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On Sunday, October 23, I ran the Capital City Classic 15k race for the first time. Having never run a 15k race before, I did not really know what to expect. But I knew some of the course from running the Lincoln Marathon previously. This race was formerly known as the Governor’s Cup before it was taken over by Bryan Health as the new sponsor. It was an excellent tune-up race for the Good Life Halfsy that I am running in 2 weeks and a good test of speed, conditioning, and aptitude for handling hills and a little unexpected heat.

I pondered what goal to set for this race and decided to attempt to run PR half-marathon pace as long as possible: a gentle gallop to a PR if possible. That was it. Having not raced this distance before, I knew a PR would be possible if I ran smart. 15k is a sort of unusual distance: longer than a 5k, longer than a 10k, shorter than a half-marathon. Sort of a middle-distance runner’s dream. It’s actually a little difficult to find 15k races to run, there aren’t that many.

As you can see, I decided to wear my BibRave Buff headwear and my bright orange BibRave singlet. I made a slight tactical error in wearing my orange T-shirt under the singlet. It got warm (average temp of 77 during the race) but my back was hurting before the race so I was hoping to keep the back warmer. The breeze during the race was helpful, sometimes the breeze makes it tougher to decide what to wear.

I arrived at the start early. The race starts on the shady southern side of the State Capitol building in Lincoln, winds east to 56th Street, then winds back to downtown on different streets. The Normal Boulevard part of the course coincides with the Lincoln Marathon course so that part was very familiar to me. I’ve run most of the downtown streets before so was familiar with those. I haven’t run much on Calvert where we encountered some hills on the way back and with the heat, that slowed me down a little bit.

Before the start, I knew my target splits were around 7:20-7:30 range to run half-marathon PR pace. So I tried to anchor every mile around that range. And I was determined to try to keep all the mile splits under 8:00. That didn’t quite happen. The last 5k was slower.

After a wheelchair participant was started a few minutes before, the starter fired his gun and we ran. I ran a little faster than target pace the first mile (6:37) but that was okay, I intended back off in mile 2 and I did to 7:07. By this point, I knew I was in good shape because my Garmin Fenix 3HR told me +8 into “good range” for heart rate, meaning lots of fuel in the tank, energy burning easily without much effort. Here’s where it gets interesting. Anytime you can achieve a 5k PR, you try to do it. But if you burn too much energy too early, you have nothing left. The 5k split was good: about 22:00. The third mile split was 7:39, a little slower. Mile 4 was 7:43.

Near mile 5, we were dealing with hills on 56th Street so that mile was slower: 8:11. I was a little upset for missing the 8:00 target there but had a little time from the faster first mile in the bank. Mile 6 was a little faster: 7:58, back below the 8:00 target. I was accelerating to try to reach the 10k split. Then I settled in for 3 miles of 8:06 pace (strange to have 3 miles in 8:05-8:07 range).

I was inspired to see the wheelchair participant mightily battling the uphill on Calvert Street coming back. I could tell he was struggling a bit. So I encouraged him, told him he could do it, that I was proud of him and he nodded back. Fortunately, he had a bike volunteer riding next to him to make sure he was OK. Later in the race, he passed me and many others on Sheridan Boulevard on the way back to downtown. It’s amazing we all have our struggles and challenges and I realized my challenges were insignificant compared to what this courageous participant was handling.

The traffic police were fantastic on this entire course. I was concerned about all these busy cross streets, I’ve had a few bad experiences with cars trying to dart in front of oncoming runners during races.

It was fun on the way back to run the WRONG way on K Street (westward instead of east) like we used to in the old Lincoln Marathon days. The lanes were blocked off for us so we were safe. It was fun to run around the Capitol in the opposite direction to return to the finish line too.

I did carry my OrangeMud single hydraquiver vest with me for this race so I could carry a water bottle on my back and my phone without having to hold them with my hands. I did take two water stops though as my OrangeMud bottle was almost empty.

Walk breaks? Yes, used about 2:00 of these. Two :30 walk breaks when I could tell my heart rate was up and a few :15 walk breaks stacked up for the rest of the course. These helped. My heart rate tends to spike on hills so I have to watch that a little bit.

I had no idea what to expect for a time on this course. I was hoping to run a little faster but it did get warm and the heat affected me a little with dehydration (just keep drinking water).

The volunteers and spectators on the course were wonderful. Lots of kids with signs (tap here for POWER) and high fives. The crowd was thin in spots so if you run this race, a lot of it comes down to you.

I was able to accelerate to 7:24 pace for the last .33 of a mile. I wasn’t sure I had a kick left but gave it all I had.

At the finish, I saw my time was 1:12:21 and stopped my watch at 1:12:25. I immediately knew the average pace was under 8:00 but that I had missed my target pace by about :15-:30/mile. However, with the heat and the fatigue caused by the hills, there just wasn’t much energy left in the last 5k. I did hold back slightly, saving full speed for the Halfsy. It does look like I overstrided a little (1.16m average stride length) and that might explain some of the fatigue.

Overall, it was a wonderful race, I was very pleased with it. I finished 10th in my age group (40-49), 47th overall of 299 runners (top 16%), 39th of 124 men and was happy to (barely) see my name on the first page of race results (yes my name was on the last line). But I can’t complain about a PR. A personal record doesn’t happen every race and sometimes they are rare because so much can go wrong. So I’ll celebrate the joy that it brings for a little while.

Lesson learned: the last 5k of a race can be very fatiguing. Maybe I should have run more steady splits. Also, need to wear one less shirt when it’s over 70 degrees. Even if my back hurts.

LOVED the Italian ice at the end of the race. They had 5 flavors. I only tried two: peach and pineapple. They were WONDERFUL!

This was a very enjoyable race, well done! The 5k was run right behind us and there was a 1 mile kids’ race too. Fun for the whole family!

How did this PR happen? It was a gentle gallop to to the finish. Not every mile was right on target with pace but very close if not under target. I didn’t feel like I was exerting much effort except for the last 5k. So it was mostly like the gentle gallop of a wise horse. If this horse can shorten his strides, he won’t have to expend as much effort. Yes, you can gallop your way to a PR in a 15k.