Saturday, August 09, 2008

Race Report: Crawfish Crawl 5K
I'd done a lot of long, fast walking, plus a gentle mix of easy running, swimming and cycling, since the 50-miler a couple of weeks ago. Everything seemed in working order. So on Thursday, it occurred to me that I was recovered enough to do a short race this weekend. There were a couple of local possibilities—a smallish 10K just over the West Hills in North Plains, and a little 5K 10 miles south of the city in Tualatin.

Typically, I go for the longer option, but there's only one way to run a 10K: hard. And a hard 10K on a hilly course just two weeks after a 50-miler—that seemed a little unfair to my legs and wouldn't leave me in an improved position to do some quality training runs in preparation for the Portland Marathon in eight weeks. The 5K, meanwhile, was flat and, of course, only 5K. I could imagine going hard and not hurting myself, while also benefiting from reminding my legs what it's like to run (relatively) fast.

So off to Tualatin I went for the Crawfish Crawl 5K.

It was pretty wet outside when I woke up a little after 6, but no rain was falling and the early-morning sky seemed to be tending toward lightening. The race start/finish was at the Tualatin Commons, a mid-'90s public/private redevelopment project. The architecture is uninspired, but with a big lake at its center, plenty of little public spaces, walkways and fountains, the Commons struck me as an interesting twist on the usual sterile, ostracized business park. Apparently there's talk of adding some ground-level retail, which would serve to make it even more inviting.

A few hundred people appeared to be on hand for the race, including a large contingent from the Portland-based Red Lizard Running Club. While waiting for a port-a-potty I met, very briefly, Red Lizard Wendy Terris, the remarkable woman who in April ran the Women's Olympic Marathon Trials on one day and the Boston Marathon a day later.

We couldn't have asked for a better August day to run: Mostly cloudy, in the low 60s. I edged a little closer to the front than I typically do so I wouldn't have to get past walkers and slower runners. And a little after 8, off we went on a course that was basically an out-and-back with a loop around the lake tacked onto the end. We were on city streets for a short stretch, then hard-packed gravel, then a paved bike path to the 180-degree turnaround. The only "hill" was the little incline onto the footbridge that carried us over the Tualatin River.

My running has been exclusively at slow pace for the past two months, so I was clueless as to how fast I should be or was running. It was all done on perceived effort, and the effort I perceived over the first mile was significant! I seemed to be straddling the line between aerobic and anaerobic and tried to stay on guard for any tightening in my muscles, indicating lactic acid buildup.

At the first mile marker, my watch showed 6:15. The turnaround forced us to virtually stop and restart, and coming out of that my commitment wavered just a tad. Then I got back into a grove and my second mile came in at 6:33. Heading back in, the "hill" to the footbridge felt like a hill. That took a bit out of me, but I recovered quickly on the downside.

It occurred to me about then that if I could hold up, I might break 20 minutes. That would be a first.

The route around the lake was a little tight and twisty, but with a pretty small field, I had no problems negotiating it. I hit the third mile marker on the backside in 19:20, after a 6:32 mile. By then I had pulled in front of the tall young woman I had trailed around most of the lake. I finished strong but she galloped past me with a nice kick. I hit the finish in an official time of 19:55.7. That was 46th out of 366 finishers, 40th among 165 men, and 6th out of 10 in the 45-49 age group (hardcore middle-aged dudes out there today!).

That was good fun and went off without injury or significant wear and tear. Perfect. It gives me a little confidence that with more rest and good work, I can make a run at a marathon PR in the hometown race in early October. It also makes me interested to see how fast I could run 5K if I really pointed to it with my training. But that's for another time.