2011 Race Report: NHL All Stars 5K

NHL All-Stars  5k, Raleigh NC (RBC Center), January 29, 2011

This was a fun race … oh, and I matched my existing PR. Win-win!

Pre-Race:

I was really excited about this race for a few reasons… First, it is really exciting to have the NHL All Star game here in Raleighwood. Second, I love Hockey. Not the biggest fan in the world, but I love the game and I go as often as I can. The Hurricanes have been a huge boost to the area and I love almost every event I’ve been to where they were involved, so I was pretty excited to get involved with one that had the entire NHL on the title. Third, it has been almost 2 months since my last race and I was starting to have withdrawals. Finally, I have been working on speed lately, and wanted to test it. My only disappointment is that there were no hockey players at the race. Oh well… there will be for the Friesen’s race in September, and you bet your booty I’ll be at that one.

This week has been particularly stressful and I’ve had a lot going on at work that made me miss a few runs, so I had a lot of pent up energy that ended up in 44 miles in the 90-minute spin class on Wednesday… which made me sore and miss more runs. Not to mention that my legs were pure jelly the rest of the week. Not sure what got into me on Wednesday, but mentally, I felt better – haha. So, Friday comes around and I’m stressed to the max… so much so that I cried at work 3 times and got short with the kids *sigh*. I also promised a friend I’d come see a band with him… a band that started at 10. I’m usually in bed and mostly asleep by 10, but a promise is a promise, so I went (the band was pretty good by the way).

So… my attitude going into this race was: this is a ‘for fun’ race – something that I’m doing because it is for a good cause and it supports the NHL coming here, which, in and of itself, is a good cause to me. Plus, it’ll give me practice at getting a sub-8 mile – all I need is one sub-8 mile to make me feel like the speed work is working. I can do that. In bed by 1 am, up at 6:30, getting the kids ready (they did the little guy 100 yard dash) and put gas in my car. I was on fire with getting ready that morning… why can’t I do that Monday – Friday?!?!? usually my pre-race routine takes a couple of hours, but I was on it that morning. Out the door by 8 and on-site by 8:30 in time for the 9:00 race.

Race:

The main thing I noticed about this race was the number of younger men in it. An observation I’ve made in the past to my Dad is that the vast majority of these events are women around my age and older men (later 40s through their 50s – masters). I was surprised as I looked around how many men my age there were. I don’t recall many races where the men in my age group exceeded the women in my age group, but this race has 10 more men in the 35-39 ag. Nice! So… all that to say, great EC in this race – haha. Another observation I made was that, for a “fun run/walk” sort of event, everybody seemed to be a pretty serious runner. All kinds of Garmins and Timex pieces, lots of serious gear, not many wearing the shirt. Usually, events advertised as a “fun run/walk” are pretty split and there are few “serious” runners in it and almost everybody is wearing the event shirt. This observation will come up a couple of times as I talk about it…

It was a pretty easy course around the RBC Center – I’ve run other races with a similar course around the RBC Center, and the elevation is pretty flat – according to my Runkeeper, it was only a 177 climb – I usually do about 270 – 300 ft in downtown Raleigh, so this was a welcome flat course. The best thing, I think, about this course is that the first mile is just the loop around the arena – after you get past that, you’re almost 1/3 of the way done! The other things I really like about doing races here:

  • Plenty of great parking!!
  • Easy to get in and out
  • Real bathrooms with running water – I know!!
  • Lots of room for spectators, even for little guys to burn off some energy while the big folks are running their race

The weather has been pretty brutally cold (for here) all winter, but luckily warmed up quite a bit this weekend. It was probably in the upper 40s when the race started, which was a nice change of pace from some of my more recent outdoors runs (still take that over 100 degrees any day… just sayin’). They had one long, narrow chute for all of us to line up in and almost 2,000 runners. I was a little surprised they didn’t try to line folks up by pace with that many, but I didn’t see the signs for paces, so I just filed in and filled up space as much as I could. I ended up about 3/4 of the way back – not my most ideal starting place, but I wasn’t taking it as a serious race, so I kind of didn’t push the issue… I just adjusted the earphones and enjoyed the relative quiet of the moment. I usually play my music at this point, but was trying the RunKeeper app on my phone with the battery booster as a practice run for the Rock & Roll Mardi Gras HM in 2 weeks and the audio is tied to the activity so I had to wait.

They started a few minutes late, and, even as far back as I was, I saw that image of everybody setting their watches (the one I so badly want to take a photo of… should have done it this race!) which you usually only see from people who are pretty serious about it and are setting their Garmins or Timex – haha. I did the same with my phone, and was off. The cool thing about the newer RunKeeper app I’ve been using is that I can set audio cues to play at certain intervals so I can manage my pace better. I really liked that and it helped stay focused on my pace on regular intervals rather than whenever I thought to look at it. The course took us around the RBC Center and then along 2 of the side streets, and then back into another street that ended in front of the RBC Center. The first mile – the loop around the RBC center – seemed a little too easy. I was running with (yes, I said with) a boy who seemed to be about 14 or 15. what the what? Boys that age usually smoke me (and he did later) but it did a lot for my confidence to keep up with him. My first audio cue comes up: 7:44mm pace. What the what? wait… what? I was stunned. I haven’t had that kind of pace in ANY of my training runs, even intervals! I was so happy, but it was only about .67 mile in – still a lot to go. I kept on.

The turn off after the first mile was different for this race than some of the others, which tripped me up, but it was also a nice change – I got to see slightly different scenery At the end of the 10 minute marker, my 2nd audio cue came on: 7:53 pace. Whoah. At this point, I thought, “well, it would be nice to beat the Friesen time, since that’s the same course…” that was 8:12mm pace over all – not too shabby, but not really close to my PR, either. I got my 3rd cue at 15 minutes: 8:00mm. Oh well… at least with the first mile under 8, that’ll make me feel better about it. Then, I noticed the girl in front of me – she was decked out from head to toe in light pink (I liked her outfit, I must say) and she must have just bought her sweatshirt because she forgot to take the size sticker off of it… for some reason, I got focused on that for what seemed like forever, particularly because I wanted to tell her, but couldn’t ever catch up to her (she was a lot younger than me). Even if I had been able to get close, I’m doubtful anything other than “ahhhuuugggghhh” would have come out – haha. Then, I saw my 14-year old friend again (as he passed me for the last time) and kept him in sight until he turned a corner… then I saw the lady that looked like me, only in head-to-toe purple (even had her hair done same as me). Then, the father-son duo. The visiting team jerseys (a *LOT* of hockey jerseys). All this people watching took my mind of my pace until my 4th cue: 7:54mm – WOO HOO! If you look at my splits, it is very funny – mile 1 is 7:46, mile 2 is 8:11 and mile 3 was 7:42, the last .1 mile was 7:33…. When I got that cue, I was just about at 2.6 mi, and started to think “hey… I might get close to my PR?!!?!?” I didn’t want to get too excited or too cocky about it, but this was the first (and really only) point when I took this race any bit seriously. At this point, we were making our way back into the arena complex (the NCSU football stadium shares a parking lot with RBC Center) and winding down the road into the finish and I knew it, which just added to my excitement about finishing faster than I planned. I could feel everybody around me pulling ahead, but I just didn’t think my legs would take me there – although they felt stronger than they had all week, I always have this paralyzing fear that I’ll wipe out hard (like I did back in November) in the last seconds of the race in/around the finish line. I’m not worried so much about breaking anything, embarrassing myself, being all bloodied as I crawl across the finish line… no… I’m worried that the fall will screw up my time – haha. see where my priorities are…¬† Nevertheless, I really couldn’t afford a fall now with the HM just 2 weeks away, so I played it safe and came in with a strong finish, albeit not as fast as I wanted.

Post-Race:

RunKeeper had me at 24:32 and clock time was almost 26:00 – I think that was wrong because that is too large of a difference. When I checked the “unofficial times” on site, they had my chip time at 25:30, which I knew wasn’t right. I followed this company (On the Mark Sports) on Facebook and they posted a link to the official time a few hours later (which is what I LOVE about their races!). They had my Chip Time at 24:30 and my pace at 8:10, which I think was actually my gun time (25:10). Boo! Oh well – I know I got a sub-8mm average and that’s all that counts to me

I had my boys enrolled in the kid’s 100 yard dash, so we stuck around for the awards. I was taken by the times! In my age group, I’m usually pretty high up – I was 8 of 72. Not at all complaining, but usually I’m higher up – like top 5 – unless it is a huge, huge race like Komen. In almost every age group, top 3 finishers were sub-20 minutes or right at it! Yes, all age groups – even the 70 year old guy beat my time! Very, very impressive, and really gave me hope – and incentive – that it is possible to keep this up for that long if I take care of myself.

Learning:

I hesitated signing up for this race because it was so close to my HM, but I’m sooo glad I did it now. Not because of the tied-PR – I would have been happy with anything I did less than 25:30. It has been about 2 months since my last event, and I had been a little burned out on them, I think. I feel a renewed sense of motivation about them now and I’m really looking forward to my 3rd HM in 2 weeks, my first ever (official) 10-miler (haha – long story for those who weren’t here last year) and a Warrior Dash event. So, I guess the learning is: even your mind needs a break from time to time. Also… intervals really do work. I got lazy about doing them because I hate them, but they do work. Now that I’ve choked down a little humble pie, it’ll be a little easier to suck it up and TM speed intervals for at least one day a week.

Happy racing, friends!

T