I was able to get in most of my warm up before the race even though I arrived slightly behind schedule. I use a warm up routine that I got out of Pete Pfitzinger's book "Road Racing for Serious Runners". It starts with 1.5 miles easy jogging and then about 0.25 - 0.50 mile of cut down to lactate threshold pace. I hold LT pace for about 2 minutes. Then I rest and shake my legs out. I jog a little more and then do about 5-10 strides up to but not faster than race pace. This starts ideally 45 minutes before the gun but the strides have to be completed no sooner than 5 minutes before race start. I started using this routine at the Run to Feed the Hungry 5k last year and it has worked well for my short races since.
The start was an angry mob Charlie foxtrot and at least one poor runner ended up going down within seconds of the gun. Things thinned out by the first turn, and we were off. I wanted to hang back in the beginning to get a feel for my pacing, and I actually ran a smart first mile of 5:58. By the second mile, I was catching up to a group of 3 women that I would end up running with the rest of the race. This is a rare treat for competitive runners--to actually have someone else that is holding your pace to work with. I really appreciated this! My second mile split was another 5:58 and my third was 5:56. This is where I became confused.
I was pushing hard at this point trying to stay with my pack of runners and missed the 4 mile marker without realizing it. I started to become discouraged as my legs were getting tired, my breathing was becoming labored, but I still hadn't seen the 4 mile marker. It wasn't until we were 1/3 of a mile from the finish that I finally looked at my GPS to see that I had covered 4.6 miles already. That explained why the girls had picked it up! Since I didn't have a 4 mile split, I had to use the calculated split from my GPS tracking program and it showed 5:59. With 1/3 of a mile to go I started to bring it on, turned the corner toward the finish and noticed the little speck of a finish line banner so far away. I realized I may have kicked it in a little too early. Nonetheless, assuming the rest of my splits are accurate, I covered that last 0.97 miles in 5:44 with an overall time of 29:35.
So, to recap my goals:
1) I set a new PR by 1 minute and 50 seconds;
2) Each of my mile splits was under 6:00 pace; and
3) I beat my Valentine's 4-mile Run time equivalent by 3 seconds!
A trifecta! I also managed to negative split the race with the help of my fierce competitors! I ended up 3rd in my age group and 7th overall female. What a great day of racing.