|Free to Breathe 5K - "New" North Hills Course|
I said I'd never do it again. The Free to Breathe is one of the toughest courses I recall running since I started running races in the Raleigh area. It was an uphill finish to what I recall being a not so scenic course, though I have to say all I really remember is the uphill finish. This was on the NC State Centennial Campus and I ran it in 2009. Actually I also recall that I had to park really far away and probably logged more mileage to and from the car when I did this race in 2009 than in the actual race. Still it was a well put on event and for a good cause (lung cancer research). So when I heard that it moved to North Hills I was optimistic that the course had to be better, couldn't be worse, could it? And if I was going to run the series I had no choice but to run it since I'd already missed the Magnificent Mile since I was out of town and would be away again for the IOS Turkey Trot.
|Free to Breathe "old" Centennial Campus course, for comparison - elevation visually not so different and the last mile is at least a 30 ft higher climb in the "new" course|
Again I didn't pre-register but waited until race morning to do that. I was pretty sure that I'd do it though since I had done 3 races already and while it was supposed to be cold, it was sunny and dry out so there was no good reason not to run it. So I got up early and headed to North Hills. I got a parking spot right in front of Harris Teeter, very convenient it turned out for avoiding the port a potties. It wasn't too far from the start. I got registered quickly and hung in the car a bit longer to eat some cereal and keep warm. I met up with Linda and was able to give her the award I picked up for her from the last race, as well as get a few pointers on the new course...uh oh, another uphill finish. Oh well, too late now.
I warmed up and saw a few of the "usual suspects" who are running the series. It's nice to see friendly faces in the crowd and have folks to talk to before and after the race. It was also a nice change to have a bagel place right at the start/finish. Usually there isn't a place to grab food after a race that is so close. Now that is mighty convenient, almost worth running uphill for...almost. This week the 1 mile fun run was first as well, just like the Monster Dash. Then the 5K group lined up. The "little" girls from last week skipped this race, thankfully, so I had a better shot at placing higher up! I got up near the front of the starting line and chatted until the start.
It was an uphill start which wasn't fun, but I tried to gain some ground there since I knew it would also be an uphill finish so I didn't want to start too slow. I have to say I felt really good all through mile 1, with a split of 6:14. Mile 2 was even better, winding streets with rolling hills and more down than up. I kind of knew I was going maybe faster than I should since sometimes the current pace read under 6 mm pace (like 5:40) but since I had my Garmin on current pace I couldn't really tell overall how much faster it was until the end of Mile 2 when the split read 6:06. Opps, maybe a tad too fast. But still I felt pretty good so I wasn't too worried.
That is until reality struck and I saw proof that "what went down must now go back up". The third mile was truly awful. No break from the hill, it was just up, up, up. And believe it or not, it wasn't my legs really or breathing that were the issue. But my arms were killing me, probably sore from trying to pump faster with no success to get up the hill. I couldn't wait for mile 3 to end. I talked to myself out loud (like a crazy person) to convince myself not to give up and not to lose it now. I wasn't falling behind necessarily, or at least no more than anyone else. I could still see Kim and Rodney ahead. In fact I passed a few people early in mile 3, so I was running that mile comparable to the rest of the field. But I knew I was slowing a lot so I just tried to go as fast as I could despite my sore arms. I even removed my arm warmers in the last 1/2 to 1/4 mile hoping that would help in some way...it did not.
Once I got to 1/4 mile left (there was a sign at 1/2 mile to go and 1/4 mile to go), I at least could feel the end in sight but physically couldn't see the clock until very close to the finish line, since it was around the bend. By the time I could see it, I knew I didn't PR or even make a sub 20. It was 20:15 when I passed through (20:14 chip time). I was first and foremost glad it was over and secondly I suspected I was 3rd overall which was pretty cool, so I wasn't too disappointed. Still I wished I had beat the clock to another sub 20 but knew that it was due to the course. In fact in comparing the times with other runners who had run the last few races, it was very clear that this was a tougher course. Even the first woman finisher had a time difference from the last race to this one of nearly 1 minute, so I didn't feel so bad.
After the race I got changed quickly (at the handy dandy Harris Teeter), chatted a bit with Rusty, Rodney and Kim, and grabbed a bagel and hazelnut coffee (my favorite) just in time for the awards. I was 3rd overall which was pretty cool. I got a nice medal, similar to the one from 2009, plus a $15 gift certificate for a Road ID. A great idea and I'd highly recommend getting one if you don't have one, literally it could save your life and certainly will help your loved ones to worry about you a bit less while you are running or biking. But as luck would have it I already have 2 of them, so not sure I'll be able to use that gift certificate but hey it's the thought that counts! I wished Rodney and Rusty luck in the City of Oaks Full Marathon which they were running and headed for home for another fun filled day with the kids. Except for that last mile, the course was actually really fun and it's a great location. So next time I just know I need to do some hill work to prepare!
|Race Bling...3rd Female Overall|