Saturday, May 9, 2009
Today Valerie and I join Team Jane in the fight against women's cancer. Jane was recently diagnosed with the unfortunately all too common breast variety. Most of the team is walking to show their support, but Valerie, Raquel, Jose (with Hailey in stroller), and I are going to run the full 5Km course.
The days leading up to the race have been very hot, so I am relieved to see the marine layer still looms over the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as we advance to the start line. 3.1 miles may seem like nothing compared to distances I usually run, but sustaining a faster pace than I am used to for this full length is not going to be easy.
8:45am race time approaches and passes...I had thought runners would be let out of the gate separately from the walkers, but that looks less likely now. I just hope the dense crowd in front of me are indeed running. The announcer introduces celebrity hosts Miley Cyrus (and her mom) and Carrie Ann Inaba of Dancing With the Stars (and Austin Powers) fame, and points out the Bo Dereck is running. I am eager to get going...would like to finish running before the sun pokes through.
At 8:58, the confetti flies. As the herd slowly makes its way through the starting gate, I try and fail to find openings to advance. To achieve a running pace, I must weave from one side of Figueroa to the other for much of the first half mile. I can barely even glance at USC as I run by it. I never even get a chance to look back and see where my friends are.
Despite the challenging start, I manage to complete my first mile in 7:02 as per my pre-race strategy. My goal is to run faster than 7:30 during the first mile, just under 7:00 over the second, and 6:30 for the third...hoping to complete three miles in under 21 minutes.
Why are people trying to hand bags to runners as 30th Street becomes McClintock? I do not expect anyone running would grab one, but apparently far more people walk than run at this event. I pass Cardinal Gardens, the apartment complex where Valerie and I met. No time to get nostalgic now. Must focus on task at hand.
I complete the second mile in 6:49. I am doing even better than expected, but perhaps have pushed too hard too early. Is there a slight incline on Jefferson or is it just me? I feel my pace continue to drop off on Vermont, but soon find a rabbit to hang with. He is pushing much harder as we turn down Menlo towards the Coliseum. I try to keep pace.
I complete the third mile in 6:51...slightly slower than I had hoped since I expected to do negative splits. That said, I still have met my goal of under 21 minutes for three miles. Only catch is I still have a tenth of a mile further to go...and was hoping I could finish in 21. I turn enter the Coliseum through the tunnel and start my final sprint.
When I emerge, I cross a timing mat in 22:29, but, anticipating another mat closer to the finish line, continue running as strongly as I can until I see that there is no mat at the gate. My time is slightly slower than I expected, but still would be better than many of my high school cross country times.
I doubt I will ever be as fast as I was during my high school cross country years but at least I am now within the ballpark of my peak (sophomore) season's slowest times and faster than many of my runs in other seasons. And, to make myself feel better, I just remind myself how much farther I can and do run now on a regular basis.
After grabbing my post-race water and snack bag, I head back to the finish chute to try and photograph my teammates. I completely miss Raquel, my only photo of Valerie turns out blurry, Jose almost gets by the camera. I miss Jane because I expect to see her walking, but she made a last minute decision to run the whole course. Go Jane! And then it seems like an eternity before our captain finally arrives with our team sign...
Official time: 22:29
Official pace: 07:14
Uncertain which mats were relevant for timing, I started my GPS watch just before I crossed the start, but stopped it way after crossing the finish (what looked like the finish line was actually far from the final timing mat...so it looks like I ran more than a 5K)...and entering the tunnel into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum messes with the GPS just before we cross the finish line (my pace was not THAT fast)
Official time: 32:54
Official pace: 10:36