First race back! After 2 months of healing and building back some fitness after my sprained ankle at the Hairy Bison 30k, this was my first time toeing the starting line. Unless you count virtual bike racing on Zwift which isn’t quite the same, despite it also being fun and pretty intense. The last time I had truly “raced” a fast 5k was over a year ago in the Elite race at the Soda City Crit, so I was excited to return to some speed and see how things would turn out.
The Run with the Saints 5k is organized by my friend MC Cox who is competitive local runner and the course takes place in the Shannon neighborhoods in Columbia, SC. I raced this event 2 years ago and knew that while it had some slight inclines and declines, it is a pretty fast course with only one real climb to slow you down at the end. 2 years ago I came in at 16:30 and was hoping that I could maybe even break my 15:50 PR from just over a year ago, but was pretty much flying blind as I have had little recent speed work or short races to compare to. I was even debating on wearing a watch or not as I was afraid that I would potentially use it as a crutch in my pacing. This decision was made for me when I woke up in the morning to a dead watch anyways.
Rebekah and I drove into Columbia just an hour before the race and met up with friend Brian Mallon who just happens to live within eyesight of the start line! It was super convenient to have a warm home base to go back and forth to before and after the race and have a spot Rebekah could hang out at. Until the race started I got in some easy warm up miles in with some strides, talked with a bunch of Columbia running friends, and eventually made my third bathroom stop of the morning. Everyone got lined up and as soon as the National Anthem finished we heard the count down and the race began!
I tried to settle in immediately to what felt like 5k pace, though I had no idea what pace I was actually running. Suddenly a runner popped up right next to me on my left in what seemed like an attempt to make things interesting. Unfortunately, it did not last, and I ended up slowly pulling ahead to establish a lead and begin the next few miles of solo time trialing. I knew the course very well as I used to run in that area a lot during my tenure at USC. Over the first couple of miles, I felt like I straddled that line of right at sustainable fast running without digging too deep as I knew the latter part of the course had the hill waiting. I kept feeling that while things didn’t feel terribly difficult, I felt that I was pretty much topped out on how far my stride could get at the time.
With just under a mile to go the road started to tilt up a bit and I started to attempt to use my power to bring it in without slowing the pace. This is where the breathing started to catch up to me and my legs were getting heavier and heavier. With the last turn in sight, I kept pushing through and got to that final stretch where I could finally see a clock. As I approached I could see it was just about to tip over the 16-minute mark and I pushed to finish strong after the long hill.
My official time ended up at 16:03 which gives me mixed feelings. I was hoping for a bit faster as I always love improving over time in every event I do. I still realize, though, that this is a very quick time especially given where I am at in my training cycle. I am looking forward to more improvements as I continue to build fitness into the season and hope to carry some speed into the quickly approaching tri season!
I ended up taking 1st Overall in the race with 3 other guys coming in under the 17-minute mark as well. The Columbia running community was out in full force with a bunch of friends competing or spectating the event. This was also my first event racing for the Fleet Feet Racing Team which explains why I didn’t go the shirtless route this time! Congrats to everyone that raced and I enjoyed catching up with a bunch of great friends! The results with everyone who raced can be found here and I have a few extra pics below of some of the finishers. Thanks for reading and I’m excited to write more often now that racing is back!