Race Report: Torchlight 5K

July 23, 2014.

This race wasn’t on the radar, for several reasons. First of all…no bling. I run for bling. Secondly, this was a Wednesday evening race. I work Wednesday nights. Finally, I am in peak training for an Ironman Triathlon. I don’t have time for local 5k races…

However, this event is sponsored by my company. We get deeply discounted registration rates, 2 running shirts (event shirt and company team shirt), admittance to our own company VIP tent at the finished with an amazing catered dinner. Over 900 employees and family members were going to be participating. But, more importantly, several office mates were running it. Some are experienced runners that helped and nurtured me when I started to run. Others are new to running and have told me that I am their inspiration for running. It was the first race ever for one of these runners. The opportunity to run together is rare and fleeting. I really could not pass up this opportunity. So, I checked with out clinic manager and was able to change my evening shift for a day shift and would be able to leave early enough to participate.

I was surprised to learn later that the race was timed (I thought that this would be an untimed “fun run”). I set what I thought was a strong PR in the 5k last year at 23:29. I never thought that I would challenge that PR. However, I started thinking about it earlier this year. I had qualified for the Houston Marathon with a very fast 10k. I registered for a 5k for that same weekend. There was no qualifying standard for the 5k, but you would be given front coral placement if you could submit a 5k time under 23:00. That was somewhat close to my PR. Maybe I could pull that off. My co-workers encouraged me to go for it, so I figured that I would try. But, I realistically figured that it was highly improbable that my PR would fall…much less by 30 seconds.

Race day came, and the weather was perfect. We carpooled after work. The race was point-to-point. Our company offered shuttle busses so that we could park at the finish and get shuttled to the starting line.

The Torchlight 5k follows the route of the Torchlight parade that same evening (the race is right before the parade). So, the streets were already lined with spectators for the first mile of the race. The entire course is in downtown Minneapolis. The front wave is for runners who qualified for this race as the Minnesota 5k championship. After that, it was self seeded. I placed myself in the 7 min/mile coral. I got there just as the National Anthem was starting (better then my last event…I was standing in the porta potty line when the race started).

When the gun went off, everyone around me flew. It was a much faster pace then I was used to. A quarter of a mile into the race, I already figured that I could never maintain this pace. I found another runner in front of me who was running at a consistent 7:15/mile pace and I just locked in on him. I would just follow him as long as I could.

Running along the parade route was great! Lots of crowd support and the first mile flew by. I kept checking my watch and was maintaining a 7:15 pace (exactly where I wanted to be). Just a matter of hanging in there. My legs were already screaming and my breathing was labored. My lungs were on fire.

We turned off the parade route and the crowd support vanished. I didn’t care. I had my pacer and would hang on him at all cost. First aid station came up and I had a sip of water. Stomach was not happy with this, so I poured it over my head instead. The 2 mile mark hit. Pace was stable, and I was dying. There is no way I can maintain this for another mile. I may not get sub 23:00, but I could still get a PR if I can maintain just a little longer and then not fade too dramatically at the finish.

Second aid station. Small sip of water is all my stomach would tolerate, so I wore most of it again. Two and a half miles down. Pace still stable. Still not sure how I am still standing, but I am still locked in. We get to a downhill leading to the Stone Arch Bridge…and the final stretch. My pacer is still just ahead of me. Pace is generally still in the 7:15/mile range with a little bit of fluctuation. Maybe I can pull this off. Maybe…

Legs burning. Lungs burning more. Pacer slowing down and coasting in for the last quarter mile. The timing is too tight…I have to leave my guide behind…and I pass him. Coming off the bridge for the final 0.1 mile, I hit very uneven cobblestone. I have to slow a little and be very careful about my footing. I see the finish line and glance at my watch. It’s going to be close…

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Finish Time: 22:49 (40 second improvement over my previous PR)

Average Pace: 7:21 min/mile (8.57 mph)

Finish Position: 386th of 4955 runners (no age group statistics available).

Huge PR for such a short race. Second PR in under two weeks (first PR being the Muncie 70.3-beat the old record by over 52 minutes).

I practically collapsed across the finish line. I hold onto the railing for a few moments as I try to breath. A few moments later, I start walking thru the finishers chute. I ignore the pretzels, granola bars, fruit, but do grab a couple of salted nut rolls (that was a mistake). I get some fluids and find a spot near the finishers chute to watch for my friends. Soon, one crosses the finish, then another. We work our way to the VIP tent to wait for the others. My appetite has returned in force. I line up for salad, pasta salad, grilled vegetables, wrap sandwiches, and fruit and cheese plates. Just a wonderful spread…
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After a nice hour of food and  comradery we headed home. On the ride back, we noticed fireworks in the distance. It was coming from the Anoka county fair. As we got closer, the fireworks were directly in front of us and lighting up the sky for  over 5 minutes. It was a rather surreal ending to a great evening, and a new personal best…

Edit: After posting on Facebook about my two PR’s in two weeks at opposite ends of the racing spectrum (5k and 70.3), I received this reply: “That’s how it works. My favorite fitness quote…’A rising tide raises all ships’. Specificity has it’s place, but just getting more run fit, more miles, works wonders.” That is an astute observation and seems to be the case here. I have done very little speed work, but a lot of miles and long slow runs. Seems to be paying off…

 

 

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4 Comments

Filed under Race Reports

4 responses to “Race Report: Torchlight 5K

  1. Great race Raymond! Congratulations! What a phenomenal placement too! You beat out over 92% of the field!

    Liked by 1 person

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