I have about a million things to say about Saturday’s race, but I’ll just jump right to the good stuff:
I’m still kind of in a state of disbelief. I remember when I was trying to break 30 minutes in a 5k. And yet, somehow, here I am. A sub-20 5ker.
This was the fourth year that my husband and I ran Shanty 2 Shorts. The course is very PR friendly. It is a point to point race from Shanty Creek Resort to Short’s Brewing Co. The first 1.8 miles is all downhill (elevation loss of about 335 feet). The course then levels out; there is no uphill. I have PRed every single year.
Going into Saturday I was the two-time reigning champ. I was definitely thinking three-peat, but knew that winning would ultimately depend on who else shows up. I also was worried that the wind would be a factor. The wind was out of the north which would create a strong headwind from mile 1.8-2.55.
Kendall and I got to Shanty about an hour before the race started. It is a small race (<200 runners in the 5k and 10k) so packet pickup is a breeze. There was a board up showing all registered runners and I said good-bye to any chance of winning when I saw Emily on the board. In 2013, the first year I ran the race, Emily won with a time of 19:12. I’m not that fast. This was definitely a blow to my confidence, but I tried to stay focused on getting a PR.
My warm up consisted of about 2 miles of easy jogging followed by a few strides. While I was warming up I ended up chatting with Emily. Turns out she was running the 10k this year. I might still have a shot!
Mile 1 – 6:10.9
Race day adrenaline + downhill = starting WAY to fast. It felt comfortable, so I went with it. I could see Emily and a few guys in front of me, but I knew I was the first female running the 5k. When my watch buzzed that the first mile had passed, I didn’t check my time because I was still a few steps away from the first mile marker. After the long course in Toledo I didn’t want there to be any confusion. As I passed the mile marker my watch read 6:15.
Mile 2 – 6:21.1
I knew that I should back off the pace so I didn’t crash and burn, but there was a woman in a bright pink jacket just off my left shoulder. An occasional glance backward confirmed she was holding a steady pace. I didn’t know if she was running the 10k or the 5k, but I wasn’t ready to hand over the lead so I just kept pushing.
When the course levels out at 1.8 miles it really feels like you are running up hill. Add in a 90 degree turn into a headwind, and it just sucked the life out of my running. I slowed slightly but still managed to finish mile 2 feeling strong. Mile 2 on my watched lined up perfectly with the mile marker, so I assumed the first mile marker was slightly misplaced.
Mile 3 – 6:50.9
I was really hurting at this point and continuing to slow. I knew that just over half a mile from the finish line I would be turn out of the wind, so I did my best to just stay positive and keep moving. When pink jacket came up beside me, I got a good look at her bib and confirmed she was running the 5k. I thought she was looking strong and that this would be the end of my race. We ran together for a few strides and then she pulled ahead. Once she got in front of me I realized that she actually didn’t look as strong as I thought. “Stick with her, ” I told myself.
As we approached the final turn of the race (0.55 to go!) pink jacket slowed to take the corner. “This is my chance!” popped into my head and I reclaimed the lead. My pace had dipped into the 7:00s but I thought I still had a shot at 20:30 if I held it together. As I ran I alternated trying to calculate how close I was to twenty minutes and how close pink jacket was. Halfway down the straightaway I had finally built a gap on pink jacket. I knew I had the win.
Final 0.12 – 0:37.01
I stopped glancing at my watch as I approached the finish line. I could see the clock at the finish line was still in the 19:00s. I stopped my music so I could take in the moment. Dig deeper! Dig deeper! I was closing fast, but it was going to be so close. Dig! Dig! Dig! A few more steps, almost there.
I crossed the finish line knowing I had a huge PR, but I didn’t know what the clock read as I crossed the line. I hunched over trying to catch my breath as my family congratulated me on my win. Hunching wasn’t cutting it, and I found myself kneeling on the ground. I finally remembered to stop my Garmin at 20:12. I realized I was still in the finish chute, so I crawled off to the side so I could continue to regroup. My mother in law brought me a Gatorade and made sure I wasn’t actually dying.
I was so happy with my win and so happy to have earned a huge PR that it almost didn’t matter if I had made sub 20 or not. Well, almost. As we waited for official results to be posted, I scoured the pictures my family had taken to try to figure out if I had made it. One picture shows me half a step from the finish line with 19:59 on the clock. Another picture shows me on the finish line with 19:59 still on the clock. This race only has a finish line timing mat, so there would be no net time. It was too close for me to celebrate without seeing the official results.
I looked down the course and realized that Kendall was in the home stretch. I jogged back a ways on the course to cheer him in. I had told him that a good goal for this race would be sub-25, about a minute and a half faster then Glass City. With the correct distance and a downhill start, I thought that sounded reasonable. He smashed it with a 23:41.
Finally, finally official results were posted by the timing company. I nearly lost my mind when I saw my official finish time of 19:59.9. Barely a sub 20, but I did it!
Awards are presented in Short’s Brewing Co, which works well because I totally earned a celebratory beer (or two)! This is a later race (10:00 start time) so we ordered lunch as well. I also was able to congratulate Emily on her 10k win (first overall – including men! She is crazy fast!).
I still feel like I have a million other thoughts about this race and what this means for the rest of my 5k racing season, but this post is already long enough. For right now I am just going to sit back and celebrate accomplishing one of my long term running goals.