My first time running the Central Coast Cancer Challenge was 3 or 4 years ago. It was an entirely different beast then. It was smaller and 2/3 on trails with no warning about that on the website. Actually, I am not even sure it had a website. I ended up running into a friend on race morning and we ran it together. At the time it was the closest I had ever come to running a sub 30 5K. Well, until we realized the course was short. By a lot- we all registered around 2.6 miles. Turns out some course signage had fallen over and was not corrected prior to the race start. Oops. The past few years it has been part of the RaceSLO group so I had been wanting to check it out. Schedule conflicts prevented that until this year.
The race raises money for cancer research and a local charity. Cancer survivors can race for free and get a special race shirt with “Survivor” on the back. In memory/ In honor of bibs are free and participants can write names on them and wear them while running. I love the shirts for survivors but I think there needs to be another category. There needs to be a “Fighter” category for those who are still fighting their way to be a survivor.
As the race got closer I wondered what the hell I had been thinking. I haven’t raced a 5K in over a year, and my speed work has been more hit than miss and speed held for any length of time is problematic for my stupid stomach. So yeah. I had originally planned on trying to PR (current PR -27:48) this race but the closer race day got, the more I was leaning towards just holding on. If I could even break 30, I was going to throw a party. Then I saw the course and just laughed. The race has moved to the center of SLO over the past years and they shut down multiple busy streets for it. Having run some of these streets during the SLO half, I knew partially what I was in for. The course loops downtown and starts with a little less than half a mile sloped down, then you make a left and it’s pretty much uphill for the next 1.5 miles. It’s the kind of hill that you don’t notice driving but kicks your ass running. Ahh, crap. So new plan was to try pull off the following splits- moderate speed, slower speed, fast finish. Pretty simple right? 😃
Having picked up my race bib the day before may have made me too relaxed. Per usual my mom was along for the ride and we didn’t even get to the start line area until 7:45. I ended up bailing out of the car while she found a parking spot. Then I needed a restroom stop and there was a line. Another woman in line and I joked that at least races never seem to start on time. 😏 Took care of business and headed to the start. I hopped into the starting line chute at 7:54. I figured I could use the 6 minutes left until the 8:00AM start time to move my way forward in the crowd and get my Garmin situated. Maybe stretch a bit. Best laid plans right?The race whistle blew at 7:55.
5 minutes early!?!
My Garmin was on but didn’t have a satellite yet. I just pushed start and figured I would deal with it later. I got hung up in a crowd crossing the starting line but managed to break free after a few blocks. A little too fast since my Garmin buzzed that I was running a 7:30 pace. Oops, slow it down there. Then we turned up the next street and that was taken care of for me. 😊 I passed the mile marker and checked my watch. I knew the mileage was going to be off but I wanted an idea of my overall time. Except the display was on some funky screen only showing the time lapsed in run/walk intervals. Ok then, guess I was running blind.
Mile 2- 9:42
This felt like the longest mile ever. I kept wanting to take a walk break but was arguing with myself that it was all in my head. I felt like we were climbing forever and it’s not even that steep! We only gained 133 ft. I felt like everyone and their brother were passing me. A woman came running up behind me pushing a stroller- uphill- looking fresh as a daisy. I instantly felt out of shape. I told myself I could walk at the water stop. But knowing that there was only one on the way up I had brought my own just in case. So I kept running. Seriously I felt like I was almost at the freeway on ramp, where the hell was the turn around? Oh there, thank you lord. My watch buzzed for it’s mile 2 a little before that and said 9:42. Ouch, definitely not PR pace. It was the only mile I had seen so I wasn’t even sure I was going to break 30. Grrr.
I had hoped the downhill was going to help my pace but my stomach had started protesting around mile 1.5. I wasn’t sure how that was going to play out. I drew level with another woman and we had a little chat. She was surprised at just how much of a hill that had been. She said she hadn’t known. I said I had known but that didn’t make it any easier. 😖 We separated, I think I pulled ahead but I can’t remember! I picked up the pace and started reeling people in. I didn’t really feel like I was pushing the pace fitness wise but my stomach was telling a different story. I ran as fast as it was letting me and figured that was the best I could do right then. I could finally hear the announcer and people cheering. Yay, I was almost done! I could see the clock but it was far away and I thought it said 29:something. Then I realized it read 26:something. Holy crap- run!
Finish- 27:10 New PR!!!
Hell yeah! How I took 38 seconds off of my previous time, I have no idea. I felt like I was crawling up that hill. Now I am left thinking that if I had pushed a little harder on the hill, I could have been sub 27. Fitness wise, I didn’t feel like I gave it my all. I know part of that was due to some serious cramping in the last half but part of that was also due to my pre-race doubts. Or maybe me deciding to just hang on and not stress about the race was what got me that shiny new PR. Who knows. I do know I was happy about the race. I ran according to my plan and managed to pull off a fast time for myself. Maybe next time I will push a little harder. Now I just need another 5k. 😃
Oh and the women with the stroller was rocking the 10K. So fast!
What’s you favorite distance to race? Least favorite?