On Sunday, September 14th, Matt and I ran the Run Wild for the Detroit Zoo 5K. We’ve considered the race in the past and finally decided to give it a try this year. We’ve been following Hal Higdon’s half marathon training plan, and the schedule included a 5K race for last weekend. We adjusted the schedule and moved the 5K race to this weekend instead. I really wanted to race a 5K to see where I stand with my training right now. I’ve been using training paces that correlate with my half marathon PR (from a year ago), but I haven’t been sure if I should speed up or slow down. This race confirmed that I’m on track and might even be able to aim for a faster goal.
I went to the zoo a couple days before the race to get our bibs and cotton t-shirts. It meant one less thing to worry about the morning of the race. It looked like the packet pickup and registration lines were pretty busy the morning of the race.
This race offered a 5K, 10K, a combination of both, and a fun walk. The 5K was the first race, beginning at 8:00. We knew that the race drew a pretty large crowd, so we got there about an hour early. We found the porta-potties, which luckily had no wait, then went back to the car for a few minutes to stay warm. It was only 45 degrees and we haven’t adjusted to the cooler temperatures yet! Although a little cold for standing around, we knew it would be perfect racing weather.
The race started on a service drive just outside the zoo. Matt and I ran through the parking lot, out the gate, and past the starting line for a half-mile warm up. With such a large crowd (over 1,500 people in the 5K), I figured we should line up early. I was surprised to find that most of the people had lined up well behind the finish line. We had no problem getting right up to the front. The race was chip-timed, but based on past results we knew that we should start near the front.
A few young boys came along at the last minute and stood right at the front. I know kids that age tend to start way too fast and fizzle out quickly, so I wondered how long they’d last. Not very long! One of them made it .15 before stopping to walk while the other two stopped even sooner. I know they have no sense for pacing at that age and hope the remaining three miles went okay for them!
Matt and I have run a 5K at Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek, and that race actually goes through some of the zoo. This race runs around the outside of the zoo and through the streets of Huntington Woods. The first mile was mostly along the service drive, and we got to run past a golf course for a little bit. The neighborhood portion of the race was nice and peaceful. This was a great course because it was flat and fast!
Not counting triathlons, the last time I was in “race shape” and really raced a 5K was in June 2013. I’ve hovered just above or below 22 minutes, so that was my goal for this race. I figured I shouldn’t run much faster than a 7-minute pace to start, so I consciously slowed down during the first mile after a quick start. My first mile split was 6:59, so I was right on track. Typically, by the time I’m halfway through a 5K, things get miserable. I start to question why I torture myself, I wish I was already done, and I have to convince myself that I really shouldn’t stop to walk. None of that happened during this race! My breathing was a little bit labored, but I actually felt pretty good. My second split was a 7:03 – still right around where I wanted to be. After that, I basically ran based on effort and pushed a bit more as I approached the finish. I saw that the clock was just under 22 minutes, so I pushed in hopes of staying sub-22. I did – by one second! My official time was 21:59.
Technically, my 5K PR is 21:57. However, my pace according to Garmin was 7:06 for that race. If I base it on my Garmin pace, this was a new PR. It’s the first time I’ve maintained a sub-7 pace for a 5K, so I was thrilled! I think this may also be the first time I really felt good for a 5K. I typically start fast and fade, feeling like I’m about to die by the end. I feel like I kept things pretty even for most of the race and still had energy to pick it up at the end. This race let me know that my training is going well and that I’m getting better at pacing.
Bottles of water, Gatorade, and bananas awaited us at the finish. Matt and I went to the car to get some warmer clothes, then we found a spot where a couple of big screens flashed through the age group results. I ended up placing first in my age group! It was my last day of racing in the 30-34 age group, so I wondered if I’d finish it off with one more award. I joked before the race that I didn’t stand a chance since our speedy runner friend Danielle was there and she’d certainly win the age group. Well, she was so speedy that she was the overall female winner – pretty awesome. That meant she won an award for being first place rather than getting an age group award.
Our bibs allowed us free admission to the zoo for the day, so we went in and sought out the post-race party area. Although the fun walk through the zoo still hadn’t started, we were able to help ourselves to the food. They had tons of hot dogs, chips, and granola bars. It was kind of funny to eat a hot dog at 9am, but it sure tasted good. There were several picnic tables outside as well as a large tent with a ton of tables inside. Some of the sponsors had tents, and a band played as well.
After our snack, Matt and I walked around the zoo for an hour and a half. For the most part, only people who had run the 5K were walking around while we were, so it was nice to enjoy a calm and quiet atmosphere. One of the highlights was probably watching the seals twist around in circles and swim upside down.
The awards ceremony started at 10:30, so we worked our way back by then. They announced the overall and masters winners but not the age group winners. That was kind of nice because it saved a lot of time. I’m glad I was standing right next to the table where they handed out the awards and got over there quickly. After I collected my award, I saw that there was a ridiculously long line behind me. We checked out the penguins next then headed home.
We were really glad we did this race and it was a great experience overall. There was a nice, speedy course, a great post-race party, and a fun walk around the zoo. We’ll definitely keep it in mind in the future!
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