This would be the first time I had raced on a track since 1999 and I was excited. After considering several events, I determined that the 5,000 would give me the best chance of a good time. I considered the 1500 but it was to be run at noon, the worst time of the day to run during the summer. No thanks. The 5,000 was scheduled to start at 7:30 and yes, that does make a difference over the normal 8:00 start times. I had some trouble with my body chemistry during the week but woke up feeling well. My system was clear and I was ready to go.
Hate to say it but there was room for much improvement here. It was mostly a youth track meet with a few Master's runners sprinkled in. I don't think I saw anyone close to my age the whole time I was there. I arrived about 30 minutes early to pick up my number and it wasn't ready. Eventually, I was told to just show up at the start line without it. Okay. It turned out that the 5,000 was not the first event. We had to sit through the racewalk first then the girls 5,000. There were only 4 girls running and about 10 guys but separate heats were still run. Our turn did not come until 8:30 and the temp was already 80 with 85% humidity. At least, the skies were overcast. I chatted a bit with 2 40 year olds and waited patiently for the start.
12.5 laps around a football field. I'll never get a flatter course. Some people can't stand to do that many laps but I don't mind. Once I'm locked in, I barely even notice the scenery anyway. The gun went off and I took off in the middle of the pack. I did a 40 second first half lap. That sounds fast but it's about normal for a 5K and I would settle down for the rest of the first mile. My early laps were in the low 90s, just about on target for what I wanted. To run a 19:13 PR, I would need to average about 6:10 per mile or 92 seconds per lap. On a very humid day, I just wanted a sub-20. Anything under that barrier is considered a good race in my book. I would pass 2 teenagers who started too fast and one Master's runner over the first half and came through the 4.5 laps in 6:47. I had completed the last mile in 6:07. Two miles to go and it was starting to get lonely out there. By the time I finished, there was nobody within a hundred yards in front or behind and my pace began to suffer as a result. Still, even with a ghastly fade to 7:00 pace, I was guaranteed a sub-21. I would need to hold just over 6:30 to finish under 20. That looked doable. I came across the line with 6 to go and now more than halfway home just before the clock hit 10:00. I was still under 6:30 pace. The humidity was really taking its toll now. I was sucking wind that was saturated with moisture and my heart rate and perceived effort were higher than under optimal conditions. 1 mile to go now and the clock read 13:12. The previous mile was 6:25 and my laps were now in the upper 90s. No PR today. Okay, just stay below that 6:45 pace and you've got the sub-20. With 2 laps to go, the clock read 16:32. Now, all I needed was just a hair under 7 pace. By now, I knew I had it. I heard someone at the line say "Finish." I just calmly ran the correct distance and stated that I still had one to go. 18:12 with 1 to go. No chance to beat last year's best time of 19:27 but the sub-20 is in the bag. My kick was pretty weak but I was still happy to get across the line in an official time of 19:44. Best time of the year by 25 seconds but still 31 away from my PR. Once again, anything under 20 is good in my book. I am capable of beating that PR, which was set in 1998. I just need optimal weather to do it.
Grade: B plus.