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My First 5K!

As usual in my life, I did this backward ... What do I mean by that? Well, I've already run a marathon, done a triathlon, ridden a century on my bicycle and done other obscure endurance events ... Even making three attempts at Mt. Rainier. That said, I have never done a 5K. Usually, folks do their 5K before a marathon. I like to mix things up.

I never really thought I would do a 5K, but decided earlier this year to give it a go, because my wife was doing it. The funny thing is, she didn't end up racing with me ... Unfortunately, Kristine's knee was injured a few weeks ago during one of her workouts. Even though she was starting to heal and feel better, we couldn't find someone to watch our kids at the last minute, so she elected to be on the sidelines with our darling little ones and cheer me on.

I set a steep goal of running this 3.1 mile race in fewer than 24 minutes. This was a pretty tough goal, considering I was currently jogging at about a 9:22 minute mile and in order to achieve my goal I would need to run a 7:42 minute mile. So ... I started pushing myself. And, push myself I did. I actually trained for this event and it felt great! Besides Mt. Rainier, I rarely feel I get in enough training ... This time I worked at it and accomplished some pretty amazing results. Also, I added hill repeats to my routine (thanks Eric!) and they really helped me to pickup my speed.

Even with all of my training, the fastest pace I got up to was an 8 minute mile on the last run before my race. And, this training run was on a perfectly flat track, with no elevation changes ... So, I was wondering how I would beat my goal. But, I never lost hope. In my mind, I knew I was capable of pushing myself past my training levels. I wore my handy-dandy Garmin 405 and planned to keep a close eye on my pace and heart rate. I was bound and determined to run a 7:42 or better.

You might be wondering where my goal came from, and why I wanted to achieve it. Well ... Let me tell you: I dunno. I simply pulled a tough time based on my current fitness level out of my butt and went with it. I actually thought 25 minutes would be tough, so I trimmed one minute off that thinking, That will be fun to try and get! That's how I roll.

Race Morning

I drank my four Ensures (this is what I always drink before an event) exactly three hours before my race. Yuck! I also drank copious amounts of water, because I didn't want to carry a water bottle on this run, and it was short enough that I could easily get away with that. The weather was perfect! The official weather report for my race was: Sunny, 71 degrees F, West wind 12 mph.

I hung out with Kristine and our two kids (Trinity and Xander) until 15 minutes before my race start. Than I kissed each of them, sucked down a Gu, drank my last eight ounces of water, pulled off my sweats (revealing some Daisy Dukes), and started my warm-up walking. The weather was great and I felt awesome! My mind drifted away from the crowd and I started focusing ... I was chanting to myself, "Seven Forty-Two, baby."

The announcer called us in to get ready for the start and I moved into a crowd of nearly one thousand people (exactly 985 people finished the race). We were packed into a tight area like cattle. I felt like mooing. I started getting a little nervous, because I could see my start was going to be slow with all of these people jammed around me. My mind wandered and I started wishing I had lined up early to get closer to the front of the line. C'est la vie.

Along with the crowd problems, we were also running our first 1/2 mile on a rutted dirt track. I was going to have a struggling beginning and needed to be careful not to twist my ankle or knee in this funky race track

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. Just before the race gun fired, I looked at my Garmin and it said my heart rate was 101. Holy dump!!! My heart was racing and I assume it was from excitement. Then the pistol fired and we started!



WTF?? I was going crazy!!! Everyone in front of and around me was walking. I wondered what they were thinking?? This was a race, and a short one at that ... But, they were walking. I was going batty. I wanted to sprint out of there, but I was trapped. I finally found a small hole and ran for a moment, before having to walk again. By the time I crossed the chip timer line, I had a very slow jog going and my watch said my pace was 10-minute mile. AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

I finally filtered through most of the walkers and slow joggers and found I was already 1/4 mile into my race. I was gonna need to do some digging folks! I put it into overdrive and didn't look back.

Before long, I came up on K and the kids ... They were screaming, "Go daddy!" And it made me feel so good. I smiled a big smile and held my head high. Waving as I passed them, I felt like a king! Looking down at my watch, I saw my pace was 7:38 and was inwardly excited to see that I was right on with my desired pace. My lungs were screaming and my heart was pounding, but I was going to stick with this pace and surpass my 24 minute goal.

Passing my cheering family

At the halfway point, I grabbed a water from one of the supporters and splashed it onto my face with my mouth open. ahhhhh.

My pace was solid and I kept going. Inside I felt like slowing down or even stopping. My heart was banging away and my lungs were scorched. This was a fast pace for me and it was sapping me of my strength. I turned my sun-visor around backwards, gritted my teeth, and dug in for the battle. I was going to make my goal. I knew I could, and I promised myself to push it for a fewer more minutes.

Before I knew it, I was approaching Kristine, Trinity, and Xander again ... I was completely out of breath and simply not in the mood to chitchat, but I tried an awkward wave as they screamed, "Go daddy!" I smiled inwardly and tried to move it to my face, but only a grimace appeared. Digging deeper, I focused on my pace. Watch said I was right on and I was cooking.

The last 1/2 mile is a slight uphill that felt like a mountain. And, the mild 12MPH wind was in my face. I felt my time and pace slipping and I clenched my fists and ran faster. God that hurt! Finally on top of the tiny hill, I felt a relief as the wind shifted and for the first time, I honestly knew I was going to do what I set out to do!

In the last tenth of a mile I picked up my pace more and sprinted until I crossed the finish line.


I knew I had done it ... I wasn't sure what my official time was, but my watch showed I had surpassed my goal by one second. I knew in my heart that I had done it, regardless of my score. Then I found out that my official chip time was better than I had imagined ... I had finished this first 5K in 23:24.47; which was a solid 35 seconds faster than my goal! Out of 33 people in my age group (40-44), I came in 6th place. And, I ranked 60th overall out of 985 racers.

Here's a link that shows my watches interpretation of my race:

All in all, it was a fantastic day and I accomplished what I set out to do.

In case you are stalking me and want to know my next event, I'm riding an unsanctioned century with my buddies on 5/21 and then I'll be participating in the 1-mile Chesapeake Bay swim on 6/12.

See ya at the next event!


Posted by Vaughn Ripley

Comments (1) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Way To Go Vaughn!

    You told the story with such gripping details and so much verve. Man; that was awesome!

    Thanks so much for such an inspiring story.

    – Your Tobri buddy, Mark

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