This past weekend I raced the Tucson 5000. Going into this one, I wasn’t totally sure how it’d play out. I only started adding back in some speed work about a month ago. I took a break from anything too structured after the Phoenix Marathon, and getting back into faster workouts has felt amazing (correction: getting back into speed work HURTS, then once your body adjusts it still hurts, but the workouts leave you with such a runners high). The past week I’d been struggling with some hip issues. I truly think it’s muscular in nature, but nonetheless it’s been affecting my running. Each run this week has felt a bit better than the day before, so I wasn’t too too concerned.
I got to the race bright and early, around 5:30 (which is early for a Sunday!!). The race didn’t start until 7am, but I had to pick up my race bib, and leave myself plenty of time to warm up. I ended up running about 2 miles pre-race, and felt ready to go. I seeded myself somewhat toward the front, since I didn’t want to do too much weaving once the race started. The course is a flat rectangle, perfect for PR attempts. A few minutes before the race started, people were still warming up in the starting shoot, and I could tell they were out to race.
For the first half mile of the race, I couldn’t get my iPod to work. Panic mode set in, and I braced myself for a hard effort workout with no music. Doable for sure, just not my first choice. Thankfully I finally pushed the right button, and the Body Attack remix of Ghost started playing. I found my stride and felt good. I ran mile 1 in 6:44 and felt strong.
There was one water station along the course. They had said it would be around the halfway mark, but it was pretty much at mile 1. I kept running. My hip felt okay, and I had hit a good stride and didn’t want to mess it up.
I hit mile 2 in 6:38, still feeling good, and actually feeling like the race was going by really fast. I am a distance junkie and very rarely run races shorter than half marathons (for no reason other than I truly just love the longer distances). This was flying by.
Between miles 2-3 I picked it up a bit, still feeling strong, but starting to feel the struggle. I passed a lot of people during this mile, and it felt more like a competition than any other races I’ve run. At one point, I was approaching a group of 3 who were running together. One of the guys looked behind at me, and they all spread out to take up the entire width of the course. Out of frustration at that point, I picked it up and dodged my way around them, running around a 6:20 pace. I ran mile 3 in 6:33, my fastest mile of the race. Mentally, once I reached that “under 1 mile left” point, I knew it was time to hit the gas. Every race, I have some sort of a “go to” phrase that I tell myself that helps keep me going. This time it was “hang onto it.” It seemed to work. It’s not how you start the race that matters, it’s how you finish, and I wanted to finish with a good kick. I finished with a chip time of 20:34 with a pace of 6:37.
After the race I ran another mile and a half-ish to cool down. I placed 3rd in my age group, and had some time to kill before the awards, so naturally I used the time to run. I would absolutely run this race again.