This is the race that I was both looking forward to and am nervous about. I knew Ryan Snellen was running and he's a really tough competitor. While he's been busy with work for a while, he ran 13:57 in 2009 and he wins nearly every race he competes in around here, so I knew the task was going to be tough. I've had a couple workouts with some faster running in them but am still in pretty rusty 5k shape. A couple of weeks ago, I actually ran a workout with Snellen and Alex Moore and felt really good but Snellen hurt me pretty badly on our last interval. I knew this course was pretty hilly, which is a weakness of mine. But after looking at race results, I saw Snellen usually runs to win, so he probably hasn't dug very deeply into the well the last year or two, so my plan was to really make him hurt in the second mile and then try and leave him with a mile to go.
The weather was almost perfect temperature wise for the race. When the gun went off, Snellen and I ran side-by-side and it seemed like both of us were waiting to see what the other wanted to do. The first mile had some climbs and some strong headwinds in some parts and we passed the first marker in 5:07. I knew that was too slow, so I tried to push on the gas some. The second mile was a little more rolling with a couple bigger hills that I tried to push hard on. At one point, I had a very tiny gap on Snellen. I started thinking that Snellen was about to crack but as soon as I did, he was right back beside me. We hit the two mile in 10:13, which gave us a 5:06 second mile.
With such a slow pace, I knew I was in trouble. My only shot to win was to immediately ramp up the intensity, so I made a hard move and wasn't planning on letting up. Snellen was game and was still at my side. The last mile is by far the fastest mile of the course and has a long gradual downhill, along with some flat sections. I wasn't having any luck cracking him and with under a half mile to go, he put a gap on me. That was more of a mental blow because I knew he would be very hard to outkick, especially with all of my marathon training in my legs now. I hit the three mile marker about two seconds behind him in 14:51 and tried to push again. I gained about a second on him but couldn't catch him and he beat me 15:19 to 15:20.
Running a 4:38 last mile was really motivating but I was frustrated with how I ran. While in college, I was dead after a 5k, I recovered very quickly after this one. Marathon training and racing is all about staying relaxed and patient and I carried too much of that to the race today. 5ks are fast and intense and I forgot how that is really supposed to feel. It's never a good thing to try out for a rock band when you've been playing in a jazz group for the past several months. After reflecting on the race, I realize I ran the first two miles around 10k effort and had way too much left that last mile. I don't know if I would have won because Snellen looked really strong but I should have run under 15:10 today. But on a positive note, 15:20 on this course is a really fast time and gives me confidence in what I can accomplish this spring and I'm sure Snellen and I will wage battle again.