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February 10 2013 / Emily

Race Report: UNCC 49ers Gold Rush 5k

For my February race, I was waffling between the Pilot Mountain Pay Back heavy half marathon trail run, or a short and sweet 5k.  I opted for some speed, as I had not run a 5k since September and was looking forward to letting the after burners kick in.  My focus lately has been distance and trails, so a 5k seemed just the ticket as a literal chance of pace.  And I decided to volunteer at the Pilot Mountain Pay Back since I won’t be running.

February has been a month where I’ve sometimes had trouble finding local events, so I was looking in a broader radius.  There were really only three days of the month where a race would fit comfortably into my schedule, so the options were not exactly plentiful.  When I found a 5k at UNC-Charlotte, about 80-90 minutes away, it made the short list.  Then a friend in town who went to college at UNCC said he was also looking for a 5k, so with the option for company and a carpool, it was an easy choice.

My goal was to break into the elusive 23 minute range.  Six of the seven 5ks I ran in 2012 were 24 minutes and change, and the seventh was the last event of Ultimate Runner where I certainly wasn’t going to get any sort of PR time.  24:44, 24:20, 24:10, 24:58, 24:32, 24:11.  I was thinking something in the 23:5x range would be awesome.

bundled up against the cold

bundled up against the cold

It was a chilly morning, around 28 degrees.  The race started and finished on a track on the campus, and my friend and I stayed huddled in his car in the nearby parking garage as long as possible before heading down 10 minutes or so before the race was to start.  Bigger crowd than I’d anticipated.  There were nearly 600 finishers.

The group moved en masse to the far side of the track for the start.  There were signs reading, if I recall correctly, “fast,” “medium” and “walkers,” which I suppose is better than nothing, but doesn’t really offer enough guidance.  Estimated finish times would be more helpful.  As with nearly every race I’ve ever attended, there were a series of inaudible announcements (can nobody ever get them loud enough?!) then a start gun went off and it was time to run.

I’d set up a bit farther back than I should have, so I took to the outside lanes of the track to start passing some of the other “medium” runners.  Quite a range of times among the mid-pack!  It was about 3/4 of the way around the track when we headed out onto the road for a couple quick left turns onto a paved trail through the woods.  Surprisingly the narrow path wasn’t too congested, even at this early stage.  There seemed to be a lot of turns in this course, and plenty of hills as well!  I don’t know Charlotte all that well, but for some reason it was hillier than I had anticipated.

The first mile found my numb feet starting to thaw out, and by the first mile marker (7:30 split), I was pretty well warmed up.  Dodged a spot where the automatic sprinklers had left some ice in the road, and an odd glaze of ice on the lower half of a number of trees.  Mile 2, as per my usual, was the slowest at 7:41.  My hands were getting hot at this point and I wished I hadn’t worn my gloves, but it wasn’t worth it to try and peel them off with just a mile to go.  We finally got to some downhill on this stretch and I started letting it fly.  There was a blonde girl ahead of me who I was trying to catch.

making my final move near the finish line

making my final move near the finish line

The course wove back onto some narrow paths as we approached the track again for the finish.  Mile 3 was a nice 7:05 split and I still had some left in the tank.  I was able to pass the blonde girl just before the finish.  You can see me peeking over the shoulder of the guy in the hooded sweatshirt in the photo above.  Stopped my watch and was amazed to see my final time of 23:15!  To think, I’d just been hoping to break into the high 23s… I guess I’ve got to think about 22s now, instead of chipping away at the 23s bit by bit.

I think cold weather is my friend when it comes to good races.  I didn’t warm up before the race, which I probably should for 5ks, especially in low temperatures.  Temps in the mid-30s would be my choice over high-20s, but I’ll take this result all day long.

23:15.  7:29/mi pace
Finish: 68/587
Sex place: 6/306 women
Age group place: 2/49 females 25-29

However, I won age group first place as the overall winner got a separate medal as first student finisher.  Grad student I guess.

I was correct that the blonde girl was in my age group, so I just edged her out.  She didn’t stick around for the award ceremony, but they snapped a photo after awarding the female 25-29 medals.

first and third place, women 25-29

first and third place, women 25-29

If you can’t tell, I’m pretty pleased with my run at this event.  While I have a lot of distance in the hopper for the near future, perhaps I’ll spend a couple months this summer focusing on getting FAST!  But I know me, more likely it’ll just be 5ks sprinkled in among training for longer events.

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