Friday, May 10, 2013

Chick Fil A 5k

Last year's stress fracture has been one of the most frustrating things to happen to my running for a variety of reasons. I hated missing Rocket City Marathon. I hated missing Lookout Mountain 50 mile. I hated missing Recover From the Holidays. I hated missing Mountain Mist 50k. Those are all races that I had registered for! So disappointing. Then, the lost fitness of the time off and the time to recover... I am still not where I want to be. Patience.

But the Chick Fil A 5k was a really fun race and produced one of the best race pictures I have! Big Kudos to Kathy Youngren for picking out some rockin uniforms for the Fleet Feet Racing Team this year.

Busy Day
Saturday, April 6, was a busy day of racing in North Alabama. Here are the races that I know about on that day...
  • Chick Fil A 10k/5k in Athens
  • 3M River City 10k/5k in Decatur
  • HTC Scholarship Fund Run 8k in Huntsville
  • Lead Me to the Cross 5k in Monrovia
  • Athens State University 5k in Athens
  • Oak Barrel Half Marathon in Lynchburg, TN (Ok, not North Alabama, but it did draw quite a few North Alabama runners)
What to do... I know I'm not really that fit. I just don't have my base underneath me right now. Do I have a chance to win one of the Athens races, to get that first career win? But I've volunteered at the Chick Fil A 5k for the past 3 years, and they didn't reach out to me this year. I could likely nab at least an age group and perhaps some free chicken (even though I'm mostly vegetarian, I still eat meat 2-3 times per week, and my kids would love that). Hmmm. Or should I just not race at all because I'm not really in shape to race.

If I may say this... Some of those races need to move their date.

3M River City 10k is the fastest 10k in Alabama. People who want to set a serious PR go there. It's an old, established race. It moved from the second Saturday in April to the first Saturday in April last year. I wish it could move back. 

Chick Fil A was also on the second Saturday in its inaugural running, but it's moved a few times for various reasons, one being tornadoes in 2011. I think they hurt their participation numbers by holding this event on this day with so much competition. Perhaps its joining the Chick Fil A Connect Race Series affects its choice for a date? This race could be much bigger, especially with the addition of a 10k option. It's a decent 10k course and there aren't a lot of 10k options around.

The Scholarship Fund run 8k has been on the first Saturday in April for as long as I can remember. It's an established race, but it's nobody's favorite. I like it for what it is, a chance for a PR at an odd distance. But it's a double loop on a hilly course. I think HTC is considering moving this race since there is so much competition for runners on this day nowadays.

For the newer events, picking such a busy date is just not ideal planning. As a race director, I know that there are many factors that influence the choice for a race date, not the least of which are RD and volunteer schedules, police schedules, sponsor schedules, etc. So, sometimes, things like this are unavoidable. However, when planning a new race, you should realize that if you choose a date that has 4 other races within 25 miles of your event, you're going to have a very difficult time getting participation. I've held my event, the Duck and Run 5k, on a date when there were 3 other events, so I know it can be difficult. However, when I did that, the other events were newer than my event, so there wasn't a lot I could do about it. Race Directors, please check several race calendars when choosing a date. And, if at all possible, keep your date consistent. Okay... Rant over...

Chick Fil A
The 10k option at Chick Fil A was interesting to me. The 5k, though, was more like what I really should be doing. So, I decided to just show up and sign up for the 5k. This is the premier spring race in Athens. I constantly learn things from this event that I'd like to apply to my event. I also appreciate very much the charity that this race benefits, Bridge of Hope Adoption Ministry. Pure religion is to care for orphans and widows (James 1:27).

As it turns out, I ended up being the top masters runner at the Chick Fil A 5k. Lots of free chicken and a good workout. And lots of time with a lot of really good Athens folk. Results are posted on their website.

I figured I was in about 19:30 shape. I had just run a 19:41 on Tuesday at the Double Helix Dash, but I figured I could do a little better, especially since this was a morning race and we had very nice weather. When I got there, I realized that the 5k was actually the premier event. I had expected the 10k to be the more competitive event, but that was not the case. There were very few 10k runners compared to the  400 or so 5k runners.

Brandon Mader had brought a car load of fast kids with him and I knew that they would dominate the race. So, I knew a podium finish was impossible for me, given the shape I'm in. I figured that unless there were some unknown super fast kid, about 17:00 would win this race and there would be a few sub-18 finishers, and none of those would be me! :)

I saw my friend and occasional Athens Sunday morning 10 mile runner Ben Greene. I know that he generally stays in sub-19 shape, so I had all but given upon taking the masters.  We chatted a bit and he told me he hadn't been running much. I didn't know whether he was sandbagging or not. He looked fit to me.

When we started, I had a few issues dodging the crowd and then getting around the 10k runners to get out front. It really was crowded, and re-thinking this race start would be a good idea. Within a half mile and without wasting too much energy, I settled into a reasonable spot and pace. Ben was sure enough on my shoulder. Again, not knowing exactly how fit he is and not knowing if I can break 19:30, I did push the pace just a bit. Even with the dodging early on, I split the first mile at 6:12.

I was still leading Ben in the second mile, but I could hear his footsteps getting farther back. Just hold on. Hope to battle to the end and have some guts at the finish. Well, as we approached the 2 mile marker, I heard him charge. I figured he was making his move. I was holding steady, and was planning to hang on if he passed. He got side by side and said, "I just came up here to tell you bye! I'm about to drop off. Good luck for the rest of the race!" He stayed there for a little while, so I thought this might be some gamesmanship. We hit the 2 mile mark at 12:24. Really consistent. I said, "Let's go get this done!" He said, "Seriously, I'm backing off." I then pulled away and didn't hear from him again.

As I rounded the square, I looked back, and he sure enough wasn't gaining. I saw some young guys up in the distance, but knew they'd have to come back to me. So, I decided to just make sure that Ben didn't come storming back and to hold as steady as I could to the finish. I hit mile 3 in 18:38 and clocked the final 0.1 (mostly uphill, ugh) in 0:40. That adds up to 19:18 and as consistent of a 5k as I remember running in a long time. I probably had some more left in the tank, but I was plenty pleased with this effort.

My kids were hanging out with their friends at the start/finish area. The first thing I heard when I crossed the finish line was "Daddy, you got chicked today!" Precious. Thanks, I know. She was fast! :)

It was a fun day and a big shout out to a huge crew of Elkmont runners to did a couch to 5k program and had nearly 100 come and run their first 5k here. Barry Pugh and Whitney Hollingsworth really inspire folks to run. I'm glad to call them my friends.