Monday, July 17, 2017

Race Report: 2017 Prairie Series, Day 2

Today was day two of the Prairie Series.  I was signed up for the marathon, but I wasn’t sure if I would race at all.  I got to bed early and slept well.  I didn’t set my alarm, but I still woke up at 4:00.  If I got up, I could still be ready in time for the 5:30 start.

After my marathon yesterday, I felt wiped out.  It was an all-out effort to walk that fast for almost six hours.  Later in the day, my legs felt a little bit stiff.  This morning, I woke up feeling OK.  After a warm shower, I felt good as new.

I started walking the day after my back surgery.  Since then, I’ve walked at least three miles every day.  Today was no exception.  Since I was going to do some walking anyway, I might as well do it as part of a race.  If I did the 5K race, I’d get in my three miles before driving home.  I was already here, and I already paid for the race.

When I got to Wells Park, I went to the registration table and told them I was signed up for the marathon, but I was dropping down to the 5K.  They had to give me a different race bib.  I was already wearing my marathon bib, so I pinned the 5K bib over it.

The 5K course used the same 2.54 mile out-and-back course as the marathon, but we only had to do it once.  In addition, there was a short segment at the beginning to bring the total distance up to 5K.  We started on the North Dakota side of the Red River.  After crossing the river, we did one lap around Wells Park on a gravel road.  Then we turned around and did the same out-and-back that the marathon and half-marathon runners were doing.

I wasn’t sure how fast I would walk.  On one hand, this was a shorter race, so I should be able to walk it faster than yesterday’s marathon.  On the other hand, I viewed today as a light recovery day.  If I wasn’t doing a race, I would have been content to just go at a casual pace.

When the race started, I quickly got my answer.  By the time I crossed the river, I was already getting out of breath.  There’s something about pinning on a race bib that flips a switch inside my brain.  I was in race mode.

Going around the park, it was tough to push the pace.  That gravel road isn’t the best surface for race-walking.  When I reached the start/finish area, I turned around to begin my “big” lap.  That started with a lap around the park in the opposite direction.  Then I crossed the river to get onto the nice paved path on the other side.

This was where I could really push the pace.  It’s a nice surface for walking, and it’s fairly straight.  I wanted to make good time here.

Doing this race gave me a chance to see friends one last time before driving home.  I saw a lot of the same runners I saw yesterday, but there were some new faces today.  I saw a friend from England and a friend from Iceland.  For me, this was a local race, but other runners traveled from all over.

I started to notice some light rain.  At first, it was just a few drops.  To my right, I could see pink clouds as the sun rose.  To my left, I could see a rainbow.  A few runners stopped to take pictures.  I didn’t have my camera.

By the time I reached the turnaround, the pavement was starting to get slick.  It still wasn’t raining hard, but the pavement was now coated.  I could feel the slight difference in traction.  Here, the wet surface was a detriment, but I knew it would help when I got back to the dirt road for the last time.

By the time I crossed the river again, it was no longer raining.  Off in the distance, I saw a flash of lightning.  We weren’t out of the woods yet.

As I walked around the park for the last time, I could tell the road was damp.  It wasn’t wet enough to be slick or muddy.  Instead, it was firmer than before.  There was no dust or loose dirt, so it was easier to walk on it.  With half a mile to go, I worked to finish as fast as I could.

I never look at my watch during the race, so I was curious to know what my time would be.  I finished in 35:58.  That’s an average pace of 11:34 per mile.  This wasn’t the first time I walked a 5K race.  When I was 30 years old, I did a 5K walking event.  I was significantly faster today than I was in yesterday’s marathon, but I was also significantly slower than my 5K PR.  That’s not surprising.  I’m much older now, and I haven’t done as much race-walk training.

They have a different style of finisher medals for the 5K and 10K.  They still have medals for each state, but the top piece is different.  I was tempted to add the North Dakota medal to yesterday’s chain, but that wouldn’t be proper.  That chain was for marathon medals.

A few minutes after I finished the race, it started raining hard.  It was a brief shower, but I was soaked by the time I reached my car.  On the bright side, it rinsed the dust from my shoes.

When I took my shoes off, I noticed two new blisters.  One was on the side of my left heel.  The other was on the tip of one of my toes.  Both were easy to drain, so hopefully they'll be OK in a few days.

Up until yesterday, I was focused on building my distance, so I could walk a marathon.  Now that I’ve done that, my focus has shifted to walking faster.  I have two races scheduled in August.  Both are marathons.  One has a time limit of 6:00.  The other has a time limit of 5:30.  I can’t run for eight more weeks, so I need to be able to walk them.  In the coming weeks, I expect to do lots of short walks at a fast pace.  Today was a good start.

Race Statistics
Distance:  5 kilometers
Time:  35:58
Average Pace:  11:34 per mile

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