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Summer Racing

July 22, 2013


Dreher Park Dash 5k Day

July 20, 2013
Bib Number: 244
Overall Placement: 78 / 254 (30.7%)
Age Group Placement: 1 / 16 (6.3%)
Gender Placement: 19 / 133 (14.3%)
Chip Time: 25:47.56

This was a new race on the calendar. Though the Dreher Park Dash is run each year, it is typically an evening race. This year, organizers chose to run the race twice, once during the daytime, in July, and once in August, as is typical, in the evening. If a runner completes both events, the times will be combined as a 10k race.

Little G and I signed up for the dual event, though she despises 5ks, and summer races, in particular, of course, are difficult to run fast. This course is not well set up for a personal best. It is run in the park, and as such, has lots of curves. For most of the course, especially the second mile, it’s run on a fairly narrow dirt path, and as such, lends itself mostly to single-file running. During the years I’ve run it, unless I’m feeling particularly well-honed in speed, I’ve learned to use that second mile to settle into a steady pace, hopefully behind someone who is running consistently and well, and then wait until after the second aid station, when the course stretches out a little, to push the pace and pass. I found myself thinking this year, at about 1.8 miles, “in running, as in life, you’d better feel really confident before you make a pass.”

was not feeling particularly well trained as we arrived at the race this year. On the contrary, I’d cut my long run short the week before because of some calf tightness, and though I’d been stretching the calf all week, clouds of doubt swirled in my mind. Having lost one training season to shinsplints, few things terrify me more. On top of that, rain had washed away my training week, and I arrived on race day with no more than three easy miles of running on the week.

Having said that, I was thankful, as I stood on the line, to be on rested legs. It was hot and humid, and I wasn’t sure what I had in me for the day. I knew I probably going to run sub-25–the Boss’s challenge to me before I left the house–but I also knew I was too stubborn to jog the race. When the gun went off, I did my best to rein in my typical jackrabbit start, letting myself get sifted out and refusing to look at my Garmin, choosing instead to run by feel. As we passed the mile 1 marker, I finally looked at my watch. It read 8:12, and I told myself that was a perfectly acceptable split for a first mile in July with zero speed training.

As we reached the middle, curvy mile, I told myself to hold my pace and stay behind Little G. I knew if I tried to pass I would spend myself too early, and I didn’t want to expend my energy yet. I tucked in behind her and coasted at an 8:15 pace for some time. Finally, as we approached the second mile marker, I made the pass. “You’re doing great, K,” she remarked. I thanked her, saying, “the third mile will tell,” and went on.

We entered the third mile and I picked off as many runners as I could. As always in this race, the finish seemed to push away from me down the dusty trail, but finally, I approached it, shaking my head slightly upon seeing my time, so far from my best. I grabbed some water, high-fived Little G as she finished less than a minute behind me, and caught my breath.

I was shocked to find out my time was good enough for first in my age group, and top 20 among female runners. Where are all the women? Did they all go north to run?

Age group prizes consisted of small bottles of locally produced honey. How fabulous is that? Instead of some keepsake we’ll never use, both Little G and I got something useful and delicious. We are hopeful that the rain will give us a few days of clear weather before the night race so the trail won’t be a mess for the August race, but we’re looking forward to the challenge either way. Two first-place age-group finishes in a row . . . what a treat!

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