Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Second Empire 5k Classic 2012

2011 Race
Background: Last year this race fell on the the weekend that our friends Stephane and Michel were visiting from Canada.  Michel joined the race to give it an international field and Stephane took pictures for us all.  This year, the date of the race changed and didn't fall during our friends vacation and Hiroko thought she was going to have to work, so she didn't register to run, which left me as the only returning member of our group.  Last year I was in the midst of a fitness slump and ran the race in 26:12, which at the time wasn't too bad, but it was a bit of a disappointment.  I enjoyed the course and this year I was looking forward seeing what kind of results I would get since I've managed to get in better shape this year and have been setting new PR's in my recent races.
2012 Race

Oak Flower
However, the change of dates did two things that effected my ability to really test where I am in comparison to last year.  1) The change of date would mean that the race would follow the Tobacco Road Half Marathon by exactly one week, which would mean my legs would still be a bit rubbery and not at their best to attempt a new 5k PR.  However, I decided that I still wanted to run the race just to see what I could manage.  2) The change of dates also put the race right in the midst of this years early pollen storms.  For those of you non-North Carolina or Raleigh knowledgeable folks, Raleigh is nicknamed the City of Oaks and accordingly there are a large number of oaks throughout the city, which produce a ton of pollen in these long brown worm looking strands. In addition to the oak trees, Raleigh (and most of North Carolina is covered in pine trees that produce tons and tons of green powder that gets everywhere.  In the windy spring months the city suffers from pollen storms as the trees spew out clouds of pollen.  For people with allergies like myself, it is miserable. And this year, due to the unseasonable warm temperature, the pollen has come both earlier and stronger than usual.  Last years spring was rather wet and mild, so I didn't give the potential for a sever pollen season much thought when I signed up for my spring races, which was a mistake on my part.

My throat got somewhat hoarse shortly after Sunday the 18th's Half Marathon and things just went downhill from there by Wednesday, my eyes, nose, and lips were all burning from the pollen.  On Thursday, I became congested, was coughing, and eventually had to take off from work.  Friday, which was Hiro's birthday, I spent in doors resting.  Finally, late Friday and Saturday we got some nice thunderstorms, which reduced the amount of pollen in the air.  By Sunday morning I still felt congested, but was willing to give the race a chance.

The Race:
Hiroko ended up not having to work and was able to attend the race.  Instead of running, she took tons of awesome photos, which I posted earlier.  The race seemed smaller this year than last, but that is just a guess on my part.  Going into the race, I had no idea what to expect and only hoped to finish with a respectable time.  I didn't really hear much of a count down and the race started before I even realized what was going on.  It surprised me so much that I went out just a bit too fast, but I felt alright as we finished the first mile.  I was able to breath somewhat close to normally over the first mile, but I wasn't worried about the first mile because I had just taken several hits from my inhaler and used some nasal spray.  I ran the first mile in 7:54, but I told Hiroko that I knew I was going to fast as I past her near the one mile mark. 

The second mile was more of a struggle than it should have been.  I kept trying to push my pace but just couldn't muster the energy that I needed.  I kept trying to run the way I know I am capable of running, but I just felt sluggish.  I am sure that I wasn't getting enough oxygen in my blood.  By the two mile mark I was completely unable to breath through my nose and was stuffed up.  I wasn't hurting too badly, but I knew that this wasn't going to be a PR by this point.  However, I still wanted to give everything I could just out of self respect. I finished the second mile in 8:30

 The third mile was made the whole race worth running.  It wasn't because I somehow pulled myself together and crushed the mile.  That didn't happen.  The third mile was my biggest struggle, but I kept up the fight and even managed a bit of a kick at the end.  I couldn't breath, my nose was running faster than the winner of the race, by the end my chest was so constricted that I felt like I was breathing through a straw, and my legs turned to jelly, but I kept running and pushing the pace.  I didn't want to quit, so I struggled through the mile in 8:05 then laid down on the ground and just tried to catch my breath.  This wasn't the race that I had hoped for when I signed up, But I finished in 25:21, which is nearly a minute faster than last year and considering the week I had and all of the pollen, it will do just fine. 

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