And the band marches on…

We arrived at Northwood high school around 8 AM for the Red Regiment Race on a gorgeous sunny day. The scheduled race in our training plans was to run for a personal best time in the 5K distance. The racing conditions were favorable with little to no wind on a very flat course.

The training up to race-day provided by Coach Jake Gillette has been focused on speed workouts twice a week with the purpose of increasing leg speed. We put in the time and effort the past few weeks really hammering our legs and body on sprints and quick leg turnover. The joy of having a running partner during the workouts at the same time really motivates each other to run hard throughout the workout. Even though Ashley and I have different athletic abilities at this point we start every workout together and plan the workout routes to pass each other throughout the run. The reason we run together is for safety and because teammates stick together, especially in the spring and summer months. Anything can happen on the routes with crazy drivers whizzing on by or the weather elements like heat could potentially put a runner in a dangerous situation.

The Red Regiment race was put on the training schedule to see the progress on our speed workouts throughout the last several weeks of training and attempt a PR 5K time. We started the morning with a 1 mile warmup around the race course to get loose and stretch a little before the race starts. The warm up mile is important for us to center our mind on the task on hand by eliminating the “Noise” or outside distraction that prevents an athlete from competing at the highest level. Every training run we stimulate racing conditions by doing our mile warmup the exact same way with no outside distractions like electronic devices going off like a cellphone. I prefer to warmup all the way to the last 5 minutes of the start time in order to avoid having cold muscles when the start gun goes off.

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Derek’s Experience:

We knew the course really well because we ran the race last year and pre-ran the route the day before so we were ready to run with no surprises on the course at the start of the race. The race started out relaxed in the first mile and I knew one of the fellow runners in the race and his pace so I kept in pace with him. The goal was to run a 7 min average pace for the entire race in order to get a PR in the 5K category. The first mile I went out around 6:50 min which was intended to happen and was thankful it was not 6:40 min or less that typically happens in a 5K race. At this point I was in 6th place and the course at this point was half a track run and the entering of a subdivision. I dropped my fellow runner pacer for the first mile at 1.4 mile and started to pickoff an older gentlemen who was wearing American flag shorts.

The second mile was on a bike path and my goal was to increase the speed around the 2 mile mark which happened to be at a 6:45 min pace. My mind started to fill up with distractions at this point, so I started to focus on my 1 mile speed workout from last week. I started to imagine that I was travelling so fast that I was beating the train at the maple tree route by Oxbow Park. I passed the overall female winner around the 2.5 mile mark and really started to gain on the competition for third place on a young high school senior who attended Northwood high school.

At this point of the race with only .6 mile left to run I started to hear the red regiment band playing the eye of the tiger music for the top 2 overall finishers. This is the point in a 5K race when the body is telling you to stop and I actually did stop for two very brief moments to re-surge again at my 5K pace. I kept reminding my mind that I trained for something like this to happen with the 1 min hard and 1 min jog recovery that I could finish this race strong. I picked up the speed at the track which is a .2 mile race to the finish but it was not enough to pass the 3rd place runner. I knew that I definitely had a 5K PR already set but was very surprised in the 6:48 min total average pace at the end. I had a speed workout which was a good indicator of what I was going to run for this 5K race but I did better in that workout by 5 seconds. I count the extra nudge in Coach Jake Gillette’s workouts but also the heightened competition at a race. I ended up with 4th place overall with a time of 21:09 min. My next race will be the Randy Miner Memorial 1 miler race one week after our wedding and honeymoon so we will see what I will be able to accomplish.

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Ashley’s Experience:

The Red Regiment 5K race started for me from the moment the alarm went off that morning. The pre-race ritual is all about getting into a positive, competitive mindset from what I eat for breakfast to having plenty of time to warm-up and mentally prepare at the race location.  My goal was to run an 8:00 min per mile average pace to beat my current PR of 8:02 avg at the Sarah Strong 5K. We had really been training with Coach Jake Gilette’s speed workouts and we were ready to crush it.

After checking in and putting on our bib numbers, Derek and I ran a 1 mile warm up along the course followed by some stretching. In the remaining time leading up to the start, I tried not to psych myself out. My times have been improving at races and it was really important to me to do well. My stomach was tied in knots and I kept breathing, walking, and jogging to stay loose.

The race director lined the runners up on the track after some announcements and the band’s first note started the race. Everyone took off like lightning and as I was taking off, I was very intentional about maintaining pace. I have a tendency to start out too fast and gas out later in the race so I held back from the temptation to sprint with the crowd but also tried to keep up so I wouldn’t get too comfortable. I had to keep telling myself, “You’re in a race, but be smart.” I was just under 2:00 minutes at the quarter mile and just under 4:00 at the half so I was very happy with my 7:56 at mile 1.

My focus was strong and I stared off into the distance following the course on the bike path passing runners along the way to maintain my 8:00 min pace. I whizzed by the water stop and then had to come to nearly a complete stop to dart around the turn-around at 1.5 miles. I forgot to check in on my watch and started to lose focus as I ran the bike path. I was disappointed with an 8:09 min average at mile 2 on the return and knew that I would need to kick it into high gear to make up the time.

On the last mile, I put in speed bursts to surge ahead when I felt like I was tiring but got very mad at myself when mile 3 beeped another 8:09. It didn’t make sense, I thought I had been running up to pace! The band was marching on pumping out the tunes and I started sprinting to the finish as I entered the track for the final lap. Everyone was cheering us on and I saw Derek out of the corner of my eye shout for me. As I crossed the line, I quickly paused my Garmin and tried to save the run but in my confusion deleted the event.  I had a sick feeling like I had failed and walked it off before regrouping to run my cool down with Derek. I had finished as the 3rd overall female with an overall time of 25:05 minutes. Not what I wanted since I had run a 24:57 at Sarah Strong, but the disappointment fuels me to focus constructively on my future training schedule. My times have become more important to me than winning medals so I will continue to strive forward and make progress on my goals. Derek and I will definitely be back for the 2017 Red Regiment 5K but until then the next race that awaits me is the Randy Minor Memorial 4 mile run on June 11th after our honeymoon.

Thank you to our friends and family members supporting us with our training and racing accomplishments. A special thank you goes to Jake Gillette in being a great coach in preparing us for our race goals.

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