The inaugural Firehouse 5K run was held today at Santa Clara University. I had heard about it only a week before and signed up just days before the event. The last organized run I had done was the Tortoise and Hare run in 2008 with my friend Felix. And, before that, my last official race was the San Dieguito Half Marathon back in ninth grade! Suffice it to say, I didn’t have much experience to draw on for today’s run.
Most of my runs over the last several months have been of the 5K distance, and I was gunning for a sub-20 minute run, which I thought would be very doable based on a successful sub-20 at the end of July and several sub-21 minute training runs (during which I know I could have pushed myself harder). On Friday, I biked the course, making mental notes at the mile markers. Starting at the entrance to Santa Clara University on Palm Drive, runners turned right on El Camino and right on the Alameda to reach the first mile marker at Market Street. From there, runners continued down Market until turning right on Jefferson. Half a mile later or so, runners turned right at Harrison Street for the second mile. They then continued until hitting El Camino, where they turned right and headed back to Palm Drive and into Buck Shaw Stadium for the finish. The circular nature of the course reminded me of my regular neighborhood route, except that all the streets would be closed off to vehicular traffic (my route has two signals and multiple driveways to watch out for). The conditions and route seemed ideal for a sub-20 minute run and possibly even a personal record. Due to these factors, I was very confident in my abilities leading up to the race.
At 7:30 am, I lined up with runners of all ages a few rows behind the starting line. I could see a couple of adults in the front who looked very fast, and I wanted to see if I could keep pace with them. When the gun went off at 8:00 am, I found myself spending a lot of energy navigating through the throng of people ahead of me, which you can see in the video below. Once I got through the crowd, I sped up and passed a number of people. The two fast runners at the beginning were way ahead, and I focused my efforts on staying behind what looked like a father and son duo running a sub-6 minute pace.
Five things made the run less than optimal:
First, and most important, I went out way too hard in the beginning of the run. Strava said I completed the first mile in 5:55 and two miles in 12:27, both personal records. Unfortunately, I paid immensely for this effort, because the last mile was done in 7:45! My mental state weakened to the point where I slowed to a walk three times for just a few seconds, allowing several runners to catch up and pass me. I knew that a sub-20 was out of the question, and I would have to struggle just to achieve a sub-21 minute run. I was sad in that final mile since I knew I could do so much better. My training runs were much better than this run!
Second, I developed a sore throat the night before on Halloween. I felt that horrible itchy feeling in my throat and was concerned that it would affect my breathing. I woke up this morning with a layer of mucus in my throat.
Third, I got a nasty blister on my right foot, despite wearing double socks and applying lotion on my soles. After the race, I could not apply any pressure on that foot. It’s still pretty painful twelve hours later!
Fourth, my shoes were pretty worn down after nearly 400 miles of running. My left shoe had a sizeable hole on the left edge due to my supinated running style. I was concerned about my shoelaces coming untied, so I double-knotted them in the morning. I have yet to learn the Ian Knot, which is supposed to be much better at not coming undone. I’d like to have a pair of H Streets that I can just race in, but the shoe is currently discontinued. Please Puma, bring back the H Streets!
Finally, I felt that I spent way too much time waiting around for the event to begin. We arrived at the race expo just before 7:00 am, so we spent forty minutes milling around. Just after 7:30, all of the runners were led to the start on Palm Drive, where we waited another 30 minutes for the race to begin. Normally, when I run, I just go out the door and start, little to no warmup required.
Ultimately, I have to be happy that my pace over the first two miles had me well under a 20-minute 5K.
Despite the disappointing end to the run, there is a silver lining. The results have come in, and I came in first place for my age group at 21:17 (6:52/mile) and ninth overall. We had to leave early to go to a birthday party, so if there was any podium ceremony by age group, I missed it.
All’s well that ends well. Although I am personally disappointed with how the last mile went, I am satisfied with my age group and overall finish. I’ll chalk up the final mile as a learning experience to avoid the next time I sign up for a race. And, for the next 5K race, I’ll be able to draw on this experience to improve on my time.