The short version: 24:53!!
The long version is significantly longer, but I had to start with my time. I got my 24, with six seconds to spare. Race morning was very cold, and I drove over to Walnut Creek with lots of different outfit options. I found parking easily (something that never gets old coming from Boston), and jogged over to the start line to get the lay of the land. I was parked only a quarter mile from the start, and there were plenty of porta-potties, but very few people at the 5k start an hour before the race. Unfortunately the half marathon start wasn’t in the same place, so I wasn’t able to meet up with Pavement Runner or Layla to wish them luck before their race. They didn’t need luck though, Pavement Runner PR’ed, and Layla led the 2:10 pace group to a perfectly timed finish.
I headed back to my car and decided on capris, a t-shirt and arm warmers for the race. I’d forgotten to bring gloves, but a spare pair of socks worked very well. It was about 33 at the start, and I had to laugh at two girls I passed, all bundled up in huge winter jackets who said “you’d think we lived in New England or something!” Back at my car, I obsessively checked my Garmin and iPod, and waited until 7:20 to head back over to the start.
All of the volunteers I spoke with at the race were so nice and helpful. I was truly amazed with how organized everything was for an inaugural event. Even the high school student volunteers I spoke with were able to answer my questions easily, and often that’s not the case. I jogged the course backward for a quick half mile warm up. The last 0.1 miles to the finish was a gentle downhill, so I was looking forward to that.
I milled around at the start with everyone else until they asked us to all get behind the line, and one of the volunteers led us through some hokey group stretches to kill time. The whole race was run out and back on the same narrow trail, so were were pretty packed in at the start line, with only about 6 people across but probably almost 80 people deep. I tried to get close to the front, but still got stuck behind quite a bunch of people.
We all counted down from ten and then took off. I was a little confused at this point because we had D-tag timing chips on our shoes, but there was no start mat. I knew there was a timing mat the finish, but we didn’t run over anything at the beginning. I worried about this for about 0.2 seconds and then just focused on getting ahead of people so I wouldn’t have to dodge.
Normally, I run the first mile of a 5k way too fast. I’ve logged some of my fastest mile times ever during the first mile of this distance, and then I’m surprised when I blow up at mile 2. For this race, I turned my Garmin to the current lap screen and just focused on the mile I was running (thanks for the great advice guys!). I was determined not to go out too quickly and was glad to see my first mile split in 7:51. I felt great. I was sure I could run 7:50s all day, and I had this thing totally in the bag. Oops.
I still felt pretty good during mile 2, and I passed a couple of people around the halfway point. My second mile split beeped right at the 2 mile sign which is always reassuring. 7:57.
I’m used to mile 2 being horrible during a 5k and then rebounding during mile 3. Not so much this time. Mile 3 was hard. My legs were heavy. It was hard to breathe and the cold only made it worse. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get my mile pace back under 8:30. It was hovering around 8:40, and I couldn’t do the math to figure out if that would be enough with the seconds I’d banked in the first two miles. When my Garmin showed that I had 0.5 miles left, all I could think was how disappointed I would be if I missed my sub 25 goal because I’d given up in the last half mile. I thought of Alyssa thinking “fight for this” during her epic marathon PR last week, and I used the same mantra to get through the third mile. I was able to speed up, and mile 3 beeped at an 8:26 mile. I had no idea if it was going to be enough because I wasn’t looking at my total time.
By this time I was absolutely flying (down that conveniently located hill) to the finish. The volunteers were screaming for us at the finish line like we were finishing a marathon. As I came up on the finish, I saw that the clock still said 24:50, and I ran as fast as I could. I stopped my Garmin as a I flew across the finish, and I instantly wanted to cry (and blow my nose. I think I was looking pretty cute at this point). My Garmin had my time at 24:53 for 3.11 miles. (0:39 for the last 0.11 5:55 pace! thank goodness for that hill).
I grabbed a water bottle, thanked the volunteers, and talked briefly with the two women who had been in my sights for most of the race. The woman who finished just behind me had just clocked 25 flat for her first 5k! I jogged back to my car to change into dry clothes, call my mom and J to report the good news, and then headed back to the 5k start, which was also the half marathon and the 10k finish line to cheer people in.
I saw Pavement Runner finish strong and well under two hours. He was wearing a shirt that said #runner which made me smile and also made him easy to spot. I then waited impatiently for Layla to bring her group across. She ushered a whole crowd of people across the finish line in just under 2:10 and did a fantastic pacing job for what was apparently a very hilly course.
Layla and I grabbed some much needed coffee (needed for hand warming purposes!) from the finish line expo, and retreated to our cars. We had to fight through race traffic to meet up with Courtney, Katie, Aron and Kerry. They had been cheering around the halfway point of the half marathon.
(photo courtesy of Aron)
I loved all their signs! It was great to catch up with everyone, and we had bagels and coffee while waiting out the race traffic.
(photo courtesy of Aron)
It was a great morning, and I’m so happy and relieved to have broken 25 minutes. When I checked the results online on Sunday, I was so confused to see that they had my time listed as 25:14? The girl who finished behind me in 25 flat by her watch had her time listed as 25:21. I think this is probably because there wasn’t a starting mat, so they must have started us all at the same time, even though we didn’t all cross the start line simultaneously. I don’t care though; I’m declaring victory and moving on. I was excited to see that I had finished 22nd out of 400 runners and 6th out of 269 women!
So what’s next? I’m running the Tracy half marathon in January as a long training run in preparation for the Oakland half in March. I’m training for a sub 2 hour finish in Oakland (and might have promised to run the SF full marathon if I can go sub 2 in Oakland…) so that’s the next big goal to chase!