Monday, December 16, 2013

Celtic Solstice 5-Miler: 5 Miles... and a Bonus Mile

A few months ago we signed up for this race based solely on hearing how awesome the swag is.  The Falls Road Running store puts on a few races I've done and I've enjoyed every one: the Dreaded Druid Hills 10k (x2) and the Celtic Solstice 5-mile run which was my first.  The field always looks twice as serious as any Philly area race I do.  Maybe they're just good at posing as serious runners but they all look like they know what they're doing.

Before I recap the race, there was a general plan for the weekend that kinda fell apart.  Kristen and I would get down to Adam's (AKA in Baltimore Friday night, sleep, wake and run the 5-miler, assemble some friends for a beer mile (Yes, it's a thing. then Adam and I would spend the next several beers planning some kind of training plan to prep for the big stuff in `14.  Why on earth I assumed that any plans would be cohesive after a beer mile is beyond me...

I hadn't realized getting settled at the Celtic Solstice race was how large this race field would be.  I think I was #657, Adam was #222 and Kristen was in the 2000's.   Results had 2952 official finishers... somewhat more than we typically encounter on the trails and still a far cry from something like the Philly Broad Street 10-miler at 40-some thousand people.  While I don't like big crowds, we set up in the middle and walked our way to the starting line once the crowd started crawling forward and hit a slow running stride crossing the start line.  It may have helped me that starting this way by slowing me down a little, I was unable to start off at a pace I couldn't maintain.  While the road was congested with racers, I couldn't keep the glacial pace it felt we were moving at so I began sneaking my way up through the crowd gaining more momentum as I passed more and more people.  Peeking back at my Garmin data after the race, it looks like the general pace of that crowd was around 8.5 minute miles and that just wouldn't fly with me.  One of my short term goals is to have a sub-40-minute 10k time by April.  This race was my attempt in that direction with a sub 40-minute 5 miler.  I don't believe I've run a road 5-miler before so I looked at some 10K splits to get an idea of where I was and where I wanted this race to be.  Two previous 10K's provided me a 43:02 and a 43:03 at the 5-mile mark to think about.  I'd been holding 7:30's pretty well on training runs so I thought 40 minutes was reasonable, expecting to not hold that after the first 3 miles.

The course is really flat and stops short of the steep hills that are included in the 10K race held at the same park.  The flatness was motivating for me to reach my goal time, which I had started to doubt in the morning for really no reason.  I was feeling good, pretty well-rested, my last race was great, no reason to doubt I'd reach my goal time but nonetheless, there was some doubt creeping in.  So rather than focus on every step of the race and monitor my progress, I tried to run my race with little information this time.   The trail was marked at each mile and my Garmin was alerting me to those miles but I knew I should be able to not focus on the splits and not have to adjust if I ran a consistent race; I was experimenting with running only on feel.

The course is half out-and-back, half loop, so if you're quick enough you can see the leaders after the turnaround before the course breaks off to loop around a lake.  I did get to see the leaders after they made the turnaround and they were blazing fast.  I had a little fun playing the mental game, how far ahead are these guys from me?  The answer was really far.  Not like I was gauging whether or not they were in striking distance... These guys were putting down 5-minute miles, I was just trying to make sure I averaged under 8.
Course map through the park.
About 75% through, I was still guessing though where I was in my effort to break 40 and I thought I'd done a great job of holding a consistent race somewhere in the 7:45-8:00/mile area.  Feeling the Garmin buzz after the 4th mile, I'd really hoped to find some strength to make that the quickest mile but I was fading.  I chugged through it, playing leapfrog with a few other racers until I hit mile 5 with the finish line still not in sight but about 200 yards away.  I hit the gas and saw 39 minutes and change on the clock, knowing my Gamin was far more accurate to my race time, I was already pleased.  I checked the Garmin and got really happy.  38:38 (official chip time was 38:36) was far better than I'd hoped for and 47/139 in my age group.  Maybe I'm still setting up goals that are too easy.

I'm amazed that I was this consistent.  Training must pay off a little.
Kristen, proud of her PR.
Reacting to my finish time, maybe happier than I was about it
 The race did go pretty smoothly.  I had some soreness in my left shin at the start that loosened up but felt a more consistent discomfort in my left achilles the rest of the race.  With my race was in the books, Adam finished a few minutes later, pleased with his time, Kristen beat her goal time for a PR and our friend Charlie brought it home not long after.  We moved from the cold into a tent with the rest of the race finishers to grab some food.  The set up was pretty awesome.  Lots of people but plenty of access to water, hot drinks, hot soup, cookies, bananas and even some hot mulled wine from a local winery.  We refueled briefly with a little of everything and returned to base (Adam's).

Race #2 was upon us.  I'm not sure if I was more nervous about breaking 40 in the 5-miler or from embarrassing myself in the beer mile or possibly getting cited for an open container offense on the 1/2 mile loop we used in a public park.  I assumed the worst and that included losing my guts somewhere in the last 1/4 mile.  Nonetheless, the race was on.  I had no realistic idea of how long this would take.  I assumed I could manage 4, relatively quick quarter miles as I'd get 3 breaks in between to enjoy a tall, cold Budweiser.  My thoughts on stomaching 4 cans of beer in under 15 minutes was something I hadn't done since college and that never included running.  Whatever- time to put up or shut up.

Adam and Kristen declined to test their combined drinking and running mettle.  I was up against Charlie and Christy, his girlfriend.  With a simple countdown, we cracked open the first and went to town.
Not hard to see who's going for gold.

A pretty awesome collage Kristen made with Google's AutoAwesome feature.  This feature adds me to any picture, thus making it awesome.
The whole race was surprisingly easier than I expected and quite unremarkable.  The 3rd and 4th beers were very difficult to put away and accounted for about 1/4 of my entire race time.
The plateaus represent Budweiser-downing time.  Predictably widening as the race progressed.
Immediately following the beer mile.  We kept the drinking portion rolling, cleaned up, found brunch and completely failed to address our 2014 training plan.  We enjoyed a great brunch at a place called Smaltimore who so generously was giving away brunch to patrons for bringing in 2 canned good donations (which we failed to produce by a dose of laziness that typically sets on after starting a bout of drinking).  I thoroughly enjoy a very healthy lifestyle and fairly strict nutrition plan leading up to races then upon completing these races, promptly begin to poison myself with crap food and alcohol.  Delicious poisons.

The novelty of the event wore off pretty quickly.  Will I do another?  Only time will tell.  I'm more interested in producing a sub-40 10K than a quick beer mile.

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