I signed up for the Round Rock Rotary Reindeer Run 5k (5R5K), since my mother in law is a member of the rotary and a big promoter of the Play for all Abilities park which was the benefiting charity of the run. The run is the only opportunity you have to see the Round Rock trail of lights by foot (otherwise you have to drive through it). They have a 5k timed run, then an untimed run or walk, so you can walk the trail with your kids once all the sweaty people are off the course.
At about 5:25, I lined up near the front of the pack, careful not to get trapped behind anyone who did not have “cut” calves or who was wearing an Santa costume or terry cloth running sweats.
The start gun went off and I turned on my iPod to a medium high tempo song for a warm-up start. I did that crowded bouncy jog until I got close to the start line, then started my Garmin (if you don’t have a record it didn’t happen).
I remind myself to start out slow. If you go out too fast you will blow up… just like that 9 year old who blew passed me. He is going to implode before the end of this race as it is clear he is trying too hard to go super fast. Inexplicably, I find myself speeding up to pass the 9 year old. Must. Not. Let. The. Nine-year-old. Win.
Then a fast song starts on my iPod, I speed up some more. Some random guy starts to pass me. Oh, hell, no. (dang it, you were supposed to start slow!)
Mile 1: 7:32
Hmm, that may have been a bit fast. At this point lets just try to maintain a good solid pace. Maybe even look around at the Christmas Lights which I had not even noticed during the first mile of the race.
The race is an out and back with the first half pretty much uphill*, but a nice fast second half. OK, I figure it should take me one song to get to the turn around. And slow tempo song comes on. I fumble with the iPod to get to the next fast song. OK, “Running on Empty” by Jackson Browne, not the sentiment I was looking for, but he pace is ok.
*my race file indicates that it only gains 28 feet on the uphill portion, which is crazy since you can clearly feel that you are running up hill.
Somewhere around mile 1.3 I start to lose steam. Dammit! Soon I will get to the turn around then be able to run downhill…
I turn around and continue to slow down until I get to the 2 mile mark. Ok, drop your shoulders, fast turnover, hup, hup, hup, hup!
Mile 2: 7:45
OK, second wind, baby! Less than 8 minutes and we’re done.
Hey, where did this hill come from?
I get passed by a few folks who are certainly picking up speed for their big finish, as I continue to lose steam. THIS is what I was talking about when I questioned the wisdom of racing an inexperienced 9 year old out of the gate.
As I run the last mile I start thinking of excuses for what is looking like a fading finish (I ran 14 miles yesterday, I rode 46 miles on my bike this morning, I shouldn’t have had that taco a half hour before the race…).
There is a huge light tunnel that you run through that always makes me sick. All the flashing lights and bouncing of the run. I generally appreciate it for about 5 seconds, then look at my feet. I can see the white lighted tree that signals the turn before the finish line.
Ok, you can do anything for 1/4 mile. I huff it across the finish line fairly certain I am going to puke.
Mile 3.1 – 8:00
So it took me 23:37 which is a perfectly respectable time, but if I had started at the 8:00 minute mile, then dropped to 7:45, it is very likely that I would have finished stronger than the 7:32.* So, first 5k of the season and I pretty much did it wrong. However, I have all season to get it right.
*Whereas folks think that if they start out really fast, they will be “making up time” they would lose when they get tired at the end of the race, this is completely not how it works. If you start off slower you will have more energy at the end to finish stronger. It’s a science thing called “negative splits“
This is a really great, fun 5k with lots of Christmas lights to see and Christmas Carols being played if you are not listening to an iPod. The untimed crwod is much bigger than the timed crowd but most of those folks have every intention of walking through the lights and not racing at all. The timed crowd is small and a pretty good size run to get your feet wet if you are new to 5ks.