Worst case scenario, I should still hit a PR. That was one of my final thoughts before starting the Carlsbad 5000 yesterday. The race is marketed as “the world’s fastest 5K.” I am in the best shape of my life, far better than I was last spring when I ran my current PR of 18:02 in Shreveport. So obviously a PR would come easily. Just how much faster could I go? That was my real question.
Instead, the Carlsbad 5000 reminded me how much I should respect I should give every race I start. The course is fast, yes. So many fast people run that you always have someone to chase. The energy surrounding the event is phenomenal. However, the setup put my wave going in the mid morning, when the sun is starting to beat down.
So many people participate in the Carlsbad 5000, the race organizers have it broken down into age-based waves. The masters races are first. Then 29 and under, which started around 9:30 a.m. Then came my wave, the 30-39 group. We started right at 10:30.
I was sweating so much in my warmup, I knew the race was going to be hot. Still, in my head I never doubted that my run would end with a new shiny 5K PR.
I wanted to break into the 17s for the first time badly. I was willing to go as hard as I needed and then push a little more.
Mile 1 was great. My legs felt strong, and I settled into a nice rhythm. I was just ahead of the womens leader, so the crowd support was strong, with people shouting encouragement to the pack I was in. I hit the 1-mile marker right on pace with a 5:33.
As we made the first major u-turn on the course, just south along the 101 highway, I felt my cadence drop a bit. The breeze had been in our faces, which made the heat not as noticeable. But as we headed back north to downtown Carlsbad, I started feeling the heat and sun.
Still, through mile 2 (a 5:50), I was still on PR pace. Mile 3 included another u-turn, before we headed back to the finish line. I ran out of gas on that turn. My right leg locked up, and I felt like I couldn’t push any harder at all. My pace fell off, and I felt that shiny new PR slip away with each step.
I thought I could still speed up my feet and make some time up, but I kept dropping. With no kick, I stumbled to the finish in 18:08. Six seconds from tying my PR. And nine seconds away from hitting my true goal — anything in the 17s.
At first I was frustrated. My head was starting to hurt, partly from the sun and heat and partly from allergies. I’ve been looking at this race for months as my chance to hit a new 5K PR. I don’t race that distance often (my last race was in April of last year). Immediately my head went to “maybe I’m not ready for Boston.”
But as the day wore on, I settled back down. I’m proud of my 18:08. Not, it’s not a PR. But I felt rough, and I ran hard anyway. I didn’t give up; I fought to the finish line. The 2017 Carlsbad 5000 was an amazing experience overall.
We hung out to watch the elite women and elite men. I love the setup for the event, with the elite races last. Most 5Ks I’ve run aren’t split into waves, so all of us normal runners never get to see the dramatic finish.
At the Carlsbad 5000, almost everyone stays around to watch some of the fastest runners in the world battle.
The women’s elite field included Shannon Rowbury, Brenda Martinez, Neely Spence Gracey, and winner Viola Lagat (15:35). Dejen Gebremeskel ran away with the men’s title in 13:27, outlasting Paul Chelimo. Both men have an Olympic silver medal in the 5000 on their résumés.
Watching those elite runners cruise up and down the 101 in Carlsbad was so much fun. My disappointment vanished, and instead I felt inspired to keep pushing. I haven’t been training for speed, and I’m OK with simply coming close to my 5K PR. I know I will run faster soon enough.
Monday morning, I attended a yoga session at Fleet Feet San Diego, where I work. Katie, who led the group, reinforced that feeling for me. “Trust the process.” That was her theme and message for us. Trust the process. Each day is taking us closer to our goals, as long as we keep our heads down and stay diligent.
So thanks, Carlsbad 5000. You challenged me, and you reminded me that what I want to do and accomplish isn’t easy. It takes daily work.