I got home from a fairly successful interval workout at McAlpine last Friday morning and told Lauren that I was going to attempt to race the King Tiger 5K the following weekend. We had both originally planned on running the race to raise money for the hospital that helped take care of our friends' daughter. But my plan was to lay low and run at training pace. Following the workout, I had a surge of confidence and curiousity.
I didn't say much to anyone about it. I wasn't trying to be overly secretive, but that just downplayed it in my head. I know, I know. It's just a little local 5K. It's not the New York City Marathon. But, I hadn't serisously stepped to the starting line of a race since Thanksgiving Day.
My goal going into the race -- based on nothing but a couple of workouts -- was to finish in the top 5, break 17 minutes and have a good tune up for China Grove on Friday. I figured I'd hang with the leaders as long as I could and fall off the back when it didn't feel comfortable.
I got in about a three mile warmup and some strides before the race then crammed into the front of the line. When the command was given, I tucked in right behind Paul and a kid I didn't recognize with a UNC singlet on. Being off the scene for a while, I had no idea who he was. Going out I felt really stale and wondered if this was a bad idea. I hit the first mile in 5:10 and Paul started to pull away. UNC kid was clearly fading and I passed him with ease going around the first time shortly after the one mile marker.
Mile two was lonely. I could see Paul opening the gap and there wasn't really anyone close behind me either. I rolled through it in 5:14, and headed for the hills of mile three. At this point, I was pretty confident that barring some sort of disaster a la getting hit by a car, I had solidified my spot in second place. I wasn't racing for time, so I eased off going up the biggest hill on the course, and kept it comfortable on the third mile instead of trying to make up time on Paul. There was no way I was going to catch him anyways.
I hit the third mile marker in 5:25 and was ready for the finish when I accidentally took a wrong turn. I realized immediately that I messed up and was quickly able to correct my mistake. I think it maybe cost me five seconds. Nothing big. I crossed the line in 16:38; the happiest 16:38 I have ever raced. I high-fived Paul, and the girl who had her hand out to take my chip. Sure, it was the same place I finished last time I ran this race (in 2009) and it was 15 seconds slower, but it let me know I was close to being back in racing shape and if I keep up the workouts, I should be back to last year's times in a month or so.
Paul ran awesome, and has been running awesome, so he's going to be tough to catch this summer. Chad and Billy are consistently a force to be reckoned with and Stephen Spada on the podium with a wild kick and a 17:01! I had really missed the Charlotte road racing scene, and it feels really great to be back!