For the first time in a long time, I was able to get a full night's rest prior to a race. There was no pressure on me. Running faster than 25:30 for 3.1 miles would be easy. Of course, in the back of my mind I knew that not everything is as seems. I had to go out and run the 5K distance. Anything could happen out there. Any number of events could work together and against me preventing me from achieving my goal. After eating breakfast, I put on my Pinnacle Performance Company race kit. Shortly there after, Elizabeth Bilitz drove up to get me. We made our way to the Chinatown 5K in Chicago.
Elizabeth and I met up with Jen Buss and the rest of the NJOY Racing team. We took a couple team photos, enjoyed the pre-race fun, then prepared to go run. I made sure to tie my shoelaces so as to not have an issue on the short course. I was ready. Elizabeth and I had done a quick warmup run so my legs were ready to go at gun time. Unfortunately, we could not quite make it to the front of the pack, but Elizabeth said not to worry. she would ensure that we would quickly pass people and find an open space in which to operate. The gun sounded. The race was on.
It took a moment for us to get going. I accidentally stepped on a couple heels. We started to jog. We crossed the start line. I was a bit nervous remembering a couple of races from the past where my guide and I would start in a crowd, but could never shake loose. I felt a bit nervous if that would be the case, but I remembered that the number of participants was small so we should eventually break from the pack. Sure enough, Elizabeth worked her magic to navigate us through and by people very quickly. As we began to move, I checked my body. It felt loose and strong. Probably less than half a mile into the race, I felt that my left shoelaces were becoming untied. Sure enough, they did. I mentioned it to Elizabeth who said to keep running. We would eventually figure out a place to pause. Of course, this meant that in order to reach out goal, we would have to make up the time at different points in the race. I tried picking up the pace knowing I would have to stop soon. Eventually, Elizabeth found a good spot where we stopped. After fixing the problem, it was time to make up the seconds. We started pushing. Elizabeth said we were on target. Even with the stop, we had not missed a beat. Spectator support was nice as people clapped and cheered. There were moments were I did not hear too many runners around us. When I did, I would challenge myself to push harder to leave them in our dust. If I would hear steps ahead of us, I would see how long before we would catch and go by those footsteps.
Elizabeth and I reached the turn-around. It was time to head for home. I heard there was just over 1,000 runners in this event. As Elizabeth and I raced towards home, I wondered if we were moving fast enough to be in the top 100. Could we be higher? Each time I heard us pass someone I would rejoice knowing that was one less person ahead of me. I started to feel a bit tired, but I kept telling myself we were less than ten minutes from the finish line. I kept pushing myself to not ease up. Whatever this pace was, I needed to go faster. As we hit the final mile, I could feel the finish line nearing. I was motivated to finish strong. From time-to-time, I would hear someone nearing so I would pick up the pace. I was not going to let any individual pass us. I wanted to storm home to as high a finish as possible. Elizabeth had me turn it on. We were less than half a mile from the finish. I could hear us passing people. I wanted to make sure they did not pass us. Elizabeth shouted with joy at how well I was running. I knew the end was near. Spectators cheered. I could hear the finish line crowd. We were 250 meters from the end. Elizabeth had me push for one final sprint. She screamed, "Yeah Iz! Yeah Iz! You got this!!!" Of all the screaming fans out on that course, Elizabeth was yelling the loudest. It sounded like the louder she yelled the louder everyone screamed as I roared to the finish line in 22:32 which is a three minute personal record at the 5K distance. In fact, to make up for being in the pack at the start then my shoe becoming untied, we had run sub 6:50 per mile pace down the home stretch.
I have now run a stand-alone 5K faster than I have run a last leg of a triathlon 5K. I feel much better of being able to say what my 5K personal best is. I also know there is more work to do to keep improving at this distance so that it may pay off in both future 5K races and the ones I run as part of triathlons. I have a new time to beat. I am excited that my personal best is now closer to my ultimate goal of breaking twenty minutes for 3.1 miles. I think of my very first 5K and how it took me thirty-four minutes to complete. I have sure come a long way from those days. Thank you to Elizabeth Bilitz for once again agreeing to be my eyes for an event. I look forward to many more opportunities to run with her. Thank you Jen Buss and NJOY Racing. Thank you to James of the Chinatown 5K organizing committee for making sure Elizabeth and I ran in this event. Thank you Pinnacle Performance Company for the continued support. Thank you for reading this report. Now it is time to focus on the New York City Triathlon which will take place tomorrow. Good luck to all my friends who will be racing. Special shout out to the beautiful, talented, and amazing Jenna Parker for whom I will be cheering the loudest!!