The Sunset Classic is usually a very hard race to get to, but once I arrive it is always good to me. It tends to be very hot, humid, with threats of thunderstorms year-after-year, but not this year! This year it was warm out, but not stifling and the storms stayed away. It was nice.
I almost missed the race due to several accidents on the Parkway. Thanks to Kim teaching me about the Waze app, I was able to use it to direct me around all the stand-stills. Even with bypassing as much traffic as I could, I still arrived over 30 minutes later than I hoped. This race is not a good one to be late to. Parking is mostly street parking and it can be hard to find near the race last minute. I still needed to register so I needed to make sure I had extra time.
I find a dead end streets that appears like it could be connected to the field by a foot path, possibly. I can see the field through the trees, so I am hopeful. I see another runner parked at the end of the dead end and I ask him if this street connects to the field. He desperately replies "Oh it better!" He scrambles to get his stuff to together and runs into the trees never to be seen again. I am hopeful that there is foot path.
I finish getting my stuff organized and ask a man watering his lawn if there is a path to the field. He says "Not really." I ask where that other guy went? He said "Oh he ran behind my garage and down the hill... it is not a path, it it just my yard. You can go that way too. I'll show you the way. Just be careful of the poison ivy." Oh Boy. This is ridiculous.
He points me in the right direction and wishes me luck. It really was not bad at all, A few steps through some brush and I am on the road, closed to traffic, across the street from the park. Sure I have to jump a median, but there are no cars. I just need to remember when in the brush I need to reenter the trees to find my car in the dark. LOL. This is all fine for a day time adventure but I am pretty sure I will not be able to find my car later and the man casually mentions that I should expect to see his dogs out at night when I return and to not worry. LOL. I figured I would be smart to find a better way back to the street. After the race, I could easily take a longer way on sidewalks, like a civilized human being.
As I am running over to the start, I have to run under a set of bleachers. Three kids are sitting under the bleachers looking like they are up to something, but they are young and not worrisome to me. As I run past, one joking holds out a bag of snacks as asks me "Want a Funyuns?!"
This is hysterial because I had just shared a post about how I love Funyuns, but only in ultras. I told him I did not want any Funyuns today because my race is too short for Funyuns. I continued on to register.
I found Anthony with 16 minutes to spare before gun time... much better than last year's 8 minutes. I was on the porto-potty line which was moving at an impressively fast pace! I was done with the line and we were warming up with 13 minutes to go.
I saw Andy at the start, the man who complimented me at Lager for writing an article about running he enjoyed. He asked me what I thought I would run today. I explained I had already run a workout this morning (b/c when I race at night, I still feel that I need to make sure I get a run done in the morning in case something happens and I miss the race). I had run a 6 Mile Tempo with Kim at 6 am, so I was not sure how much this would impact me. I told Andy I hoped for 6:40 pace. I had run 6:22 pace at the Lager 5k and this seemed reasonable.
I know this course well. Mile 0-1 is fast as we head out to a steep hill just at the start of Mile 1-2. The hills is not very long, but long enough to knock the pace down and the wind out of your sails. M2-3 is fast b/c at 2.6 miles we get to run downhill, at the same grade we had to run up a few blocks earlier. Mile 3-4 is a slower mile mentally b/c it is long and lightly rolling and we are recovering from the hard up and down. But we do get to descend more before we hit the last mile home. The last mile is fast only because the race is almost over and there is the track finish that makes it all worth it.
I take off towards the front of the pack and I feel great again. I look at my watch and it says 6:09. I start to settle down because I wanted about 6:30 pace to start. I look to my right and see Roberta... ok, this is not right. But she just must have started behind me. Her and Beau were steadily pulling away, as they should. I notice Hortencia in my peripheral as well. I know she is racing well and I wondered when she would pass me. I don't see any other ladies ahead of me. This is why I love a fast start, even for a few seconds. It allows me to see my position and know where I stand the rest of the event.
I settle down to a comfortable pace. I am surprised to find that the pace that feels best for me is closer to 6:40 than 6:30. I did not feel good about pushing harder since that hill was coming soon. M1 6:37
As we turn the corner a man next to me says "Here we go!" Now this hill is no joke! However, the hill I train on is harder (not by much), so I feel very well-prepared. I try to push from the bottom to see if I can hold my pace and really work this uphill. This is the opposite of how I normal take hills (which is to downshift and use an even effort approach, then crest and pick up my pace over the top). However in races that are not goal races, I like to try different things to see how they feel. I was curious how long I could power up and not go into oxygen debt. The answer was "not very long at all!" Before the crest my pace slowed to 7:00 and I was looking forward to getting over that hill. It took the rest of that mile to try to bring my pace down and it was hard work. M2 6:50
I am looking forward to Mile 2-3 because I love that downhill. I am ready to blast down and see how much time I can make up. At 2.4 we start the turn towards the drop and I say to the same guy "Ok, now we get it all back here!" and we hit the downhill. It is such a step downhill that running fast feels out of control. The road has potholes. I push my sunglasses up so I can see more clearly. I am flying and I feel great. Then my sunglasses fall off my head! Oh boy, really! Come one. I have to go back for them. When I do turn back for them (maybe I lost 3 seconds, not much time) I see Hortencia coming and I already know there is nothing much I can do to stop her from eventually passing me, but I will try.
Mile 3 feel long and exhausting. I do my best to run fast, but my legs feel like Jello. It is too soon for Jello-legs with 1.5 to go. I can hear her breathing and I know I can't go with her because I don't have another gear to hold this far out. I am running as fast as I can at the time. She passes me and we exchange positive words of encouragement and a high-five. M3 6:27
I don't want to give up, but I need to recover. That Mile 3 took a lot out of me. I could feel how it was just a few seconds too fast for my fitness and that is a few seconds too much. I slow a little and feel a lot better. She is not really pulling away from me quickly, so I am motivated to try to keep her in sight. We hit the small down hill turn and I gain momentum that carries me closer to her. However, I can sense she is just running as easy as she needs to to hold me off and once I get close she will likely just pull away again. I still try and I am reeling her in. M4 6:34
Finally the final mile. I see Randy on the side line. He is encouraging. He yells out for me to use the tangent. This is was helpful because there was no reason I could not. Everyone else was running along the outside curve for no clear reason. I hug the tangent. She is still about 5-10 seconds ahead of me and there is nothing I can do about this.
We hit the track and I can feel the spring of the rubber under my feet. It feels so good. I try to kick but my jello legs are tired. I do pull away from those entering the track with me. I contemplate trying to shift into one more faster gear, but my hamstring feels wonky, and has since way back when I had to squat down at mile 3 to get my glasses off the ground. I decide to not do anything too sudden. A hard surge at this point was not going to get me into 2nd place but could pop something in my hamstring, so I play it safe and finish strong but steady about 6 seconds behind my pacer ;). As I round the final turn I can hear people cheering my name from the bleacher (Ross) and really that made my night! It felt so great to hear someone rooting for me out there. :) M5 6:26
I like Hortencia. She always offers fierce, but friendly competition. It is hard to be bothered when beat by her. She is 2 years older, than me but has a 2:39 Marathon PR to her name from her younger years. That is just so amazing! She is fast and strong, but she works so hard for her results. She is a great runner to race alongside. I am sure as long as I have Hortencia nearby, we will push and pull each other to great times. This is a good thing, since she is one of my teammates :) Go Clifton!
Time: 32:57 (6:35 pace) new 5M PR for me
OA Place: 27/455
Gender Place: 3rd/164
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