This morning I ran the Foot Pursuit 5k, a race put on by the Sierra Vista Police Officers Association. I didn’t think too much about the name of the race or the sponsor until I got there and two helicopters were landing in the field, a police dog was walking around with its handler, and there was generally a strong law enforcement presence. Suddenly the pieces clicked. “Foot Pursuit!” I thought. “I get it!” It sometimes takes me awhile, but I usually get there.
The race was about ten minutes down the road from my house at a local elementary school. The church across the street offered up their parking lot, so it was really easy to get there and get set up. After getting my bib and timing chip I ran a few slow laps around the parking lot to warm up. I passed the time by looking at the costumes that some of the runners were wearing. There was a pair of inmates, some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a joker, and a tiny Power Ranger and his big sister, the Wicked Witch of the West. But my favorites?
The start was a little bit wonky. One of the helicopters took off. The DJ told us to line up, so everyone started walking down the road. We were still shuffling forward when he said, “Ready? Set? Go!” and suddenly everyone started running. It wasn’t totally clear if there was an actual start line or just a general start area (there was no timing mat at the start of the race), but either way: I settled in and tried to start with a nice, steady pace.
My goal was to run the race in under 27 minutes. My plan was to start steady for the first mile, pick it up a little for the second mile, and progressively give it everything I had left for the third mile.
In keeping with the theme of the race, the helicopter circled over us as we ran, as though the police were trying to chase us down. One man had a dog balloon tied to his waist, maybe to pretend he had a police dog chasing after him?
It wasn’t a huge race, so there wasn’t a lot of weaving and maneuvering for space, which was nice. I settled into what felt like a nice pace and was really surprised when my Garmin beeped at the first mile to see that I’d run it in 8:23, one of my fastest miles ever.
“Okay, maybe I should slow down just a little bit,” I thought.
I reined it in slightly, and mile 2 felt pretty good, too. I was breathing hard enough to know that I was running faster than my standard pace, but that was my plan and I felt solid. I passed a few folks but tried to just focus on running my own race. My mantra, repeated over and over in my head, was “mile two, mile two, mile two.” Not especially original or inspiring, but it worked. My Garmin beeped and I was really happy to see a pace of 8:41.
(Confession: guys, I wasn’t completely honest when I said that my goal was to run the race in 27 minutes. I wanted to place in my age group. I really, really did. About the only thing I’ve ever won in my life was thirty years ago in elementary school, when I got Bingo and won a punch pass to bring ten friends to the roller skating rink. After those first two splits, I thought it might just be a possibility. I had to clamp down on my excitement and focus on the road ahead of me, but I was feeling good.)
And then there was mile three. Oh, mile three, mile three, mile three. Curses upon you, mile three. The course, which until this point had been on roads, took a sharp, right-hand turn down a rocky dirt trail, which made up most of mile three. It wasn’t exactly hilly, but there were lots of winding ups and downs. I had to slow down and take care to keep my footing. I could hear someone behind me on the trail, and even though I was beginning to tire, that kept me pushing.
The trail climbed up a short incline to the road and we followed the road back for the last half mile or so. A woman that I had passed around mile two pulled around me and as hard as I tried, I couldn’t keep up. My Garmin beeped for mile three: 9:13. Definitely slowing down. At this point I had an internal dialogue with myself, telling myself not to give into the temptation to slow down, that the race was nearly over, and basically goading myself into continuing to run. A father was running with his elementary school-aged son and I could hear him encouraging him: ” Come on buddy, we’re almost there! You can do this!” I pretended he was talking to me as I passed them.
I got a little disoriented at this point. I could see a stoplight ahead and thought that the course went to the light and then turned left and headed back to the start/finish line. What I didn’t realize was that we were actually back on the main drag, where the race had begun, and that the finish was just up the road, before the stoplight. It wasn’t until I heard the announcer calling out finishers that I realized I was really almost done. I hit the gas and finished strong.
(Side note: that little boy that I passed? He turned on the gas, too, and whizzed by me just before I crossed the timing mat).
I crossed the line, gave the little stinker a high five and told him he did a great job, and that was it. The race was over.
I looked down at my watch: 27:37, unofficial time.
I hung around for the awards ceremony, you know–just in case. When they called out the third place person for my age group and it was my first name and a last name that started with the same two letters as my last name my heart jumped in my chest, but it wasn’t me. The second place woman in my AG? That woman who passed me when we came off the trail. Sigh.
So I didn’t place. The official results won’t be up until tomorrow, so I’m not sure where I’ll fall in the overall results. If I hadn’t psyched myself out by thinking the course was longer than it actually was, would I have started my final push sooner? Maybe. But I didn’t. And although I’m a little bit disappointed, I still had a decent race. Yes, it was slower than I’d hoped for, but I felt so much better than I did during the 5k trail run I did a few weeks back. I know I can get faster, and I’m excited about the work ahead.
Last side note, or maybe more of a P.S…this was my first race wearing my Oiselle Distance Shorts. They totally live up to the hype, really comfortable with two deep, zippered pockets for holding lots of stuff. This was a short race, so all I had was my car key in the back pocket, but when I do longer runs (like tomorrow’s 12-miler), I’ll be able to cram all sorts of food in there.
UPDATE: My Garmin was just as accurate as my race chip, and my official time was 27.37.313. I was sixth in my AG and the 16th overall woman (44th overall in the whole race).