I ran the Love-A-Stray 5k on Sunday for the third year in a row. I ran it in 2012 when they first started and had a fantastic race. Then I ran in in 2013 and they changed the course to a more runner friendly route. This year they kept the same course, and I had my best 5k yet of 2014! As I’ve mentioned before, Love-A-Stray has always held a special place in my heart. I volunteered with them in high school, and have adopted two wonderful cats from them. Knowing that proceeds from this race help their organization are always worth more than the run itself.
I originally signed up for the race as a recovery run from the Hermes 10 Miler. I was going to run with a friend and her puppy and enjoy the race from a different perspective. But when she couldn’t make it, the thought of truly racing it crossed my mind. Knowing that the 5k was the day after the 10 miler made me a little nervous. But I decided I’d play it by ear, and worst case scenario, I’d have three miles added in for the month of April.
I spent the night at my parent’s house, and got to the race with plenty of time to pick up my packet, do a short jog, and get in one more bathroom break. The weather was a lot colder than the previous day so I added gloves to my outfit and hoped I’d be warm enough by the time we got started.
I positioned myself between the 8:00 and 9:00 minute pace signs hoping that I could be pulled along by those running a faster pace. Once we were off I tried to go towards the side to avoid the crowd. I didn’t want to check my watch until about a half mile or once I found a pace I was comfortable with.
I was feeling pretty good and decided to check my watch. I instantly slowed down once I saw I was pushing a 7:30 pace. I edged my way back and found myself behind a woman and her daughter. They were running just above 8:30 and I figured I’d join them for a while, there was no sense in pushing it this early in the race.
Mile 1- 8:20
We made our way around the woods and entered into the development before heading into the woods again. I was feeling good, but could feel a slight pain just under my heart and couldn’t decide if it was a cramp or my heart. I slowed down a bit and tried to focus on my breathing.
At about the halfway mark we reached the water stop. I normally don’t take water in a 5k, but I grabbed a cup, and threw some in my mouth and face. It seemed to help as the cramp started to go away by the third mile.
Mile 2- 8:48
Entering the third mile, I knew I had to pace myself properly. I remembered from last year that I started to get too excited to finish a little too early and wore myself down, so I tried to keep a steady pace the entire way. I was feeling good and actually felt better than the second mile. My only restraint was my legs, I kept trying to push them, but they just wouldn’t turn over quick enough. I knew this was from the race the day before, but I was honestly surprised they were still in the low 8’s range.
As we got closer to the opening at the end of the woods I had to hold myself back. I knew I had a few smaller turns before I could pick up my speed. As I made my way through the final turns I never once checked my watch. I relied solely on my legs and knew that whatever time I got, I had given it my all.
Mile 3 – 8:18
Last .1 – 7:27 pace
I squeaked in just under 26 minutes at 25:29. I needed a moment to catch my breath, but I was so excited and felt great! I had taken a minute and a half off my last 5k in March and completely passed over 26 minutes. I’m closing in on my post college PR, but honestly, I never felt so great or in control while racing a 5k. I didn’t know what to expect after the 10 miler, but knowing I left it all out on the course both days felt fantastic. The entire weekend showed me just how far I’ve come this year, and how strong I am.
Shortly after I finished, my sister and her boyfriend came over to greet me. They got to watch me finish and stayed for a bit to walk around and check out the vendors. It was nice to have someone at the finish for once, and it may have pushed me to run a little harder in the last mile.
I can’t say enough good things about this race. Each year it gets better and better. And the competition gets faster and faster. The first three in my age group all ran 7:xx pace and completely left me in the dust. I hope to continue the tradition and run this race every year!
Age Group 25-29: 5/27