Yesterday, hubs packed up the car (and Dug) and headed out on an hour drive out to neighboring Brandenon, FL for a visit to the Robinson Preserve for their annual Twilight 5K. I had registered for it shortly after seeing advertisements for it at packet-pickup for the Sarasota Half earlier this month, so I hadn’t really looked into what the course was like or anything, other than admiring, from images, how naturally beautiful the surroundings were:
Seeing this picture, of course, should have been a hint to me about the terrain or course profile (SPOILER: FORESHADOWING), but of course, I didn’t really think about it, which turned out to be a good thing, since I took a few days off from running between traveling out to Austin last weekend, and returning to Florida with a bit of an earache/travel bug. In fact, I’d only run once this week (Wednesday, a little under 7 miles) so I went in to this event with the goal of running “hard” but within my limits.
One of the special things about this race, as noted above, was that both hubs and Dug would be spectating, and waiting for me at the finish line!
I usually travel to local events alone, so this was really a special treat for me! It was fun hanging out with them before it was time to line up.
Walking over to the start, I was surprised to see corrals (first “First” of the night)! Other than runDisney events, this was the first time I saw this kind of set up for a 5K (even the Sarasota Half didn’t have corrals)!! As I saw the crowd grow, however, I began to understand why…there were a LOT of people out there – definitely awesome, since the race was to benefit both Robinson Preserve and Meals On Wheels Plus of Manatee County!
I was in the “Black” Corral, for the first ~300 bibs or so, and as I seeded myself in, I noticed a lot of very fast looking people around me, doing their dynamic stretches. There was even an older guy doing full jumps! It was a little zany, but kept the atmosphere fun. The announcer was talking about the unique aspect of it being a great, scenic cross-country course. Wait, what? I know, it being in a park, I probably could have figured out this wasn’t a road race, but uh, okay! I was ready for my first cross-country 5K – second FIRST of the night – 😉 Moments later, anthem went off, and the blow-horn announced the start of the race!
Mile 1 (6:45)
Storming the start, I tried to gain a fast, yet controlled pace, but also had to fight a bit for my place on the narrow road! We started right outside the park, so the straightaway in was paved, but quickly transitioned into a path that could probably accomodate about 3-across. Before I could glance down at my Garmin, the asphalt had given way to a crushed shell path, and was lined with tall grasses and trees. Around the .75 mark, I was outside the thick of the crowd, with 1-2 people right in front of me, and the same behind.
Mile 2 (7:28)
I was a little stunned at the pace of Mile 1 – dang! Good pace, but wow, hello Positive Split City! Still, I kept on, and admired the fun course signs (my favorite said, “Don’t Bother the Alligators,” haha).
I stopped at the Water Station, which surprised the volunteers since everyone else seemed to be blowing by them, but that sip of water and short few walking steps helped me power back up and onto the course, heading over boardwalk structures, hill bridges (yes, this course actually had a bit of elevation change, whee!) and more twisty turns.
Mile 3 (7:36) + final .16 (7:04 PACE)
I was starting to feel the effect of Mile 1 now, but told myself that one more mile wasn’t gonna kill me. I couldn’t pick it up as hard as I would have wanted to, but as long as I kept those legs moving, I was going to be satisfied. I stopped for water again at the second stop, where a girl about my age passed me, and so I made it my goal to keep her in my sights for the rest of the 5K.
As we made a few turns around the Preserve, we passed the lookout tower, and I could hear people cheering at the finish…about half a mile to go, and I had passed the girl, but knew she was hot on my heels and would likely pull forward. I kept pushing, and as we hit that final stretch, she said something to me like, “good race” or something, and she kicked it in to hyper drive, as I scanned the crowd for hubs and Dug, and gave my best shot for a strong finish, footsteps behind the girl.
Bam! Another sub-23 finish, I felt good.
I felt 100 percent satisfied of my performance – I ran it hard, and came in not far from my PR two weeks ago – definitely encouraging, given my lower lack of activity this week, and the more challenging course! I still find 5Ks the most intimidating distance of all my road races (well, maybe a 1-mile would be even scarier) but it felt good to run it hard, and of course, be rewarded by a Dug hug afterward 🙂
I don’t know if I’d run this race again – mostly because it being kind of far away for a “local” event – but it definitely was well-run and very “Florida.” My only “complaint,” and that’s a bit harsh of a term – was that the parking situation was a little iffy – we were directed to park in a neighborhood about 2 miles from the race site, and though there were shuttles, there was also an option to walk, but there wasn’t any signage or volunteers advising of the directions. If you lived nearby there (as several participants remarked, as I overheard later) you’d know where to go, but if it was your first time there (like us) we were a bit confused. That was really it – the rest – food, drink, logistics, course marking, etc – were all top notch, and definitely provided a value for the registration fee.
I had a great race, and, dare I say, am looking forward to participating in and challenging myself in more short distance events over the next few months as Florida heats up over the spring and summer – all in preparation of my much preferred long distance races 😉
What’s your favorite racing distance? Are you racing this weekend? How’s the weather?