112 days since my last race, I got back on the course on Saturday, this time for a late-afternoon 5K, the Herndon (VA) Turkey Trot 5K.
There were 710 finishers in this year's race, which was held mostly cross-country style on the grounds of Herndon Centennial Golf Course. I had never run a cross-country race before, so I was unsure of what to expect, time-wise. My previous best for a 5K was a 27:07, so I was hoping to at least get close to that.
The first half-mile or so was very congested. The race started in the parking lot of the Herndon Community Center, and then runners made a left on to the main road, Ferndale Drive (a 2-lane road). From there, runners had to make a hairpin U-turn about 2/10 mile in, and head back down Ferndale towards the W & OD Trail. This was the frustrating part, simply because runners cannot properly self-seed themselves. The tight quarters led to a very, very slow start for me until I could begin passing slower runners.
Once on the Trail for about 1/4 mile, we made a right turn on to the golf course, and ran the perimeter. The course was very undulating and rolling. There were some short, steep climbs, and not too many drastic drops. The grass was surprisingly firm, and I made up a lot of time in the first mile, around an 8:38 pace. Mile 2 was more climbs, more hilly, and I made it through still in a sub-9:00 pace. There was a little relief in mile 3, and it flattened out nicely and even had a few downhills, I made the turn towards the finish, and with about 1/4 mile to go, I was really moving. I hit the 3 mile mark at just over 26 minutes, which meant I covered mile 3 in about an 8:20 pace, very good for me.
I cruised the final 1/10 mile in a little over 44 seconds, giving me a watch time of 26:45, way below my previous PR. Since the race was gun-timed, my official time was 26:58, thanks to starting back in the pack behind a bunch of slower runners. Still, either way, that was good enough for a new 5K PR. I finished 162nd overall out of 710, good for top 23%, and pulled 37th out of 81 in the Male 40-49 age bracket (top 45%).
I have another 5K this Thursday, the Virginia Run Turkey Trot in Centreville, VA. This course is a flat out & back, so my goal is to break 26:45. It's chip-timed, so it will be more accurate. But Saturday's race is proof to me that training on the hills of Reston, VA is paying dividends.