If you've been following, you know that I've become recently frustrated with my 5k times. The last PR I set was way back in late October of 2013. I have come close twice this year to breaking my 5k PR, once at the Easter Egg 5k in April, and the other at the Jazz in the Woods 5k last weekend (although, as far as the Jazz in the Woods 5k goes, the course was actually short of a 5k; so my 20:44 finish time, though close to PR for a true 5k, was nearly 15 seconds off pace for a PR if you consider the shorter 3.08mi distance that it actually was). As harsh as last week was on my legs (hard mid-week sessions, nasty two-a-day race day on Saturday), I decided to take a couple of days off going in to this week to let my body recover. I had not one, but two opportunities on the horizon to finally shatter my 5k PR (this time on separate days). Some rest, followed by a few high-quality training miles, should give me the boost I needed to finally achieve it.
The following are race briefs for both the Putting the Boots to ALS 5k in Kansas City, Missouri, and the CASA Superhero 5k in Leawood, Kansas.
Saturday, June 28th, 2014: Putting the Boots to ALS 5k, Kansas City, Missouri
3.11mi @ 20:53 (6:43/mi); 3rd of 13 in age-group, 10th of 234 overall.
This has been one of my favorite 5k's to do, and is a go-to every racing season. I have been racing Putting the Boots to ALS since my first year competitively running in 2011, and am a huge supporter of the cause as well. I've always gotten family to run this one with me. The event isn't very large-scale, but the coordinators and volunteers are always well-organized and extremely friendly.
I am very familiar with this course, not only because I am a long-time participant of Putting the Boots to ALS, but also because I am a long-time participant of Rock the Parkway. The Putting the Boots course is almost identical to Rock the Parkway; the only differences is that it starts/finishes at Rockhurst High School (instead of Burns & McDonnell) and turns around at Summit St (instead of Wornall) on the south end of the course, and 81st (instead of 83rd) at the north end of the course. Elevation changes are nearly identical, with its well-known straight-up-straight-down course profile. The second half is always fast, and granted you are a seasoned hill-climber, PR's are easy to come by.
The packet pick-up would take place on Friday afternoon at Gary Gribble's Running Sports in the Ward Parkway Shopping Center -- same as last year. Quick, easy, and the added benefit of shoe porn afterwards.
Going in to the weekend, the weather looked like rain possible for both Saturday and Sunday's races, with rain chances higher for Putting the Boots to ALS, at 50%. Temps in the low- to mid-70's with very high humidity would be a huge factor for both of this weekend's races (80 and 90%, respectively). This may be a wet one. Either way I was excited. I was ready to nail a PR, all on familiar running grounds (for both days!).
As always, the race is small, yet large enough to be competitive. The event foregoes all of the bells and whistles of larger races (medals, huge start/finish line banners) in favor of the cause -- raising money for ALS research (which I am an enormous advocate for). Volunteers and organizers, as always, are incredibly helpful and dedicated. There's a reason I decide to come back every year -- besides the cause alone -- and they are it.
This race I tried to hold back off the start line, but was able to only just barely (6:05 first half-mile). Cadence and stride felt good for the first mile, but I had trouble finding a good breathing rhythm (very humid). I eventually got it.
I crested the first-half hill(s) and rounded the turnaround with good pace and in 7th place, but felt cooked. I was able to maintain 7th place through the turnaround. Even on the downhills on the way back in I was tired. Posted a negative mile-2-to-3 split by only a touch despite being all downhill, losing 7th, 8th and 9th to a small charging group. Almost grabbed back 9th, but was pipped in the final quarter mile. Crossed just short of 21 minutes at 10th overall and 3rd in my category.
Now on to CASA.
Sunday, June 29th, 2014: CASA Superhero 5k, Leawood, Kansas
3.16mi @ 21:10 (6:42/mi); 9th of 635 overall (no age groups).
This is my first time racing the Superhero 5k, but am a huge supporter of CASA. The event seemed fun also, and runs in an area I was super-familiar with, thanks to the Mustache Dash 5k.
The course is also very similar to Mustache Dash, with the key difference being that it skips running through Leawood Country Manor neighborhood and instead runs the entirety of the block, from Nall, to 119th, to Roe, and back to Park Place. The same major hills are still there, though -- particularly the steep incline from Roe to Town Center Drive on the way back to Park Place.
As noted by race day for Putting the Boots to ALS, the weekend held the possibility of being wet, if not by rain showers, by extreme humidity, which was more likely the case for Sunday's CASA race. Temperatures were forecast for mid-70's and a relative humidity of 90% (!!). Breathing may be a bit tough.
Packet pick-up was set for Saturday starting at 9:30am and ending at 4:00pm at the Town Center Panera in Leawood. Given the early start time, and my race on Saturday morning anyways, timing was perfect to grab the Superhero 5k packets on the way home (or to breakfast, as it were) from the Putting the Boots to ALS 5k.
The pickup area was shoehorned in to a back dining area at the Panera, with one individual checking people in, one putting together the "packets" (which consisted of coupons and the envelope with our race bib and chip), and what seemed like four others guarding the t-shirts which, apparently, only went out to those that signed up early (it stated on the website simply that registration included t-shirt -- nothing about early registration), although I didn't see a single person walk away with a t-shirt, including myself (even though I registered three weeks prior). The single-person check-in caused a line out the door. Though volunteers seemed nice enough, packet pick-up was far from organized. Something to re-visit next year -- it is in its first year, after all.
Race day setup, however, was impressively organized for a brand new event. Registration was high, and by race time, the crowd looked to be at least 400-large, all donning any number of superhero costumes (even saw a Gumbi and a Ghostbuster). Not to mention the kids and their get-ups -- events for the morning included a kids race and a costume contest following the 5k. Fun!
On to the race itself: No one wanted to lead out the pack, so I ended up right at the start line, which I don't like to do. Once the horn sounded, I lead everyone out for about the first tenth of a mile, until two made the break. Myself and three others followed, and without luck, grouped up ourselves. I took the rear, trying best to keep up with the rapid pace, in sixth place. I ended up holding a great pace over first 1.5 miles (had a 6:11 first mile). I eventually was dropped from the group, and then passed again from 6th to 9th at around 2 miles by a group of three. I held strong with good hard efforts past the 2-mile marker, almost taking back 8th place. However, I pushed too early on approach, and fell apart during final 1km, but was able to hold off the 10th place runner. STILL no PR, but better than yesterday and last week. Finished 9th overall (no age groupings this race).
After the race I walked around a bit, grabbed a few goodies from the sponsors (they secured quite a few good ones!), checked out the kids races (check out those kids run in the video!!), and was on my way. By now, packet pick-up was only a minor speed bump in an otherwise well-put-together event.
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