RR #27: Celebration Rotary Club Pancake Run 5k

I thought that Ragnar DC was going to be my last run for a while.  My plan had been to run that event, enjoy myself, and then take some time off from running to focus on some CrossFit goals.  I like how running makes me feel, but sometimes the actual doing of the thing is not my favorite.  And then, I ran Ragnar DC, and the curious thing that happens when you get around other runners having a good time … happened.  We started talking about the next events we want to run, the next races.  We started making plans.  And the next thing I know, I’m signing up for races.

I ran the Celebration Rotary Club Pancake Run 5k last year.  That was my first real attempt at getting back into running shape and running a race.  That 2016 Pancake Run represented my first “serious” race in over two years.  And I had a good run – I missed a PR by a minute or so, which was still a good outcome for me.  The race was pretty well run, though small, which wasn’t helped by the fact that it was raining and not a generally nice day.

My sign-up for the Pancake Run this year was prompted by two things.  First, I thought I was capable of finally breaking through the 30 minute barrier in a 5k.  The fat guy holy grail of a sub-30 minute 5k had eluded me now for several races, and this looked like an opportunity to get it done.  For whatever reason, 5k races don’t make my calendar much anymore.  Since that Pancake Run last year, I have run three 10ks, two half marathons, and a Ragnar … but no more 5ks.  This was a chance to see what I had.

The other reason to sign up for this was that they do a kid’s fun run – and the kids get medals.  My 5-year old has shown a lot of interest in running in these events with me, and he particularly likes the idea of starting a medal collection to begin to rival mine.  He has asked several times about kid’s runs as part of my larger events, and this one seemed like an obvious choice.  The start line is about a mile and a half from my house, and though my race started at 7:45am, the kid’s run wasn’t scheduled to start until 9am.  That sets up perfectly, so I signed us up.

Relatively last minute, we got a nice surprise – my brother-in-law, good old 6-minute, was coming to visit that weekend and he had signed up to run the 10k, his first.  So my family was represented in each of the events.  Dan is fast enough that I told him ahead of time he had a shot of winning the whole thing.  You never can tell if these things are important to him, but I found the idea very cool.

5k Start

They did a packet pick-up at town hall the day before.  I swung through on my way to work to pick up all three bibs and the shirts for me and Dan.  Our bibs had chips on them for timing, so they were obviously specific to us, but the bibs for the kid’s run were a stack of the race bibs you can buy at any running store.  Because I was the first one to pick up a kid’s bib, I got #1 for Noah.  He was excited for the run, anyway, but this was extra cool.

Where’s Matthew?

The morning of the race, Dan and I headed over a bit early to take care of bathroom and warm-up duties.  Plenty of port-a-potties, and a lot more people than were there the year before.  There was apparently a group warmup that we missed, and they sang the National Anthem though we were way back and couldn’t really hear it.  Dan lined up at the 10k start and took off at 7:30am.  The starting line for the 5k is in a different place than the one for the 10k, so they actually have to move the timing mat between the races – this causes a delay in the 5k start, and we got lined up to go.  Last year I lined up near the middle and got bottled up nearly immediately.  I learned that lesson and lined up about three rows from the front this year, and that worked out perfectly.

3-2-1, and we were off.  Because I was shooting for 30 minutes, which requires a 9:39 or better pace, my goal was to go out fast and try to hold it as long as I could, and then settle back into a 9:30 or so pace to bring it home.  I know from recent runs that I am capable of handling the 9:39, so I just wanted to build myself a cushion at the beginning.  And that is basically how this turned out.

My spot for lining up was perfect.  The guys in front of me took off, never to be seen again.  But nobody really passed me, either.  So I wound up being in just the right place.  This course winds around a little bit, and one benefit I had was that I knew where we were going.  I tried to focus on my breathing and hitting the tangents as closely as possible.  The weather was nice – temps in the upper 60s, low 70s, and low humidity – so everything was set up for this to go very well.

The first mile was a standard 5k first mile – get out really fast and try to figure out whether you can hold that pace.  Maybe half a mile in our course converged with the 10k course, so by the second turn there were several fast people around, which helps with that motivation as well.  I was being passed by super-fast 10k runners, but that was it.  My brother-in-law was already ahead of me by this point, and I didn’t see him again until the finish line.  I finished that first mile in 8.23, which may be the fastest mile I have run since high school.

Mile #2 featured a little out-and-back into one of the big parks in town, and so I was able to see a couple of friends and gym-mates that were also running.  I still felt good, though my shins were starting to act stupid, like they do when I’m trying to run fast without warming up super well.  I didn’t think I could hold that 8.23 pace, so I was deliberately throttling down to avoid a major blow-up near the end.  I finished the second mile in 8.57.

By this point, I was so far ahead of my goal pace that only an injury or something really weird could have kept it from happening.  I was 2 miles in in 17.20, so I had over twelve and a half minutes to run 1.1 miles.  I throttled back again, just to make sure I didn’t bonk hard, and tried to focus on my breathing.  The last bit of this race runs by the elementary school in town and then heads back up to the finish line.  My brother-in-law had already finished his 10k, but wasn’t expecting me in for another couple of minutes, so was surprised to see me coming.  He ran me in the last hundred yards or so for a strong finish.  Mile #3 came in at 9.31, and then the last 0.1 mile at 29 seconds, for a finishing time of 27 minutes and 20 seconds.

So … THAT’S spectacular!  I beat my goal time by over two and a half minutes.  For the first time ever I ran a sub-9.00 mile for more than one mile – my overall pace for the race was 8.49 over 3.1 miles.  And I obliterated the line for the fat guy holy grail of the 30 minute 5k.  I now am in the sub-30 5k group, hopefully never to leave it again.  I finished 5th out of 18 in my age group (Male 31-40), about a minute and a half behind the guy that finished 4th.  The craziest stat, though, is that I finished 28th out of 242 runners overall – just outside of the top 10% .

I am now officially in better shape than I have been in since high school.  And though I was faster back then, I am almost certainly stronger now – if I could use the hopper test, there is a good chance I am in better shape than I have ever been.  It is immensely gratifying to know that all of this work and focus is paying off, not just in how I look and the clothes I wear, but also in the physical things my body is capable of doing.  27.20!  Woot!

Notes

  • My brother-in-law finished third overall in the 10k and won his age group. His time was 38.43 – a 6 minute, 15 second pace.  A friend described that time as pornographic.

Dan-the-Man, coming in for the win!

  • One thing that was cool about this race was that they did a kids fun run. The kids even got a medal and everything. When I did packet pickup, I was the first one there that asked for a fun run bib, so my five-year old got to be bib #1, which was even more exciting.  At the event, the lady running the fun run saw my 2 year old and asked if he didn’t want to run?  Turns out that they have an under-3 group for the run, as well.  So both kids got bibs and got to do their own runs – and got their own medals, which we are hanging in my office near where I hang mine.  That whole little thing is a big reason I’m doing all of what I’m doing – I want my kids to grow up in and around an active lifestyle … I want them to never know anything different.  It worked this time – they had a blast.

  • This was a pancake run, so there were pancakes and sausage and coffee and orange juice after, which is nice. The race takes place at the fire department, so they had the trucks out.  And they had bounce houses and games for the kids.  There was also a raffle.  Lots of activities, and on a perfect weather day.
  • Speaking of perfect weather – the turnout was much higher than the year before. The 5k had 242 finishers, and I think last year’s race was in the 150 range. So I hope the Rotary Club had a good day of fundraising. The timing and location are pretty perfect for me, so it looks like this one is going to be an annual 5k for me.
  • The SWAG for this one is good, too, especially for a small inexpensive race. There is a cotton race shirt, a small medal, and of course the pancake breakfast free for runners.  I’m still a little perplexed at the idea of getting medals for 5ks, and it still feels weird hanging it next to my half marathon medals.  But not so weird I don’t hang it…

The kids were happy that their medals were bigger than mine…

  • My next scheduled race is the Celebration Half Marathon on January 28th. I got my PR in that race last year, by something like 15 minutes.  I don’t expect to take another 15 minutes off this year, but I’m definitely going to try and go PR it again.

A three minute PR, under 9 minute miles, getting the fat guy holy grail, and watching my family be a part of all of this?  That’s a good day, right there.

RR #20: Celebration Rotary Pancake Run 5K

I registered for this race last year and wound up getting lazy and not running it.  This year, I didn’t register for it initially on the theory that I didn’t need races and would like to save the money. But I eventually relented and signed up.  This is a charity race that Celebration Rotary does each year in conjunction with the fire department.  They have a big pancake breakfast at the fire house that is free for runners but that you can buy tickets for if you don’t run.  And they have a 10K and a 5K.

And the start line is about a mile and a half from my house.

With an 8am start and a pancake breakfast, I thought maybe my family would be able to come.  The night before, my wife and I decided that she wouldn’t wake the kids up, so I expected to be solo.  I had my normal long-run oatmeal and coffee for breakfast, and as I was sitting at my desk in my house, I thought something had broken in the kitchen because I could hear running water.  Turns out, it was raining.  Oh, boy.

The finish line, before the madness

The finish line, before the madness

I got to the race site a little over an hour early – even though it wasn’t far I drove so that I had an easy place to stash my shirt, and so I’d be able to leave quickly to make it to a t-ball game starting right after.  I checked in, and an hour early they were already out of men’s XL shirts.  They tried to give me a women’s, but one look at the way it was cut and I had to laugh.  I got a Large, but there is a decent chance I’ll never wear it.  If I’d been thinking I’d have gotten a small and let my oldest son wear it, but, whatever.

On the way back to the car to drop my shirt off, I realized I’d left my Garmin at home.  I briefly considered going to get it, but decided I’d run without it.  I didn’t need it for the overall time or distance, and wouldn’t really need it for pacing, so I left it.  In the end, I think I regret that decision.

The 10K was scheduled to start 30 minutes before the 5K.  They had a DJ, and somebody came to warm us up – I did some laps in the parking lot.  The local Boy Scout troupe marched out an American flag, the girl did a great job with the National Anthem, and they lined up the 10K and set them off, about 10 minutes late.  Once they were gone, they actually physically moved the starting line down the street to the official 5K start, and we all marched down there to get into place.  I noticed several kids and others that didn’t look like they had a lot of 5K experience near the front, so I went ahead and lined up farther up than I normally do.

My goal, especially without the watch, was to go out comfortably fast and do my best to hold it and maybe have some kick.  I was realistically expecting a 33 to 35 minute 5K, thinking that I had an outside chance at a PR before the day started just because I’m in much better shape than I was when I ran my PR.  The rain made that unlikely, though – even though the active raining mostly stopped, the roads were wet and there was a ton of humidity.

3-2-1, and we were off.  I got caught in a narrow lane behind people running slower than me almost immediately.  I wound up actually running up on the curb to get around, and almost immediately I was out of the crowds and running basically alone.  And a bit too fast.  But I made the decision to try and hold that best I could, and run the race.

Our town is very pretty, even in the rain, and the course was all streets I’ve run on before.  There are no hills, but several turns, so it wasn’t the fastest course.  But there was nearly no congestion, the turns were all very well signed, and there were police working traffic to make sure everything stayed safe.  It was an enjoyable run.

A bit after mile 2 the course runs relatively close to the baseball fields – and my family surprised me by being there to cheer!  My wife, of course, was cheering like crazy.  My 4-year old, in his t-ball uniform, knew what was going on and gave me a five, but seemed almost embarrassed.  And the 19-month old looked very confused.  He clearly had no concept of what was happening, and then when I ran by and kept going there was no telling what he was thinking.  But it was great for them to be there.  I love when my kids get to see me doing this stuff.  Part of this is setting an example for them, and that is easier when they actually see it.

From there it was just a grind to the end.  We could see the finish line well in advance of getting there, so I kicked best I could and gutted it across the finish.  We got medals, which is nice, and an option of a full bottle of water or a full bottle of Gatorade.  And then after I caught my breath I walked over to the pancake breakfast and got some coffee and made pancake sausage rolls.  That was a nice after-race treat.  I finished in 31:09, which is a 10:03 / mile pace.  That is only 30 seconds off of my PR, and this is the beginning of the racing season in Florida, not the end. I’m very happy with the run, and will almost certainly do it next year.

After

After

Notes:

  • On my last training run I did a 10:20 mile, and felt very happy about that. To do 10:03 for three miles means I really am in much better shape than I’ve been in a very long time.  I don’t have any more 5Ks scheduled, but I’m thinking I’ll pick one in March to be a PR attempt – and a chance to get under 30 minutes.
  • The pancake breakfast after was awesome. I’m now officially going to be disappointed with post-race spreads going forward.
  • I’m still very unaccustomed to receiving medals for 5Ks. In the Northeast I never saw that – you didn’t get a medal unless you ran at least a half marathon.  Down here, apparently all races give medals.  The medal itself was small and not fancy, but it was nice, and fun to get.  As before – I almost feel bad hanging it next to my half marathon and Ragnar medals, but not bad enough to not hang it.

    This, without the date, is what the medal looks like...

    This, without the date, is what the medal looks like…

  • Not having my Garmin was very annoying. Not so much during the race – it would have been nice to see my pace, but I didn’t miss it all that much.  But because I didn’t have it I have no idea what my splits looked like.  It felt pretty evenly paced; I can’t think of a stretch where I slowed down or sped up.  But I just don’t know if I started too hard and fell apart at the end, or how good my kick was.  I won’t make that mistake again.
  • I am annoyed that they didn’t have a shirt my size. If they were out by the time I got there, which was early, I imagine several people didn’t get a shirt that fit.  At the end of the day it isn’t that big a deal, but it seems like such a waste.  Oh well.
  • There wasn’t any other SWAG, but there certainly didn’t need to be. We got the shirt, a bib with the race logo on it, a medal, and the pancake breakfast.  That was plenty, and all really nice.
  • Next race: The Florida Run at Lake Louisa State Park in Clermont, Florida.  I’m running the 10K – some of this is going to be on trails, and in that park that means they could be a bit sandy.  I have no idea what to expect with that, but it should be fun.

We’re racing again!