Race Report: The Achilles 9.3 Challenge

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The Achilles 9.3 Challenge is a 5k race followed by a 10k race through North Point Park near Pittsburgh, Pa. I ran this race last year, and at that time I set back to back PRs. Here were my times from last year:

2017: 5K: 25:34
2017: 10K: 57:15

We knew from last year that parking would be limited, so we showed up at 7:30 for a 9:00 AM start and get good parking places. There was snow on the ground and the weather was reporting a feels like of 17F. Light wind, probably 6MPH. We got our packets and then headed back to the cars to wait in the warmth of the vehicles.

There was a group of us from work. Myself, “D” who I had not met before, “J” who I had met at a prior race, “M” who joins us at many races, and “S” who was another new guy. I was confident I was faster than everyone, except “S” was an unknown.

So we line up for the 5K, and M, J, D, and S all fall to the back with my wife. Ok, I figure that means S is probably slower also. No big deal, I am used to running alone. I line up with the elites as per my normal plan now, maybe 3 or 4 strides from the starting line. The race start is delayed due to one of the handcycles being late, but eventually, we get started.

I sprint out of the gate with the elites, putting a good distance between the slower pack and my pace. That first 1/8th of a mile or so was at a 6 min pace. That is about my mile pace, way faster than my 5k pace, so once clear, I slide out of the pack of leaders and slow down to my race pace of about 7:40 or so. Mision accomplished I am not stuck fighting the crowd to get a good pace. I have a wide open road and can relax and focus on the good old left, right, left, right.

The problem was that chugging along at that pace was feeling pretty horrible. I was stiff and every step hurt. It was then I remembered that not only did I miss my runs the last two days, I FORGOT TO WARM UP. Ugh. Well nothing to do, but push on. As I passed a half mile “S” comes up and passes me. Interesting. I consider picking up the pace to catch him, but he was doing at least 40s per mile faster, so I let him go.

We come around the bend and there are runners coming from the other direction! It is an out and back, and I have not yet hit 3/4ths of a mile! How could they be coming back already? Then notice they do not have race bibs. They were just people out running in the park. Phew.

Around one mile a tall older lady passes me but she is only going a little faster than I am, so I decide to pick up and pace off her. I stayed a good 5-7 strides behind her (my stride is little more than a meter so that is a decent distance) for the rest of the race.

I checked my watch as we came around a bend and it read 2.57 miles. I remembered a friend saying to run the last 200m faster, so I pick up the pace and past my pacer. It was not until later that I realized that 200m is only .125 miles, ops. It worked out though because as I crossed three miles I started to feel warm and loose finally. I drive home through the finish in 23:13 official time! That is over 2 minutes faster than last year.

After crossing the line I was way overheated, so I walk up to my truck, ditch my jacket and grab the sunglasses I forgot for the first race and headed back to the starting line. After that, I hit the food tables and for a banana. They try to push cookies on me, but I resisted the poison. Checked my watch and it was 9:39, not enough time to look for my wife before the 9:45 10k start, so I line up with the rest of the runners.

Turns out, I had plenty of time because the 10k started late also. Late enough that my wife finished her 5k, found me and had time to rest between them. Well again the whole group lined up in the back, and I started with the elite runners. And again “S” passes me about 1/2 mile in.

So I took off out of the gate up a gentle hill and decide to try for around an 8:00 pace. I was cruising along fine but around mile 2 the same lady that past me in the 5k passed me again, this time she said hi. (I talked with her between races briefly). I decided to try and pace her again, but she was pushing into 7:20, so I let her go.

Around mile three I catch “S” and as I come upon him he said, “My legs are dead, but we are almost there, right?” I break the news to him that he is about 1/2 way. He curses, I pick back up my pace and leave him behind knowing that “J” would be coming up not that long after me and could check on him.

About this time I catch sight of a neon-green runner and decide to make her my mark to pass. I chased her down for a good two miles when she turned left instead of following the course to the right! Ops, she was not even in the race!

Ah well, I push on to the finish but miss reading my time on the clock. Ops. Figuring I could get it off the charts later, I head back out to find my wife and run back in with her for her last about mile or mile and a half or so.

By this time my fingers are painfully cold despite the warmers. I need come up with a better plan for them. If anyone has any suggestions let me know!

So… results…

5k: 23:13 official time, 11th overall, 2nd place age group
10k: 49:05 official time, 11th overall, 2nd place age group

The 10k is a PR for me, and while the 5k is my second fastest time, it really is a PR because the race I got my 5k PR in was a bit short.

In my group “J” and “S” also placed in their age groups, so we had a good collection of medals in our midst. It was a good race and we will probably do it again next year.

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