On November 16 I ran the Lake Windward Elementary (LWE) 5K Road Race. LWE is where Julie teaches. It is also the elementary school the kids in our neighborhood attend. The race is put on by the school's PTA, and is held in conjunction with their "Waffles with Wally (Gator)" fund raiser. All participants get the event t-shirt on the left. Having lived in Florida for 13 years, I'm very familiar with alligators. Seeing them in the wild or in zoos never fails to creep me out. I like this androgynous, non-threatening Wally. I think he's so lame, he actually cool. I like Wally's skinny legs and carrot top hands. I think all alligators should wear clothes; it makes them less threatening!
While this was a very small race with less than 100 participants, this was not an easy race. The course is the most difficult 5K I have seen. The race began and ended in the school's parking lot. This was the easy part. The meat of the race; two laps of the 1.3 mile walking trail in the neighboring Webb Bridge Park gets ones attention. I typically run 3 times a week in Webb Bridge Park. I know this trail like the back of my hand. The trail is made of dirt and compacted gravel. There are multiple steep hills. You would be hard pressed to find a more difficult course.
This is the second year of the running of the LWE 5K. Last year I finished 5th overall, and 1st in the over 40 male age group. Construction on the walking trail resulted in an odd circuit of the park's trail. My time last year was a questionable 2o minutes and 5o seconds. To this day I contest that the course was not measured correctly and was really less than 5 kilometers. I remember looking down at my watch at the 1 mile mark and seeing 6 minutes and 35 seconds! I don't think I can run a mile in that time down hill on concrete let alone uphill on dirt!
This year I was fighting the worst cold I have had in recent memory. The week leading up to the race I missed two days of work and did absolutely no running or exercise of any kind. As the race started my legs felt tired, and I could still feel the crud in my chest. I jumped out to an early lead, but was quickly caught and passed by several runners. The first guy to pass me was the guy who won last year. I didn't expect to see him again. The second guy that passed me was the guy I beat last year for the over 40 male win. He was listening to his Ipod, and had a confident steady gate. The others that went by I didn't recognize. About 1/2 mile in we hit the first hill. I passed 3 people on the first hill and was in fourth. I was right behind the guy in third place, and could still see the leaders. The guy in third appeared to be laboring already. I just stayed behind him and waited for the next hill. Sure enough, at the next serious climb he cracked. In the middle of the hill he suddenly stopped running, put his hands on his waist, and walked up the remainder of the hill. I ran by him and didn't look back.
I ended up finishing 3rd overall, and second in the over 40 male age group. Even with being sick, I ran the race in a respectable 23 minutes and 26 seconds which translates to a 7 minute 54 second mile pace. I figure being sick slowed me down by at least 1 minute. I wouldn't have won, but I had a real shot at second. The guy who finished second beat me by just 40 seconds. But running these races is more about competing against yourself, and less about competing against other people. It was a nice little event, extremely close to home, which encouraged parents and kids to get out and exercise. Hopefully the PTA will continue to have the race next year, and more people participate.