As the gun went off, I left with the first pack. Well more like the second pack, because the leaders were fast. I smirked at myself for the presumptuous nature of my pace, because I had no right to be running it.
The last time I had exceeded 6 minutes per mile pace had probably been on Halloween when I was running down a steep hill. Even then, it was only for .3 miles. This was going to be 3.1 miles of balls out (for me) speed.
I had run this race in 2013 and knew that it was flat and fast. I knew that there would be some fresh out of college cross country stars who would lead the way and help pull me along.
I pulled around AT&T Park at just under a 6 minute mile and my lungs weren’t revolting. A half mile in, only 1.5 real miles to go.
My sense was that as long as I was feeling ok at mile 2, I could force the rest of the run. Get dark, get energized by the burning of lungs and legs and huff and puff my way to the finish.
I got into a rhythm behind a few runners and just let the natural flow of the run take hold. My silky soft beard wrapped around my neck, I took chase behind a familiar face from the race two years prior.
I hit the 1 mile mark at 6 minutes and everything felt fine. Based on previous races, I had a good idea of how the rest would play out. At my current pace, I would be ok. I debated whether to try to push it, find exactly what I had today, but decided that I would rather use this run to build on rather than hurt myself and have it wreck the rest of my training.
I was wearing my watch for the first time in a month and got a little frustrated with myself with the amount that I was checking it. I was happy to have it though, because the runners in front of me started to fade a little bit and I was able to cruise by them and maintain speed rather than using the adrenaline of the pass to pick up speed.
I made the turn at almost two miles with my legs pulsing a little bit. It was the right kind of burn. As I circled back against the rest of the runners, I used the “Go Santa!” cheers to carry me against the shortness of breath that was building.
This was my first real run at sea level since moving to Denver. In previous trips, I had either been too hungover, recovering from a race, or both. Having slept well and been on a super taper the last few months I had no excuses in my lungs.
The end of a 5k feeling started coming with about a half of a mile to go. My legs started getting a little tight, I was huffing with each breath, and checking over my shoulder to make sure I didn’t need an extra kick.
There were no men with strollers this time around. I was able to hold my pace and pick it up a notch for the finishing kick as the finish line approached.
It was a fun way to start the morning and a good way to kick off my winter training for next year.
Distance: 3.1 miles
Shoes: Altra Instinct 3.0