This was my 4th time running the Strike Out ALS 5K. I almost didn't run it though. I've been so committed to keeping up with my marathon training schedule that I've been hesitant to alter it in any way. A week before the race I decided to register and just run a double for the day to get my miles in. The race holds special meaning for me too since I lost my uncle to ALS 4 years ago.
I did the pre-race packet pick up at Roadrunner Sports the Saturday before the race. This was quick and easy since they have parking there and everything. I also decided to pick up a pair of racing flats to break in for my eventual goal marathon. After trying out some new stuff I got a pair of the new release Vazee Pace from New Balance. The shoes are super light and comfy with a 6mm heel drop and a good feel that leads to faster stride turnover. I wound up running the 5K in them.
Race day was a bit different for me this time around. Since I signed up last minute I hadn't roped my friends into running with me. I got down to US Cellular field early and relaxed for a bit. The weather had cooled off and felt pretty good. I had run 10 miles in the morning and had melted then so this was a nice change. I dropped my bag off at gear check and went for a short jog to loosen up a bit. I noticed that in addition to the cooling off the wind had also picked up and might make things difficult.
Soon enough I was heading into the start corral for some announcements including the reciting of Lou Gehrig's famous retirement speech. Unfortunately and ill-placed generator plus the wind was blowing fumes into the faces of those of us near the front. I was ready to get moving so I could breath again. After the all clear it was off went.
I got sucked into the fast start of the lead runners. It just felt so natural, but a quarter of a mile in I slowed to a more manageable pace before I got myself into real trouble. It was crazy only seeing 8 runners in front of me. I wound up passing another after he fell off after the fast start. We ran and zig zagged south through the stadium parking lots towards Pershing before turning back north. Once we turned north we were slammed by a pretty strong wind. I managed to cross the mile marker in 6:12 which is my fastest timed mile ever.
We continued north past where we started to the north edge of the lots, then turned east, then south briefly and then back north. The wind was just relentless and started wearing on me. I did manage to pass another runner who was also struggling with the wind. Finally towards the end of the mile we turned back south. The wind did its damage though and this mile was done in 6:40.
We were now zig zagging south before finally entering the stadium for a lap around the field. This is always a lot of fun, but running on the gravel can slow you down a little too. I also had to deal with a photographer who decided that the right spot for picture was right in the optimal running route so I had to dance around him. Right near the exit for the stadium I was passed by 2 runners. Once I got out of the tunnel I checked my time and knew I still had some fight left so I tried to push the pace and kept up with the 2 runners. I hit the mile 3 marker at 19:25 for a 6:33 mile.
I knew I had to really book it for the finish if I was going to crack 20. I picked up the pace even more. After one last turn I had 10 seconds left to make it and found myself in an all out sprint. I wound up neck and neck with the other 2 runners who had passed me. I stopped my watch a little after the finish line at 19:59.9. The official results have me at 20:00 even. If there ever was a time you wanted race results reported down to the tenth of a second this was it.
I wound up finished 8th overall out of over 400 runners and walkers and 3rd in my age group. My time was 1:04 faster than last year when I was 2nd in my age group. It's always funny how the times ebb and flow year to year for events. There was no official award ceremony, except to announce the male and female overall winners. I still got a medal though which was nice.
As I was leaving I managed to catch the final runner finishing. He was an ALS patient who decided that he too was going to finish the course. It was a great moment of bravery. Many of the runners took a break from their post race fun in order to go over to the finish and cheer him on as well.
Strike Out ALS 5K is always a well run event and for a good cause. The logistics may be inconvenient since it's always held on All Star Tuesday in the evening at US Cellular Field. The course also contains something around 23 turns I think I counted so it isn't normally a PR type course even though I managed to set an 11 second PR myself during the race.
I'm proud of the way I ran. I've been absolutely torturing my legs with mileage, piling on more miles than I've ever run before and still managed to get some speed out of them. I was tired enough that I couldn't get my heart rate up to where I normally run 5Ks at. I know I'm more fit, but I just couldn't bring myself to the pain and huffing and puffing normally experienced during a 5K. I'll have to find a 5K after all the marathon madness is over and run it on fresh legs to see what I can really do. It's nice knowing that I could probably go sub 20 without any issues and that's always a confidence booster.