It’s been a while since a race recap appeared on ye ol’ bloggy. Even longer since it was for a 5k. My last 5k was in June of 2012 – far too long ago if you ask me. When I saw that my training plan called for a 5k this weekend, it took me all of five minutes to pick one out and sign up. I was overdue for a race and ready to run. Enter: the McKelligon Canyon Challenge!
The inclusion of the word “challenge” in the name of the race is pretty accurate. All told, I believe the paved portion of the canyon is roughly 2.5 miles. It’s a combination of slow incline and rolling hills. (Think: roller coaster. That’s how it feels when we drive on it.) The Army guys will regularly run an out and back for 5 miles of tough PT. I’ve been meaning to run the canyon to get in some hill work myself, but I’ve been too intimidated. Running it for a race kept me from backing out.
I was really excited about the race until the day before when my excitement turned into nerves. I feel like I’ve been out of the racing game for so long. I remember when 5ks used to be no sweat. Now I was intimidated. I did all my usual pre-race stuff: putting my clothes out the night before, hydrating like a beast, keeping my legs fresh. I knew that other than that, there wasn’t much I could do.
Stephen and I arrived at the race site a tad early. (Nerves, yo!) It gave me plenty of time to go to get my bib, go to the bathroom, and do some light stretches.
In fact, all the down time helped calm me. A hair past 8 am, the race director blew the air horn, and I took off with about 300 fellow runners.
Mile 1: 7:44
I had no time goal in mind, but I wanted to run a pace that was comfortably uncomfortable. It felt like everyone around me took off at full speed from the get-go. I was tempted to push myself to stay with the pack, but I knew I’d regret it later. I wanted to fly on the downhill portions and tomahawk my way through the uphills. Going full throttle out of the gate wasn’t my style.
It wasn’t long before those that took of sprinting were falling back or even walking. The first hill did in a lot of the eager beavers.
I leapfrogged with a few of the same people repeatedly during the first mile. I kept my game plan in mind and tried to pick them off slowly. This portion had more downhill than up and my legs were fresh. I was able to run a really fast mile.
Mile 2: 10:26
What goes down must come up – at least in an out and back race. All that flying I did the first mile turned into trudging. I reminded myself that I didn’t need to worry about maintaining a steady pace with all the rolling hills. Just slow and steady on the uphill and speedy on the downhill.
I walked through the water stop at the halfway point and gave myself a pep talk. Not long after that, I saw Stephen cheering me on. He told me that I looked good. I told him it was hard. I took more than a few brief walk breaks during this mile.
At mile 2 there was another water stop. I looked down the course and saw that it kept going and going up and up. I turned to the volunteers and said, “What was I thinking?!”
Mile 3: 9:32
I knew there wasn’t much left in the course, and that there weren’t too many women ahead of me. My goal was to shake off a woman who’d been run/walking just ahead of me for almost a mile. I dug deep, and told myself no more walk breaks. I focused on pumping my arms and shortening my stride.
Somewhere around 2.5 I found a reserve of energy that I didn’t know that I had. I ran as fast as I could for the finish. I was able to break away from the run/walker I had been trailing but couldn’t quite catch the next woman ahead: an older lady with a long braid who was running an impossibly steady pace. I tried to beat out a soldier (wearing swim trunks, interestingly enough), but apparently he had a lot left in his tank too; he came from behind to pass me in the last quarter mile.
- 3.1 mile finish time: 28:36
- Average pace: 9:13 per mile
It wasn’t my fastest 5k, but I am proud of my performance. The course was a beast! I may be old hat when it comes to racing, but I’m also out of practice. This was a reminder of why I love the sport so much. I’ve let too much time go between races.
Stephen and I stuck around so that I could get some post-race grub (grapes, trail mix, bananas, oh my!). We checked the posted results to see that I won my age group!
I sort of feel like I should qualify the achievement since it wasn’t my fastest 5k and it wasn’t the most competitive field of runners, but instead, I’ll just say “hell yeah!” A win is a win. That also meant that we had to stick around for another hour before they gave out the awards so I could get my medal. That hour entailed listening to the interesting string of folks performing karaoke. In that way, the win felt like a loss. (The singing was bad! Who’s ever heard of karaoke at a race before?) We were ready to leave, but it was worth it to stay. I just can’t say no to more bling.
Not a bad inaugural El Paso race, eh? I’m looking forward to many more!