Monday, July 6, 2015

4 on the 4th 2015 Race Recap

For me, races on the Fourth of July are about one thing - having fun. In the past few years I've run races featuring an uphill final mile 5k and a 5 miler where I ran up and down a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. Neither course was laid out for a PR - but for these "holiday" races it's more about interesting courses and/or unconventional distances which are a nice holiday from standard flat and fast ones.


This year I would get both an interesting (re: hilly) course as well as an unconventional distance (4 miler) by running the 4 on the 4th in Elmhurst. For the first in a long time, I found myself in the city for the Fourth of July, so I wanted to find a holiday race nearby. Since the 4 on the 4th is a CARA race and I could score some points for the BRC, I decided to make the trek to Elmhurst to set an instant four mile PR.

Entering my latest 5k time into the McMillan Calculator it said I should be able to run 4 miles in 23:50 for a 5:57/mile pace. So, factoring in the tangents, I would need to run a 5:54/mile pace at the slowest. So my planned splits looked something like this:

5:58, 5:56, 5:55, 5:52

Yes, another daunting goal, but I really did want a sub 24:00 since it's what I can do and well, it is a nice round number. It would also mean I would have to run a sub six minute pace for four straight miles (which would be a first). As if that weren't enough, pushing myself to run fast and actually racing all-out is pretty much the most fun thing on the planet. And wait, there's more! - The post-race endorphins that last for the entire day are fantastic as well!

Pre-Race:
I woke up at 4:45 am for a two mile shakeout run around Welles Park. People were still lighting fireworks off at the time in the park. So that got my heart racing early as I feared if bottle rockets would fly in my direction. When I returned home, I had my standard pre-race fare: a cup of coffee, and a bagel with peanut butter. I jumped in the car at 5:55 am and with literally zero traffic from Chicago to Elmhurst, I pulled into the race parking lot an hour before race start at 6:20.

Pre-race on the beautiful Elmhurst College campus
I picked up my bib and packet, ran another mile or so, then bumped into Zenaida and chatted with her. Then I spotted Erin and Jason and we chatted. Erin told/warned me of the three hills on the course - the first and second hills were down and back up again through a railroad underpass, and the third was over the last quarter mile with an incline twice as steep as the dreaded Mt. Roosevelt finish of the Chicago Marathon. 

Soon enough, the national anthem played. After that I made my way into the start corral where I spotted Zoe, who was running as part of the Oak Park Runners. Suddenly, someone yelled "Go!" and we were off!

The Start
The Race:
Mile 1:  The first quarter mile was downhill so we were all flying. A quick glance at my Garmin showed a 5:20/mile pace. I knew things would slow down once the course leveled off. Once things got back to normal I glanced down and realized the 10-pack of runners I was in the middle of had slowed down too much and we were chugging along at a 6:20/mile pace. A couple of guys from our "group" peeled off and shot ahead. I decided to follow them instead of hanging back.  5:59/mile.
Video grab from mile 1 (src)
Mile 2: The dreaded railroad underpass arrived and we ran down then back up it. My pace suffered a little, but it makes the course interesting right? At the two mile mark there was a hairpin 180° turn. 5:58/mile.

Mile 3: Running briefly through downtown Elmhurst, Erin spotted me as she ran the other direction and yelled "Go Pete!". I waved at her then descended and ascended the underpass for the last time. I started picking off runners as I was feeling good and ready for the final mile kick. 5:57/mile.

Mile 4: The good feeling I had was gradually turning to pain as my lungs were hitting their max capacity. Soon enough, we turned a corner and the dreaded quarter mile uphill to the finish was in front of me. I knew I had run some decent splits up until that point, but I realized I would need a tremendous surge to ensure I got my sub 24:00. I let my legs fly and and with the incline pushing back at me - made my way sprinting up the hill. I seemed to be faring well as I was passing several runners. The course became a blur of running store singlets and the finish line ahead.  I could see the finish line clock in the distance and it was counting up and at 23:30. 5:45/mile.

Mile 4.07: I poured everything I had into the last stretch. Cresting the hill there was a last 100 yard flat out sprint to the finish line which I crossed right as the race clock hit 24:00. 4:43/mile.


Stats:
Official Finish Time: 23:57
Official Pace: 5:59/mile
Garmin Pace: 5:53/mile

Place Overall: 80th out of 925
Place Age Group: 5th out of 46

Analysis:
Since I didn't cross the start line until three seconds after the race started, my chip time was three seconds faster than the gun time. So I broke 24:00 with all four miles under 6:00/mile pace. Mission accomplished! Also it was an instant PR since it was my first four miler.  As far as my running goes, I like that my first splits were pretty even. My desperate charge up the hill as I watched the clock tick to 24:00 as I finished will be a lasting memory from this race. Thanks to Erin for the pre-race warning so I could mentally prepare for the hill!

Hanging out post race with Erin and my free snow cone

Post Race:
I laid out on the grass after the race for a couple of minutes to catch my breath. Then I staggered over to the course again to watch Zoe, Erin and Zenaida finish. I chatted with Erin and Jason and we got free snow cones from a vendor. Then it was back to the city for the Fourth of July, even though the real fireworks for me had already happened in the suburbs. Nothing beats a fast race!

Next Up:
Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon in two weeks!

18 comments:

  1. Congrats on a smartly run race! Great job!!

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  2. What's nuts to me is that you ran a sub 6:00 pace and only placed 5th in your AG!!! Dang, who are all of these speedy dudes? That's ridiculous.

    I remember that railroad underpass from the Dan Gibbons Turkey Trot a few years back. It's rough, and Elmhurst is surprisingly hilly!

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    1. Yeah, those CARA circuit races are ultra competitive. I'm actually somewhat happy to place fifth with all of the speedy old guys in that race! Speaking of old guys - there were actually two guys in their 90s who raced the 4 on the 4th! Yes Elmhurst is surprisingly hilly for these parts. :)

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    2. Did the 90-somethings also put down a 6:00 mile? :)

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    3. When you're 90+ any pace is equivalent to a 6:00/mile pace!

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  3. Wow!! Great job!! Congrats on all accounts! How in the world did you "only" place 5th in AG? Some speedy people out there! You should have been first! Ha! :)

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    1. Thanks! Ha, I wish I had been first. There is prize money for the overall and AG winners!

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    2. Thanks! Ha, I wish I had been first. There is prize money for the overall and AG winners!

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  4. Nice work! I love reading your race reports - you're so tactical and I especially love it when you nail your goal!!! Fantastic! And good thing you had a heads up on the hills! :)

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    1. Thanks! Yes, luckily I had saved just enough for my "surge" thanks to Erin.

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  5. You only got 5th in your age group?! I'm guessing a lot of the fast runners from Chicago came out for this race. Congrats, Pete!!

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    1. Yes, it was a CARA circuit race, so all of the fast runners/teams were there. Thanks Sara!

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  6. Great job! This was a fast crowd, if you came in 80th with that pace! Holy moley!

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    1. Yeah, it was a CARA race and it also had cash prizes to every age group winner as well as the overall winners. So, the fast age groupers came out to make some money!

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  7. Great seeing you and you did FANTASTIC!!! I saw you once on the course but was not close enough for you to hear me.

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    1. Great seeing you too. The only time I saw you is when I cheered you near the finish line!

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  8. you are so wicked fast! and I love how methodical you always are about your races, even if they're "fun" ones like on the 4th of July :) really nice work, Pete!! excited for RNR for you... hope you guys get some decent weather. late July is always iffy in the midwest!

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