing as I rounded a sharp curve or got stuck behind runners. I was concerned about navigating all of the turns, but Book That Event did a phenomenal job of posting directional arrows. I never felt lost or confused as to where the course went. There were a few workers and spectators sprinkled through the grounds cheering us on, but it was otherwise quiet and peaceful. I came through the mile 2 marker feeling pleasantly surprised at how well my legs were holding up. “Just one mile to go!” I thought.
I checked my watch for the first time a few minutes later, expecting to be right around 2.5 miles, and was at 2.4. I was starting to feel the burn of a 5K effort and ready to see a finish line.
I remembered the gate that we would pass through before turning into the final stretch of the race and decided that I would attempt to pick it up after that, on the final straightaway. There was a male racer around me during this final mile who would repeatedly surge and then settle. I’m not sure if he was trying to drop me or force some pep back into his step, but it was a bit disconcerting. The last .3 miles run opposite-ways of the second mile of the course, so we were met with cheers and encouragement as we exited the gate and turned left onto the final straightaway. Thank you Ulyses / Paksit Photos for the quality race pictures!
I’m normally not the type to squawk about a long course, but since I rarely race 5Ks, I wanted to record my time for exactly 3.1 miles. I mashed the Stop button on my Garmin down at exactly 3.1 miles and continued about .1 miles to the finish line. Unfortunately, I couldn’t catch Mr. Surge-and-Settle and he crossed the line a few seconds ahead of me. I was delighted to see that I’d reached the finish line in sub-20 minutes!
I found Bob and we started our cool down, which would follow the final two miles of the course. We stopped and played a few of the on-course fair games, and I became the proud owner of two new plush toys, both of which were hard-earned. We made it back to the festival just in time for the awards ceremony.
One of the major perks of this race is that the race bib = a free entry into the fair (plus an additional free ticket in the goodie bag!) After a quick parking-lot towel change, we explored the OC Fair for a few hours and then enjoyed a belated birthday lunch at Wendy’s – happy birthday Bob!
I’ll admit that I enjoyed running hard for 3.1 miles. It was refreshing and I didn’t feel completely wiped out afterwards. My legs were tired the next day, but back to normal by Tuesday. In fact, I ran fast again on Wednesday at run club. Perhaps I do have some fast twitch muscle fibers hiding in my legs!