Friends 5-ish Mile Road Race - RunOther

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Bristol, Avon
United Kingdom
Great Western Runners
55F / 13C
Total Time = 33m 56s
Overall Rank = 16/280
Age Group = M40+
Age Group Rank = 6/100+
Pre-race routine:

This was race #2 in my week of racing with little bro Robin while in the UK. It's a local 5.5 miler that's mainly targeted at corporate teams in the Bristol area. I decided to treat it as my final tune-up for the weekend's big HM, to give me a better sense of what running pace I could sustain. Although I've been quite happy with the run-easy-often plan, which has kept me off the injured list for the past few months, one consequence is that I feel that I have fairly poor pace judgment, and I'm not confident of my ability to run fast.

The race is very low key compared to what I've become used to in the US. It reminded me of HS X-country races of yore. £6 entry fee on the night. No swag, shirts, medals, or other distractions. No waivers, detailed entry forms, etc. No finish-line festival - just a cup of water at the end (or a pint of local beer if you stop into the adjacent clubhouse). No fuss at the start (no freakin' national anthem). No road closures or police, with a course mostly following sidewalks and country lanes. A nice contrast to the organizational arms race that we see at so many US races. Oh, and it was cold, and very windy. Didn't seem to bother the locals, who were happy hanging around in shorts and singlets while I was shivering in three layers.
Event warmup:

Warm-ups are not my forte, but it was cold, and I didn't have the normal swimming and biking to get the juices flowing beforehand, so this one required a more serious warm-up, with 15+ minutes of steady running.
  • 33m 56s
  • 5.5 miles
  • 06m 10s  min/mile

I still wasn't especially warm, so I decided to take it out at a comfortable pace at the start as we circled the rugby field before hitting the streets. Robin was already fading into the distance ahead of me, so I figured I'd end up far behind him by the finish. I picked up the pace a bit as we climbed a hill around mile 1, passing a few people in the process. I immediately lost all of those gains as we turned into a country lane that descended a steep hill. My knees just can't handle fast downhill running any more. The road flattened out as we entered the first of a couple of quaint villages, but we also turned into a strong headwind, which turned out to be more challenging than the uphills. I started reeling in some of the folks who had passed me on the downhill, and targeted a small group that was a little ways ahead of me. Once I caught them I decided to simply stick with them for a while, to ease the effects of the wind. This felt fairly comfortable, though I suspected that we were now running rather more slowly. About 1.5 miles from the finish the road turned away from the wind and started to turn uphill, and at this point one of the guys in the group decided to push on harder. I went with him and we quickly lost the rest of the group, and I felt fairly strong coming up the hill. As the course flattened again for the last mile my companion tried to push harder to drop me. I followed for a while, but then decided to pick up the pace myself to get away from him. This felt great, as for the first time that I can remember I felt like I was really racing, and not avoiding commitment as I often do. I didn't look at my watch the entire route, I just raced. I managed to slowly gain yards on my pursuer, and as the rugby field came into sight again I felt that I was sure to hold him off, but then a couple of other chasers appeared out of nowhere, and so I had to really sprint hard on the final stretch across the rugby field to stay ahead.

I was surprised to find Robin waiting just beyond the finishing chute. I had expected that he would be 1-2 minutes ahead of me, but it turns out that he was only 23 seconds faster than me. Nice! That now evens the series at 1-1 between us (I beat him by a long way in Sunday's duathlon; all credit to him for even attempting a bike event). The decider will be next Sunday's HM. I probably don't stand a chance, but I might not be as far behind as I expected. I was pleasantly surprised to finish as high as 16th, and also pleasantly surprised at the 6:10/mile average pace, particularly given the hills and nasty wind. This gives me the confidence that I was looking for ahead of the HM. Now just a few days of easy jogging and I should be ready.
Post race
Warm down:

All very low-key. Jog around a little, hang out a little with some of Robin's local running buddies. Then home. But despite the 'basic' nature of the event, the results were made available very quickly.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

I could probably benefit from some speed work at this point, as for the first time in my life I feel that I have more endurance than speed. But setting that aside, I was pretty happy with this.

Event comments:

A nice little event, now in its 35th year. I really appreciate the no frills, back to basics approach of races like these. Reminds me of my youth. One thing I missed, though, compared to the US races, is the lack of broad participation. The field size was perfectly fine for a local race, and there were quite a few runners capable runners there, probably more depth than I'd encounter in a typical race in Maryland. But very few slower/beginner runners. By the time it got to the 8:30/9 minute milers, it was really the stragglers at the back of the race. So either Brits are simply a lot faster (not sure about that), or the sport isn't attracting the same depth as it does in the US.

Last updated: 2011-09-06 12:00 AM
00:33:56 | 05.5 miles | 06m 10s  min/mile
Age Group: 6/100+
Overall: 100/280
Performance: Good
Course: Sidewalks and country lanes. Moderately hilly. Strong wind was a much bigger issue on this occasion.
Keeping cool Drinking
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 4
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? No
Plenty of drinks? No
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5] 4