I ran this race last year and had a good experience, so I decided to give it another go. It was only a week after Tom King but since it was a 5k, I was hoping it would serve as some good speedwork. Not to mention, the course is nearly completely flat and takes place at Centennial Park, where I've run some hard workouts in the past.
My goal was to run the race as a tempo run and run somewhere between 15:30-15:45. If I had to, I was prepared to run all-out but I was hoping I would be able to get the wheels moving, while staying under control. While warming up, I noticed that Ken Sullivan was racing. I knew that he ran a 3:45 1500m a couple of years ago and recently moved to Nashville. I knew he wasn't in serious training mode but I took notice of him because who wants to get in a kick with a guy who has run a little bit over four minutes in the mile?
When it was time to head to the line, I didn't see any of the usual suspects, so I knew Ken would be my main competition. Because my training has been geared towards longer stuff and the fact that he was just now getting back into consistent training, my goal was to try and break him by two miles and take it from there.
When the gun went off, I got out slowly while Ken got out pretty quickly. I immediately closed the gap and took the lead. I could tell we were really rolling and I'm sure we were close to 2:20 for the first half mile. At this point, I started to hurt and didn't like it. When racing the longer stuff, you stay patient and relaxed while pushing the pace. While pain doesn't settle in right away, you never feel that comfortable. However, this was something fast and intense and the early pain took me surprise. What it boils down to is that I've forgot how much 5ks HURT.
Shortly before the mile, I started to gap him a bit and hit the mile with a 3-4 second lead in 4:50, which is right at 15:00 pace. It felt hard but I was still somewhat in control. For a second I debated making a run at sub 15 because I haven't broken 15 in an official 5k since 2005 (even though I'm pretty sure I ran a sub 15 5k during my Team Nashville 10 mile race this past fall), but I listened to the voice of reason and backed off a bit.
Ken was still pretty close to me, so I relaxed a tiny bit, while making sure I kept the pace quick. I put a few more seconds on him during the second mile and split 5:07. At this point, I slowly began to back off the pace for a bit before picking it back up again to finish in 15:44, which gave me a 5:16 mile average for my final 1.1 miles. It turns out that we added a loop in the last mile and several people had measured the course as 3.2 miles on their GPS, which theortically is a large chunk of time. However, with the large number of turns in this race, the GPS most likely isn't very reliable and based off the effort of my last mile, I felt the extra loop added 10-15 seconds, depending on the speed of the runner.
Other than that glitch, it was a great day to race. My friend's wife, Elizabeth Berry, won the women's division in 18:09 and what really impressed me was that the 2nd and 3rd place "women" were only 13 and 11 years old. The post race food is pretty decent with bagels, yogurt, granola bars and other random stuff and it was fun to watch the people race the mile, which took place after the 5k. My friend, John Woodman, won that in 5:03 and 57 year-old David Schamanski nearly got 3rd before being nipped at the line by a guy nearly 20 years younger than him. The 11 year old who took 3rd in the 5k, won the women's mile in 6:20 but I was most impressed with the seven year old who took 3rd in 7:02. Impressive!
Now it's back to training mode and some more base mileage. I'm not sure when my next "key" race will be but as of now, I'm aiming for the Knoxville Marathon in two weeks.