I raced the Candy Cane City 5k on November 13, 2010. It started at 8am on a chilly Saturday morning on the outskirts of Washington, DC. Starting on the Rock Creek Trail near East-West Highway, it was a fairly flat and fast course that turned into the park at the DC line.
Since I train in this area of Rock Creek Park almost daily, it was nice to race in a very familiar area where I knew the terrain and the nuances of every turn. Unfortunately, I almost made a wrong turn twice which cost me some time, but I’ll get to that later.
I roped my fiancée Meaghan into running this race with me (again) and we got up at 5:30 to prepare. I had my usual pre-race breakfast of toast with peanut butter, a banana, and coffee. We arrived just after 7:00, registered, and I did a few dynamic exercises and mobility drills to warm up and get loose.
My warm-up was 23 minutes, including one minute at roughly tempo pace to get my heart going and blood pumping. I’m not sure if it was the two cups of coffee I had, but I was feeling a little light-headed and my legs were heavy. Not good. I tried not to think about it as I did strides near the starting line.
The weather was supposed to be 40 degrees by the start, but I doubt it was over 35. I only had shorts and a singlet to race in and I hoped I’d be warm enough. It would have been a good day for arm warmers.
The Start of the Candy Cane City 5k
After the announcer said, “Welcome to the Candy Cane City 5k, where this is neither candy nor canes,” he fired the gun and we were off to the races.
Judging from the field, I thought that I was going to have a lot of competition but I was alone from the start. I knew that I wanted to run the first mile in about 5:00 flat, but there were no mile markers. I didn’t wear a watch so I was just racing myself.
What I thought was the first mile went fairly uneventfully. I know this part of Rock Creek Park very well so I was focusing on running the tangents of the path and not settling into a pace that was too comfortable.
One thing that I’m trying to work on is always pushing during a race. If it’s longer than 10k, I can’t ever settle and at no time should I be “comfortable.” After turning onto Beach Drive and running for about 3 minutes, I reached the turn-around point and did a 180 around a cone.
At this point, I thought that I was half done with the race so I started pushing even more. The rest of the field was approaching the cone so I couldn’t run the tangents, but I tried to continue maintaining my pace. My breathing was beginning to get really labored and my shins started getting tight (I blame the cold).
I waved to my friend Matt and then Meaghan as I passed them. There weren’t a lot of spectators on the course but the other runners were very supportive and cheered me on as I raced past.
Where Do I Go?!
I crossed back into Maryland and onto the Rock Creek Trail and started going back to the starting area. I snuck a quick peak behind me as I rounded a corner and I couldn’t see the next runner. I guessed I had about 20 seconds over 2nd place.
This is when I was really pushing and making it hurt. My pace felt strong at this point and luckily my shin pain had subsided. I wanted a PR badly and was fighting every last step of the way.
Coming back onto the final stretch, I could see the finishing area and the clock. As I saw the time, I knew something was wrong. It read 14:06 – clearly too fast for me! I slowed and had no idea where to go. There were about 20 race officials and volunteers standing near the starting area but none of them showed me the way.
It’s frustrating having to slow to a jog, but eventually I found the short out and back loop. Feeling frustrated, I started sprinting down a stretch of flat road to a small island where I did a loop and came back around. It was probably 400 meters all the way around.
The course went back the same way I came which was directly into the sun. I couldn’t see the finishing clock as I ran over the two timing mats but I was just glad to be done. My lungs were burning from the effort and the cold and my legs were heavy as stone pillars.
Aside from not knowing where to go near the end and not having any competition, the race went really well. After doing several 800 meter intervals in my ASICS Hyper Speeds earlier in the week, I felt really comfortable in them and was looking forward to racing in them. I’ve had a pair before and they are my favorite flats to come out in a long time.
The timing equipment malfunctioned during the race so they weren’t able to time any of the runners. Since I think I ran fast, this is so frustrating. I’m trying to see if they hand-timed the race and will update this if I find out my time.
**EDIT** The race officials have posted official results from the race and my time is 16:24 – a new road 5k PR, and something I’m pleased with considering the lack of competition and having to slow down twice.
I ran for 20 minutes to warm-down and then chatted with Meaghan and my friend Matt for a few minutes. There was no awards so everyone cleared out pretty quickly. I was home by 9:15 and did 15 minutes of hip/ITB strength work to continue warming down and avoid any soreness.
Taking a nap was high on my priority list (it’s part of my recovery routine) but because of the coffee I couldn’t sleep.
Next stop: my foam roller!
Did you race this past weekend? How did it go? Let me know!
Photo Credits: Ken Trombatore