I kicked off the 2012 racing season with a third attempt at the Kelly St. Patrick's Day Shamrock 5K at Baltimore's Inner Harbor. This is now just one of three races that I have three or more attempts at. (The other two are the Harrisburg Mile and the Chocolate Miracle 5K in Hershey, where I haven't toed the line since '09.) In 2010, I ran a disappointing at the time 26:14 that looks much better with the benefit of hindsight, and last year, while tapering for the marathon, I cruised to a 30:15.
This year, I'd been undecided what my strategy for this race would be. I'm not in PR shape yet, and that's the bottom line. Even on my comeback runs in which I don't feel like crap, I just haven't had the speed over 3.1 miles that I had in 2010 and 2011. And this week, I've mostly felt like crap.
Even though I ran 5 miles yesterday, during which my legs felt like lead and I was sucking wind like a guy who'd never run before, I woke up this morning feeling excellent, Spring Forward be damned. There's no marathon for me next week, as anyone who has read this blog over the past two months is well-aware by now, so there was no reason not go for broke.
Our party of six walked from the Inner Harbor to the starting point at the intersection of Charles & Mulberry, and after a few minutes of chatting, we lined up. This 5K has about 4,000 participants, and the block is packed. I lined up a little over half of the way back.
My starting position proved to haunt me, as I was unable to really take advantage of the downhill start. Throughout the whole race I was weaving through the crowded feel, max effort the whole way. I hit the holes like Brian Westbrook, and on an unseasonably warm day, gorgeous for any purpose except running a 5K at max effort (and it wasn't that it was actually HOT -- it was in the low 60s -- just 30 degrees warmer than my run yesterday) I ran to a 26:49. Over my whole career of 5Ks, that's rather unimpressive, but after the way 2012 has gone so far, OMG!, I will take it.
It was over a minute faster than the 3.1 I ran last week at max effort, and I honestly think it was actually a better run than that. This field is so crowded, and I did so much weaving among other runners that I probably actually ran 3.5 (ok, maybe that's an exaggeration) and it was by far the warmest day I've run on since the comeback began. I don't think I could have PR'd today, but I think if I'd started myself further ahead in the pack, I could have been in the low 25s or the high 24s, which I would have been unabashedly thrilled with. I mean, it wasn't as good as Chris's race, in which she smashed her PR by over 2 minutes(!), but I'll take it and take it gladly. It was a worthy last race for the Supernova Sequence 4s and promising beginning to racing year 2012.
This race is it what it is, and I accept that. It's supposedly a fast course, and I suspect it is for the elites, but for a middle-of-the-packer like me, the crowded field means I won't ever PR here. Hopefully, next year I'll be tapering at this time, but if I run this "for the money" again I'll really try to move up more in the crowd and see how much time I can shave off. But, it's a race with a fun atmosphere that has a scenic course (Yeah, of course you run out Key Highway and turn around, though!) that's an enjoyable way to kick off race season even though it's a race I'll probably never have one of my best times in.
The giveaway is really nice -- a Brooks long-sleeve technical shirt in neon green. It'll be a great shirt for running in the dark on cool spring and fall nights. I was just happy that they'd changed the design after identical shirt designs for the 2010 and 2011 race shirts.
After our experience last year, in which we waited in line for 15 minutes for our postrace beer and didn't move at all, we completely bailed on the official postrace party and headed straight for the James Joyce, where we toasted the start of what will hopefully be a fun and fast year of racing.