Race Report: 2011 Chase the Bear 5k
For my last full day in Chicago, I found another race to participate in. Chase the Bear 5k in Glenview was close enough to where I was staying that I was able to squeeze it in before heading off to another full day of work. The race was in its 14th year and featured a certified course and chip timing. This was my ‘goal race’ of the weekend and one that I was looking to do well at. I signed up 10 days before the race and got in 3 good speed workouts during that time. Well, four if you count the 10k trail race I did 36 hours prior to this one. My slow ultra-legs were groaning a little at the thought of trying to run fast, but those workouts were enough to shake just a little bit of the rust off and give me a feel for the kind of pace I could try to sustain in my current condition.
I arrived early enough to run a slow lap of the course and familiarize myself with the many turns that we would encounter. Most of it was on quiet residential streets, but there was also a long section on sidewalk (the entire top line on the map above). I wasn’t too excited about that part, but it was entirely flat and about 800′ above sea level so I didn’t have much to complain about.
I even paused to do a little course cleanup.
The gloomy skies made good on their appearance and started to spit rain a little while before the start. It stayed that way through the race and was refreshing, though my Kinvara’s seemed a little slippery on the wet asphalt. Not much tread on those shoes.
My aim was to break the 20 minute mark, as I had never done that before. I hadn’t run a 5k in a few years, though. My nearly 3 year old heel injury has prevented me from doing any faster efforts for a very long time. Now it is on the mend and I feel like I can start working some of that back into my running routine.
I lined up on the front row and enjoyed the drumroll provided by the on-site marching band leading up to the gun. Soon we were off chasing the bear!
The first mile was all about trying to find a sustainable pace. I kept feeling like I was slowing, then surging, slowing, then surging. I settled into 7th place with a couple of guys on my shoulder that were breathing pretty hard. I felt a little too comfortable as I hit the first mile split in 6:14. I was 12 seconds ahead of my goal pace, but knew I had a little more to give.
The second mile was my favorite. I had upped the intensity and was now working hard, but feeling like I had my pace dialed in perfectly and was holding the line between running as fast as I possibly could, and blowing up. I would end up splitting a 6:05 on this one, putting further time in the bank against the 6:26 average I needed to break 20 minutes.
Sometime during this mile I was running alongside another guy when I spotted something darting back and forth in the road ahead. It looked like a mouse. It was a mouse! It was moving so erratically, that my first instinct was to look around on the sidelines and see who was controlling it. I thought we were getting punked. I didn’t alter my line and got a good look as it passed between my feet. It was real, alright. The other guy and myself just looked at each other and shrugged.
This mile sucked. Not for the usual reasons that the third mile of a 5k sucks, though. It was just complicated and I made a mess out of it. I was still working hard and holding, or even improving my pace from the mile before. I was well into the sidewalk section now, and keeping a sharp eye out for cracks that I might trip on. I caught up to a man and woman that had been ahead of me for the entire race.
They were running shoulder to shoulder on the sidewalk. I didn’t have an easy way to get by, and wasn’t even sure that I had anything in the legs to get by with if given the chance. This was a race, I didn’t have any expectation for them to ‘let’ me go through by moving over, I knew it was up to me. Hung out for a while before deciding to go. Knowing that I was going to crack 20 minutes by a good amount, but feeling like I was having a decent day and wanting to make the most of it, I just couldn’t stay there any longer. Glancing down at my watch and seeing a current pace of 5:50 I thought to myself, “This one’s gonna hurt” as I kicked wide through the grass and over some driveways (luckily no hedges to hurdle) before popping back onto the sidewalk and trying to maintain my speed.
I had to slow down for a 90 degree turn onto another sidewalk, then build up the pace again. Another turn soon dumped us onto a road and I was able to keep most of my speed by swinging wide on the exit before lining up for the next turn. This is where things got really screwy. The man and woman were holding on and I hadn’t managed to loose them, but I still felt like I had enough in me to keep my position to the finish. Who knows (really not a big deal in the scheme of things…)?
Being on residential streets, I didn’t give a second thought to using all of the available road when taking corners and using the best possible line to get through them. That might be ok for 99.9% of the course, but not this one particular turn. This one had a super shallow cul-de-sac (like one extra house), with a little island in the road. I was cutting inside of the island and winding up for the next straightaway when I heard a yell.
“To the Right!”
I knew the course since I had run a warmup lap and shrugged this off, confident I knew where I was going. I was headed to the finish, and that was left!
A second later.
“To the RIGHT!”
Now I’m thinking what the hell?? The course goes left! I’m going left! I raise my left hand a bit and point left, still confident I’m correct.
“TO. THE. RIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”, boomed the voice behind me.
It finally dawned on me what the guy behind was trying to tell me.
I needed to be taking the corner to the right of the island, not cutting to the inside. In a millisecond my brain finally woke up and processed the fact that with this being a certified course, it had to have been measured in a specific way. In this case, to the right of the island.
My intended line:
What I ended up doing:
It took another millisecond to consider, then dismiss the idea of continuing on my current trajectory. I didn’t want to get DQ’d in the only 5k I’ve run in years! I yanked the emergency brake and reversed course and took the correct route. There was indeed a sign on the island, but it was confusing as the arrow points up and to the right when the course so obviously goes left. I guess I’m just too used to following bits of flagging tape hung from tree branches out in the woods…
My pace took a substantial hit, and I never recovered my lost positions. Finishing on the heels of the man and woman without having anything left to get by after catching back up to them again.
I had unknowingly been in 2nd place after making the pass on the sidewalk, but wound up 4th out of 141 after the island debacle. Not a big deal. I was happy Bill shouted me back on course, but it took a while to regain the hearing in my right ear… My mushy brain was asleep at the wheel.
I was SUPER happy with my finish considering how much I had asked of my legs with only 10 days of prep time, and doing a 20 miler 3 days before, the 10k trail race, and a lot of travel and work thrown in there. I think I could get within sniffing distance of a high 18 time before too long, but that would probably be the limit of my old-man 5k potential. I’m excited to take another crack at it!
I guess I would have been entitled to some sort of award as 3rd place male, but had to immediately clean up and bolt for work. I wished I could hang out and enjoy the atmosphere a little more. It was a really nice event and one that I would absolutely do again if I had the chance. Just stay to the right of the island next time! 🙂