Frida and I are in Iceland for Easter and went to meet up with a small running group in her parent´s neighborhood on our first afternoon. I overheard one of the guys mention a 5k race taking place the next day, though, I didn´t think much of it at first. But after no more than a hour or two the seed had germinated and I wanted to check it out. I was planning an interval run that day and figured that not only would it be a good substitute, but it would be a great opportunity to check out the local race scene and see who I might be stacked up against at the 10k I´ll be running here in August. Later that evening we went out to meet some friends, had a few beers and ended up staying out well past my normal pre-race bed time (I think even if I´m not officially considered a masters runner, I certainly behave like one). But the next morning, I figured I had nothing to lose, so I got my gear together and went down to register.
About 35 minutes before the gun was to go off, I walked right up, payed my $1500 krona (about $13) and got a bib number. With all the official stuff out of the way, I started a bit of a warmup jog following what I thought was the course route before making my way to the starting line. The race official herded the 350 or so runners to the line, shouting through a megaphone in Icelandic, so I didn´t catch much of what he said. But I knew when he started counting down that we were just about ready to roll. Just before the gun was fired, and it was an actual starting gun, a group of kids squirmed up through the crowd and lined up right in front of me. It took some very fast footwork to maneuver around them and a few others who managed to get up front.
The wind was howling as usual and I thought I´d better tuck into the crowd for a bit of cover, so I dropped in behind a few runners just a bit back from the leaders. Unfortunately for me, as the leaders extended their gap, the runners I´d been drafting started to fall off the tempo. To keep up, I had no choice, but to start leapfrogging between those dropping off the back. I tore around the course, jumping from one group to the next but then just before a 160 degree turn that thrust us into an extreme headwind, I got caught out in no man´s land. I was fully exposed, getting hit with a gale force wind and too far back from the lead group to close. If the wind weren´t enough, the course led up a small hill and the incline plus the headwind made me feel as if I were just about running in place.
You would have thought I´d have learned my lesson as I had to do this all over again on the second lap. But then you´d be wrong. As fatigue set in I made that turn again into the wind, 20 meters back from the next runner and had no hope of closing that gap while getting hit with what felt like 50 mile an hour gusts.
I pushed through the desire to slow and kept hammering it out as I finally made my way back around the other side of the pond, where a few trees helped dissipate the full force of the wind. From here it was just 600 meters to the finish and I opened up as much as possible, driving forward with everything I had. I could feel that I was being hunted but held on to finish without yielding my position.
I finished in 11 place in 18:22 officially. It was certainly no PR day, but all things considered, I felt good about the effort, even if I still needed to learn a few things about racing strategy particularly on such a windy day. If I could have kept from getting stuck out on my own, I could have run with the lead pack and do doubt pulled a top 10 finish.