On May 31 I ran the inaugural Deer Dash 5K at Deer Crossing Elementary School in New Market, Maryland. This event was the last one in my running clubs (The Frederick Steeplechasers) Spring Grand Prix series. Since I had missed a few of the other races due to my training and recovery for the Frederick Marathon, I needed to place well at the Deer Dash in order to win the GP title. I had not been feeling well due to recurring cramping and tightness in my right hamstring and left calf over the past couple of weeks as well as the fact that I was up all night on Wednesday because the rest of my family was getting violently sick and I was constantly cleaning up puke. I can not recall another event that I have been so unexcited about running. I simply wanted to get it over with without hurting myself; I didnt even bring my racing flats preferring to run in my comfortable (and more supportive) Adrenalines.
I got up around six on Saturday morning and made my wife a latte and myself a bagel with peanut butter and sliced banana. I left the house around seven to head over to the race site in order to register and warm up before the 8:30 start. As I get ready to start jogging I noticed that the field looked more competitive than usual for a local 5K; not exactly what I was hoping for. The course was mainly on winding, moderately hilly roads with some stretches along connecting bike paths that were rather patchy and a couple momentum crushing out-and-back sections into neighborhood courts. This is no course for a PR (not that I had any shot at one on a fast course) and a post race analysis of times indicated that average finishes were 56 seconds slower that a previous week's much less competitive 5K. After I did a couple miles for my warm-up with Craig Shearer, a 27 year old teacher who was hoping to run around 17 minutes, I did some strides in the parking lot and got ready for the start. The sky looked very grey, but luckily the rain held off. When the race started, a large pack took off at a quick pace. I quickly found myself in a rather unfamiliar tenth place behind a half dozen high school runners and a few serious looking adults (so much for cruising to an easy win). From that position, I watched the inexperienced high schoolers take wide turns as I cut all the corners as tight as possible. The group hit the first mile at the end of an out-and-back stretch in around 5:30 and Im able to pick up a few spots by simply turning sharply at the cone rather than running around the courts perimeter. Amazingly, Chris Flynn, another teacher and an excellent coach/runner who led the entire race, modeled the proper technique but the high schoolers decided to go wide. Right after that the course went up a hill and I almost plowed into the back of another high schooler that was fading fast from his early pace. I see some of the other Steeplechasers and we exchange cheers. By the top of the hill I am in 4th place behind other adults. The course took off down a steep and bumpy bike path and then picked back up in another section of the neighborhood. The group stayed fairly tight and I was worried I would have to settle for 4th place and hoped that would earn enough points in the GP standings. Things stayed pretty static for a bit and I missed the two-mile split. I passed Craig and moved into third place around that time. On the next hill I moved up into second (which was a good sign since Im not a strong uphill runner). We then hit a long stretch of rolling and winding bike path that included some patches overgrown with bushes and vines. I kept Chris in my sites, but I wasnt able to make any major dent into his lead. I tried to surge the last half mile or so, but my legs didnt have that kind of speed left in them and my stomach warned me that it was ready to vomit if I pushed much longer. When the end of the course went through all three rows of the parking lot rather than going around the edge, I ran out of gas. Chris finished in 17:57 and I came in seven seconds later at 18:04. The top four finishers were all clustered in about 20 seconds. On a side note, the top three were all wearing Brooks and four of the top five were teachers! After the finish I did a couple miles of cool down with Chris and we talked about his coaching and then another couple with Craig. I got back to the school and talked with other Steeplechasers for a bit. I received a small trophy for my second place overall finish and a bag filled with around a hundred dollars worth of gift certificates. I went home feeling relieved to have accomplished what I had set out to do and proud of the effort I put forth (even if the time was less than spectacular). I am looking forward to some relaxing recovery runs over the next week or so and trying to regain some energy and enthusiasm. Serious training for the Baltimore Marathon starts in a few weeks!