Spoiler alert: I did not start first, nor did I finish first. I managed to place third in my age group though–yes, out of more than three people! And I won a raffle prize.

But first things first.

Tri Doc 5kI went into the race with pretty low expecations. I’m running two races in Cleveland, Ohio next weekend–an 8K and a half marathon–so my training has focused on longer distances. I’ve experienced sporadic bouts of Concrete Legs Syndrome (I just made that name up, but it’s totally a thing) during my midweek runs, and I struggled a bit at the track on Tuesday. Again. Plus I ran a hill workout Thursday night. So I didn’t really feel like I was in great shape for a 5K. But what the hell–my BRFs and a bunch of other Rogues were running it, as well as my soon-to-be-14-year-old, whose birthday is tomorrow. He’s one of a handful of people who have run this race all five years, so we had to keep that streak alive.

We arrived at Brushy Creek Lake Park about 7:15 to a beautiful morning. About 60* and sunny, just gorgeous. Remembering the last time I ran a pre-race warmup mile, I skipped the lap around the lake and just chatted with some Rogues before the race.

I didn’t figure I had a chance to touch my 5K PR from Shiner in November, so I didn’t really set a time goal, specially since I didn’t know what is a good 5k time. Instead I would strive to run negative splits and finish feeling good.

The course is a simple out-and-back along Brushy Creek Regional Trail–the first/last .1 is off-road (rocky grass) but the rest is on the paved trail. I have a habit of starting off too quickly, then paying for it later in the race. I mean, 3.1 miles sounds so short after running 12 last weekend, but a 5K is always harder than I think it will be. However, the rough terrain at the beginning helped me keep things in check–I just turned up my music and ran my own race.

The trail was busy this morning–runners, cyclists, families, dogs. I’m used to running out there and know to stay to the right, but some runners–I guess accustomed to racing in the middle of closed streets–ran three or four wide. A couple of times cyclists had to swerve around people running side by side.

The course is mostly flat the first mile, then up a gradual incline. Not far from the turnaround I started seeing my faster friends coming toward me, and I got a high-five from my kid as we passed. Another runner offered a high five but somehow we missed.

The turnaround is at the bottom of a hill, which is super-fun coming right back up. But I passed a guy, then caught my breath when it leveled out around mile two. By now the sun had warmed things up and I was pretty hot, but I had just one more mile to go.

At the top of the hill leading to the sports park, a woman who had been walking started running again just as I was about to pass her. I decided I could speed up a bit, and I chased her for a while. Around the back side of the sports park I finally passed her for good. I couldn’t quiiiite catch the run-walk guy I trailed pretty much the whole race, though.

Under Parmer, I picked up the pace again going up the last incline and onto the grassy homestretch. I picked my way around the rocks, trying to run as fast as I could and finish strong–without tripping. A bunch of Rogues stood at the finish line cheering–I could even hear them over my music. I was so glad to see them!

So how about my goals?

I ran a negative split: the second mile was 15 seconds faster than the first, and mile three was a whopping three seconds faster than mile two. But it counts! And my pace for the last .1 was more than a minute and a half faster than mile three. Now it was only .1, but it shows I had more than enough energy for a kick at the end. Not only that, I felt strong when I crossed the finish line. Sweaty and breathing hard, but strong. The Rogue cheering squad helped me out there!

This race turned out to be a huge confidence-booster going into my double race next weekend. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t a PR, but it was … less difficult than I expected. And it turns out, only :21 short of my November PR. Didn’t see that coming at all. So I am definitely pleased about all aspects of my performance, especially considering this race didn’t have the benefit of a huge downhill finish like Shiner. Oh and that missed-high five? After the race, she came up to me laughing and we connected properly!

I don’t usually stick around for race awards–who are we kidding?–but it’s always fun at small races like this, especially when several friends win things. And it turned out my kid and I both placed third in our respective age groups. Unfortunately this year prizes went only to the winners–after all, this (and the 2015 Tri Doc 5K) are the only races I’ve ever managed to finish in the top three. But still, it was a psychological victory for me, finishing much stronger than I expected to.

Tri Doc always raffles off a gazillion things after the race–gift cards for Road I.D. and massage places, Trigger Point stuff, you name it. I won a Road I.D. gift certificate and my son won a free entry to next year’s Tri Doc 5K! And finishers got really nice aluminum bottles filled with ice cold water.

Tri-Doc 5k MugIn past years, they’ve given out plastic water bottles and visors to finishers. I like that prizes are different every year so we don’t end up with a stack of the same thing.

I wasn’t sure that racing a 5K gave me enough mileage a week before running 18(!) miles, so my coach suggested I tack on a few miles before and/or after the 5K. But I learned my lesson on that one a couple weeks ago when I (miserably) ran a mile before and three miles after a 5K. Plan B is to run six miles tomorrow–which will again tell my legs to prepare for back-to-back work. And I guess he knows what he’s talking about–he finished fourth overall this morning.

[Disclosure: my race entry was free thanks to my work on Texas Running Post, but I paid regular price, less Rogue discount, for my son’s entry. All opinions are my own.]