Veteran's Day grew out of what was originally called Armistice Day by Woodrow Wilson to commemorate the end of World War I, at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. In 1953, a guy by the name of Alfred King, who was a shoe store owner in Emporia Kansas, thought it would be a great day to celebrate all Veteran's, not just those who died in WWI. And thus, the Veteran's Day was born.
Christine and I headed up to Fort Collins this morning for the first running of the Veteran's Day 5K in memory of Captain Jason Galus, an outstanding Army Officer and ROTC graduate from Colorado State University. Upon returning from a tour in Iraq, Jason was tragically killed in a bicycling accident in Fort Sill, Oklahoma on April 28th, 2009. His family (wife, sister, mom and dad) were all on hand for the race and even participated. They are all in the military and it was moving to hear Captain Galus' Father address the runners prior to the start of the race. My thoughts went out to all our armed men and women fighting for our freedom in the far reaches of the world, as well as here on our own soil. Regardless of whether you stand behind the decisions our leaders have made in the past, I for one am so very thankful for their sacrifice and commitment.
So, the race. Let's just say I learned some important lessons. This being the first running event that I felt I could actually race, it was a good stepping stone.
Pre-Race: The weather was not perfect for running a short distance race by my standards. The car showed 27F as we exited I-25 to head west into Fort Collins. The temperature may have gained a few degrees by the start, but not by much, which made it difficult to warm up the body.
Lesson 1: A better pre-race warm up routine.
Christine and I jogged about a mile, maybe a little more, then a did a series of 100ish meters at desired race pace, followed by 200ish meters recovery jogging. During each series, my body and particularly my legs, felt terrible. After review, I feel that I would need a solid 2 miles of jogging at, say a 9 min pace prior to doing a series of 200 meters at race pace with 200 meters recovery.
After our short warm up, we heard the National Anthem, a few words from Captain Galus' Father, then a short walk to the starting line. This was a total of maybe 12 minutes, which caused me to lose any warmth my body had generated previously, making for a not so great start.
Lesson 2: I went out too fast.
I've always had this problem, with the exception of Leadville this summer which I can't really compare. I had my race fairly well planned before arriving for the race. My overall goal is to break the 19 minute threshold in the 5K before focusing on the 10K. Today would have been as good a time as any to achieve this. I had planned to hit the first mile in around 6:20, the second at 12:40, then give it all I had during the last 1.1 to finish strong. I still feel this is well within my reach, but I did not demonstrate it today.
I went off the start line and forgot to start my watch, which I noticed 20 seconds later. The race was small so things were spread out from the beginning. Three guys took off fairly quickly and I settled into 4th. I passed #3 by the time we were a quarter mile in and things stayed that way for the majority of the race. At the 1st mile marker, I glanced at my watch and it read 5:37, meaning I had ran the first mile around 5min 57 sec, well faster than I had planned. That would be my fastest mile of the day. The two guys in front of me must have realized something similar, as we all slowed and the gap between us all remained the same. Before approaching the 2nd mile marker, I would hear the guy behind me approaching. We would pass the guy (actually a young kid) in #2 almost side-by-side. I never even looked at my watch to see the split. The last 1.1, which was suppose to be my strongest, was actually my worst, by far.
Lesson 3: Control my breathing!
My breathing was very erratic and it hit me during the final portion of the race. With maybe a half mile to go, running 15 meters behind 1st and 2nd, I had to slow down to get my breathing stabilized and I watched as the distance grew. I had no choice but it left a pit in my stomach to almost voluntarily give up and not race that final quarter mile.
My final time was 19:49, well off my intended goal of 18:59, leaving me 3rd overall and 1st in my age group. Regardless of the less than desirable outcome, I feel this was a necessary race for my growth. I can see 18 minutes in my future, whether there are lower digits behind it or higher. Weekly speed work will be a must for my short-term goals in both the 5K and 10K.
I should also mentioned the stellar performance of my wife. She decided to sign up and run, rather than be a spectator. She's been running consistently all summer, but without any defined goals or even strategy. She didn't have a goal or pace in mind. Her plan was simply to run, check herself after each mile and adjust from there. As I write, that actually sounds like the best plan! She crossed the finish line in 23 min 32 sec, good enough for 4th female. She got faster with each mile and finished very strong. I have no doubts that she could improve her time drastically if she desired.
Christine and I both had a good day of running and hope to find another race to focus on in the near future. Although, we don't plan to give up our trail shoes anytime soon!