This is one of my favorite races each year. One of only a few 15K's in the state. The distance is a nice challenge and the beneficiary is the Winnie Palmer Hospital, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. It is incredible what this hospital can do to save the lives of premature babies. The medal each runner receives had the image of two tiny footprints of the smallest surviving baby born there, 14 ounces! It was said that this baby could fit inside a standard "Coca-Cola" can! The primary sponsor is "Chick-fil-A", who provides a hot chicken sandwich to all finishers!
For several weeks, I debated as to how I would run this race. I have my marathon coming up in two weeks, October 11th. Last year I paced my friend Sheri in the last 5K. I decided to use the race as a "pace" race. I would run the race as if it were my marathon. I would attempt to run it at my marathon race pace, slowing only for the water stops. Goal of 8:45 minutes per mile.
The morning was becoming warmer as I walked to the starting area. The starting area is approximately one-half mile from my house. As is common, the humidity was close to 90%. As I arrived the announcer mentioned the temperature was 78 degrees, at 6:20am. Yuck!
After gathering our running group, we moved to the start line. After a short wait, we were off and running. Although there were close to 1,500 runners, I did not find the beginning of the race very congested. Everyone moved quickly down the roads leading us out to Orange Avenue. Orange Avenue is the main north-south road through the City of Orlando. This was one of the few times a race route went directly through downtown Orlando. By the one mile mark I had settled into a comfortable pace. It was difficult to hold back at the marathon pace rather than a 15K pace. I reached the one mile mark at 9:00 minutes, right on pace. At about the 1.5 mile mark we turned off of Orange Avenue and began our run through the downtown neighborhoods. Shortly after the 2.0 mile mark the road surface changed from paved road to brick. After taking a tumble on the bricks last week, my awareness and heart rate jumped rapidly. We ran about 1.0 miles on the brick until we made our way back to pavement. This week I safely made it through without incident. From mile 4.0 to 7.0 we had a nice straight run heading back south. Mile 7.0 brought us a right turn onto Michigan Street. As I mentioned earlier it was already hot and humid. The stretch along Michigan Street from 7.0 to 8.0 was in direct sun. The sun was behind us, but it felt like the temperature rose another 10-15 degrees. The heat from the pavement could be felt as we moved along. Although I was maintaining my race pace, I began to pass many runners along this stretch. The heat was beginning to take its toll. I mentioned to someone after the race that Michigan Street just sucked the energy out of you. Mile 9.0 was a great sight, except for the fact that our road surface once again changed to brick, oh no! I decided that I had done what I set out to do, so I could treat myself to a mini sprint to the finish. My goal had been to finish at 1:22:00, my official time was 1:19:28 or 8:31 minutes per mile. I had met my objective as each mile time was very consistent. I felt strong at the finish despite the heat and humidity. I had a new PR for this race, not the 15K distance, but knowing that I ran the race at about 85% I was very pleased!
When I got home, I checked the long range forecast for Albany, NY and found the temperature was at 59 degrees. The forecast is for lows in 40's and highs in the 60's. If that forecast comes true, I feel very confident that I can maintain the pace that will allow me to break the 4:00:00 hour time for the marathon.
The photo is courtesy of Lorraine Hardaway. (L-R; Sheri, Jim, Lorraine and Dan)