Surprising 5K Win in Fontana! Berlin Marathon Training Week #3 Day 6

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Location: Fontana, CA

Temperature: Sunny, 64 degrees

Type of Run: Race

Length: 3.1 miles

Type of Route: A straight line downhill on Sierra Ave. More than a 300-foot drop in elevation.

Time: 16 minutes, 25 seconds

Pace Per Mile: 5:18

Place: 1ST OVERALL!!!!! ($150 First-Place Prize)

Average Heart Rate: 167

Reason for Run: The Fontana Days 5k is one of my favorite races. It usually gets a lot of runners too (362 this year in the 5k). I like the novelty of a downhill race and it’s a friendly environment.  Because it’s a downhill race, times are usually faster than what they would be on a flat route, obviously. I like that because you can run a faster time than normal which is fun. On a flat route, I’m a low to mid-17s guy. In Fontana, I can run sub-17. That makes me feel great.

That’s me after the race. I felt great winning actual prize money for the first time. Does that technically make me a pro now? LOL!

How did I feel? I won! I felt fantastic! Ok. You probably came here for some kind of analysis. So here it is:

I was surprised I won. You can read about that here in the race recap from the Fontana Herald News. Usually, this race attracts top-flight runners–guys who can comfortably run in the 14s and 15s. Two women last year ran in the mid-16s and both finished ahead of me. Obviously, these people weren’t here this year. Why? I don’t know. I did notice the 5k didn’t sell out a few weeks beforehand like it had in the past. For whatever reason, people took the week off of racing or competed elsewhere. Since I have no idea who’s competing, I don’t worry about place. My goal is always to run a solid time. This was the second time I was completely shocked I won. The other race was the 2014 Run Seal Beach 10k. Fontana Days is one of the few local road races that offers prize money for the top three overall men and women. 1st gets $150. 2nd gets $100 and 3rd gets $50. The race costs about $45 to enter.

I didn’t do anything different this morning than what I do for other races. I woke up, ate cereal, took a brief, hot shower to warm up my muscles and left for the race. I also did a bit of my routine “doping” by drinking beet juice.  If you’re wondering if I’m joking–I am about the doping part as beet juice is perfectly legal. It does contain nitrates which help provide more energy to muscles.

I did my usual warm up and pre-race strides on the opposite side of the street. I felt good. My body and mind felt ready. It was one of those days when you just feel it. In the past, I would always see a dozen or so runners doing strides also. This is a good indicator of who’s serious about competing and who’s fast. I only noticed a few doing strides this morning.

I lined up in the front, close to the starting line. The race started and I took off quickly. I’ve run this course several times. There’s only one small incline at the 210 freeway overpass. The rest of the course is downhill. I knew I could take off harder than usual and I wouldn’t necessarily be punished for it later. Also, I always take off hard in 5ks. It can be a good race strategy for this distance.  My blog yesterday mentioned my cool new Garmin watch my lovely wife bought for me. I opted not to wear the heart rate band for the race. I figured I can obtain the extra data during training runs. This was a race and I didn’t want to wear anything extra. I didn’t start my watch until about 11 seconds into the race. No big deal. When I started, I immediately positioned myself into second pace behind a teenager wearing his high school’s track singlet. I was surprised I was in second because usually several runners are ahead of me at this point. My first thought was “Cool. I might have a chance at prize money.” Second thought was “I wonder if this kid is really good and will pull away and run in the 15s.” He was several seconds in front of me through the first mile.

I kept my hard pace and second-place position for the first mile where I crossed at 5:04. This was the time another runner caught up to me while the teenager in first began to slow. This runner passed me but didn’t pull away. I followed him closely, only one to two seconds. The teenager slowed to grab water at an aid station then slowed more. We passed him about 2k into the race. I felt my pace slow a bit for the second mile. That was expected. But I didn’t feel as if I slowed much which gave me confidence. I felt my pacing hit a consistent point. My breathing was consistent and I felt strong. Because I felt strong, my form was consistent. When a runner gets tired, his or her form will begin to breakdown resulting in a slower time. I was determined to suffer because racing experience has taught me that I will recover and be fine later. The chance of actually winning this race is worth the temporary pain.

I saw the other runner started to slow just a bit close to the second mile mark. That’s when I made up the one to two seconds and ran next to him. We hit the second mile mark together. My watch read 5:21 for mile two. I was pleased with that. Now it became a race.

I felt the other racer fall back a bit a few hundred meters after the mile two mark. I picked up my intensity and pace with the hopes of dropping him. I began to feel my left heel burn like it was touching something hot. This happens sometimes when shoes start to get worn and my racing shoes are sadly getting there. It was a little uncomfortable but not a deal breaker. It was at the 2.5 mile point I realized I could actually win this thing. The other racer wasn’t on my heels but I didn’t want to get complacent because I had no idea if he had a big finishing kick. I ran scared, meaning I ran as if he was on my heels. I kept the same pace and even picked it up with about 400 meters left. When I heard the cheering crowd near the finish I was confident I pulled off a win. They weren’t excessively cheering like they would for a thrilling, close finish. Nonetheless, I ran as if it was close. I kept my pace all through the finish line. 16:25. I won!

The second-place runner was nine seconds behind. He ran well too and is 36, only two younger than me. We ran well for two older guys. That teenager finished third. Again, not bad.

Winning a race is always a thrill. Random people congratulate you which is nice. Other random people ask you questions and want to know how you did it. It’s nice to get accolades and attention. The $150 first-place prize money wasn’t so bad either. It’s the first time I won prize money. I’ve won a lounge chair and gift cards before but never cash. I’m still amazed. This was a good run to work on leg turnover and speed. I did that. The next two weeks will be tough for training since I’ll be out of town working long hours. But I’ll worry about that later. Tonight, I’ll enjoy this win.

I walked away with three medals. One is for participating. One is for winning my age group and the other is for winning overall. I’m not a medal junkie but it’s still nice to earn them.


Running With You,



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