I did not make the decision to run this one until mid-week. I spoke with the RD earlier who told me that the course had been changed to make it faster. There would be be "a bit of an uphill" near the halfway point but then we would go downhill on the way to the finish. This led me to believe that maybe we'd have a 1/4 mile incline just before the turnaround then we would go back downhill and the rest of the course would be fairly flat so it at least "could be" a PR course. It would start and end at Alabama Adventure theme park and by running, I would get a free pass for the park. Cool. I knew that I was in much better shape than my last 2 races indicated so I really wanted a fast time. I had smashed my 5 mile PR (32:53) on a training run so it appeared that I had everything together. Competition would not be as light as last week but I still thought I could deliver a top 5 finish. Of course, much of that depends on who shows up that day.
Uneventful morning. It was a smooth ride down to Bessemer and the trip took just over 20 minutes. One bad call was taking a few Sport Beans before the race. I was somewhat jittery but still felt pretty well warming up though not as well as Wednesday when my energy was limitless yet was calm at the same time. The weather would be one strike against me. By the time the race started just after 8:00, it was already 75 degrees and sunny with zero shade on the course. Oh well, this was only a 5K. The race would benefit the Make a Wish Foundation for children with life threatening illnesses. Again, I am happy to support that cause.
The gun went off and I quickly found myself in fifth place, where I would remain for the entire race. At first, I tried to run with the lead pack but looked down at my Garmin to see 39 seconds for the first .12 miles. Too fast. I had no choice but to let them go and settle into "no man's land." I backed off from there, went up a slight hill and turned out of the park for a loop around the parking lot. I was just over 3 at the half mile so I had slowed down enough. From here, it would be a hard effort to the line. The lead back was getting farther and farther away and nobody was coming up from behind so I just started digging and made it through the first mile in a decent 6:07. Soon after, I turned out of the parking lot and on to a main highway (no traffic) and it wasn't long before we headed down a half mile long and fairly steep hill. I tried not to push it too hard for I knew that we would have to go back up very soon but of course the pace was increasing. I passed the 1.55 in a solid 9:33. I would need a 9:40 2nd half for a PR and that would not happen but anything under 20 is a good race in my book and I was still in position to do that. The turnaround point came around 1.8 at the very bottom of the hill and my Garmin showed that I was doing 5:47 pace . I would have to go back up a steep 1/2 mile hill with 60% of the race behind me. Ouch time! I started driving hard early on the climb up but it wasn't long until I started fading. I passed 2 Miles in a solid 12:30 and a respectable 6:23 2nd Mile but my pace had slowed to the 6:50s and by the crest, it was 7:19. I can handle a long hill if it's followed by a nice downhill but that didn't happen here. Once the course leveled off, I was able to get back down to 6:50 pace but no faster. My nearest pursuer was almost 200 yards back. Man, in all my years of racing, I have never been this lonely. Finally, we made it back to the parking lot and I was dead. I can take solace in the fact that even the race winner never recovered from the hill so I didn't feel as bad. In no man's land, I nearly made a wrong turn in the parking lot but made it back into the park with less than 1/2 mile to go. I would need to run the final .25 at 6:00 pace to break 20, which was doable. Oh no, there another fairly steep hill. I can't do it now. Wait, what's this? It looks blocked off. Did I make a wrong turn? I stopped for a few seconds before realizing that there was a small opening in the gate with an arrow painted on the ground. Any chance of a sub-20 was gone now. The last 200 would be mostly downhill but had some twists and turns and I never built up much speed. I came to the line displeased with a watch time of 20:09 (not including the stop). It was 20:14 officially but goes in my book as a 20:09.
All things considered, it was not too bad. A B minus grade on the day. I was fifth overall and 3rd among the men and my award was a picture of a child that I helped grant a wish, which was a trip to Disney World. Touching. Given a flat course, cooler temps, and competition, I would have been good for about the 19:30s. There will be no racing over Memorial Day weekend. I need a good long run. Change of plans: Instead of racing a rolling course in 2 weeks (MDA), I will run the 5,000 at an open track meet (BTC classic). That will be a flat course and will start at 7:30. Good shot at a PR. I encourage those of you in B'ham to consider this one.