I picked a nice warm Wednesday night to get back into some 5k racing. A friend of mine organizes a fairly large midweek 5k (350 finishers) not too far from my house which is well organized and well attended by some fast college and high school runners. This is a great race because the first mile is predominantly down hill and very fast in the first mile, but then you're tested over the next 2 miles as you regain the elevation and finish back at the park you start at. I got a good 2 mile "warm up" in (it was already pretty damn warm) and headed over to the start.
The gun went off and the race started off fast, very fast. The fun thing about this race is trying to figure out which runners that are in the lead pack as we pass the first mile marker will be there at the end. I haven't run a 5k in quite a while, but my recent race on July 4 indicated that my running legs seemed to be coming back.
As we approached the one mile mark I was in a lead pack of about 9 guys, of whom I was clearly the oldest. I recognized two of the others, one who was capable of going sub 16:00 and the other who had won the race the last 8 years (also very capable of going sub 16:00). We passed the first mile mark at 5:01....wow! As we started the gentle climb the breathing was becoming more evident and the pack was thinning out. Suddenly the race felt like it was slowing down and becoming a chess match...and now I was out front breaking the wind for the pack. We hit mile 2 at 5:27 and neared the crest of the gradual hill...I was now in 2nd and had surprisingly passed the 8 time winner. Out of nowhere someone came by me and along side the leader, I had not seen him the whole race but he was moving. About 2.5 miles in we hit a hard right turn up a short steep climb and the leaded made a Mark Cavendish-esque break for it....2nd place runner chased and I had nothing!
I knew I had a good race going and focused on keeping a steady pace and keeping the two front runners in sight. I hit the finish in 16:13, 3rd overall and last 1.1 miles in 5:44 (5:11 pace). That was 3 seconds faster than I had ever run on the course, my fastest 5k in about 3 years and needless to say I was pretty happy with the outcome!
That Saturday I was off to another event I've done a few times. My brother and I headed down to the Sunset Challenge Tri/Du. We both raced the sprint du which was a 2 mi run / 12 mi bike / 5k run around the lake. The sprint tri & du started at the same time, but due to the short swim most swimmers were out of the water in 7 minutes, meaning a more crowded race course for the duathletes. It was a warm morning with moderate humidity, but after sipping on some EFS before the race I decided to not carry any water on the bike. If all went well I'd be finishing in less than an hour, and hopefully be running for less time over 5 miles than what it would take me to ride the 12 miles. Legs felt pretty good, even after the Wednesday night 5k a few days before.
The gun went off and I knew I wanted to get out in front early if possible, it was an out and back run on a narrow trail. I managed to get out in the lead and about a third of a mile in I could hear some breathing, knowing it was one of a brother/brother duo that does very well in local duathlons, I figured I would try to do some surges in an effort to get him out of his comfort zone and maybe throw him off for the bike as well. The surges hurt me, but I could hear him breathing even harder. Came into T1 in 10:43, he was <10 sec behind.
I navigated a very crowded T1 and I was off. The first 4 miles or so I was moving along very well, passing people in a pretty steady stream. All the sudden someone came from behind and passed me. Not sure if I had just passed him or if he had a really bad swim (could tell he was from the tri, had some "pond scum" riding along with him). Well, as soon as he passed me he slowed down, so I passed him back. Low and behold he passes me again.....and slows down....this time there's another rider to our right, so I try to pass him. As I'm passing him he recognizes that I'm coming by again and proceeds to move further to the left, eventually pushing me over the yellow line as I go by.
Just as I pass him I hear a motorcycle come by and see the race official writing something down...assuming it had to do with what just went down between me and this guy. "Great, I just got a penalty for something" I assume, put my head down and try to stay in the lead of this race. Just then he goes by AGAIN, this time yelling and cursing at me, blaming his penalty on me!! I was fired up, yelled back, then decided that if there's $100 on the line for the win and I just got a 2 min penalty I can't be messing around with this clown. So I shut up, put my head down and let him distance me enough that hopefully there are no more issues. I had a great T2 (21 sec) thanks to my cyclocross dismount skills and figured I'd see him again on the run. 12 miles, 29:17, 24.6mph (tied for fastest bike split).
Out on the run I started to pick off more of the leading triathletes one at a time. This was great motivation as I knew I needed to win by >2 minutes to have a shot at the overall if I did in fact get a penalty. I ended up 4th across the line (first duathlete) in 57:39 after logging the fastest run 2 split at 16:49. Never did see "my new friend" on the run course, figured my T2 got me out on course before him. I eagerly watched the clock tick by.....and I had done it....I won by about 2:10! My brother came through 6th overall, first in AG and 5th fastest bike split all of which he was more than thrilled with.
So after the race I caught up w/ the referee to get her take, see if I did get a penalty and to see what I could learn from that penalty in the future. After >5 years of multisport racing and never seeing a penalty I was bummed out that I had in fact rec'd one, but it was for crossing the yellow line which I was "forced" to do by a blocking rider. She said that rider had also yelled and cursed at her while out on the bike and she would be dealing with him. She apologized that I had to deal with such an athlete, but she said I could have hit the brakes and complied with the rules...and she was right, would have cost me much less than 2 minutes!
As for "my new friend", after trying to start trouble after the race again and gloating how he was "a CAT 1 cyclist that can go 28mph" and I was a "disgrace and a cheater for drafting him", he was nearly clocked by one of my friends and apparently wasn't even allowed to enter the run course and completely disqualified! Come to find out that he's co-owner of a bike shop in Philadelphia and he's obviously not good at customer service....or keeping his mouth shut! I have vowed to never support a Breakaway Bikes or Quaker City Wheelmen event...and you may want to consider the same...