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As we grow older, we are challenged in different ways and to overcome these challenges successfully, we must become bolder and more courageous. There’s a misconception and presumption that we grow slower as we age as runners and that’s not necessarily true. But we have to dig a little bit deeper as things don’t always come as easily as they did before now. Yesterday, I ran the Cornhusker State Games 5k road race in Lincoln. At the upper end of the men’s 45-49 masters age division (a very competitive division), I knew it would be challenging to medal in this race. But free from last year’s back injury, I knew that I would have a good chance of running faster. And the course is very familiar to me as we run at Holmes Lake a lot with our Galloway run-walk group.

Arriving a little early, I ran a 1.5 mile warmup and made sure to add part of the dam at Holmes Lake (on the new course) to soak up a little scenic sunshine beauty before the race. We had good weather, cooler temperatures and just a little bit humid. I always try to “lock in” at a couple of locations before the start of a race and chose the 3 mile mark flag before this one. During the race, I couldn’t really see the flag as it was twisting in the wind due the breeze. But I knew it was there.

One thing that I really liked about the change in course is that they removed the Normal Boulevard part of it. I never really liked starting the race there. Instead, we started and finished at about the same location further south, closer to the lake. Better for runners because we were sort of in the shade due to trees. This was easier on organizers so they could swap the start/finish flags sometime after we started. So the new course winds south on 70th Street to about the 1 mile mark, then we turned northward and looped around the lake from the south side towards the finish on the north side after crossing the dam.

The night before the race, I was surprised I didn’t have my bib and chip but then I realized they didn’t assemble/gather those for distribution until after I had already picked up my packet. So I had to pick it up after my warmup run. No big deal.

About 10 minutes before the race, they gathered us at the starting line with instructions (and jokes). There was a lead biker to help keep us safe and we cheered for him as he got about a 1:00 head start.

My goals for this race were to 1) run faster than last year and 2) run sub-7:00 splits for the race. I carried my OrangeMud single hydraquiver vest on my back so was hoping to not have to stop for water. I mixed water/coconut water 50/50 in the bottle.

At 8am, they prepared us to start and started us with an airhorn (that was different, usually they use the starter gun). I like to jockey to a fast start (not too fast but a little under goal race pace). I was amazed in the first mile how many kids much younger than me were running this race at a fast pace. I knew that an 11 year-old I had run with recently in a group run might be running it but wasn’t sure. After winding around Holmes Lake, we ran south on 70th for a little ways, then reached the 1 mile mark. My first mile split was 6:50, right on/under target pace. I was feeling good and strong at this point and my Garmin told me +4 into good range for heart rate so I knew I had some energy/fuel left to burn. My legs felt the effort a little bit from that first mile so I slowed a little closer to the 7:00 target pace.

Running back north on 70th Street, we saw runners on our right heading south. It’s always nice to have side-by-side running lines like that as long as everyone is paying attention. Sometimes you even see people you know in longer races. Near Holmes Lake, we turned back west and reached the soft limestone trail portion of the race. Here I wondered a little if I should have worn trail shoes but knew that my new Mizuno Wave Rider 20s were still a good choice. There was a little bit of mud on the south side and some wet clumps of grass (it rained a lot this week) so these were the tiny hazards we encountered at the south side. I lamented that they switched us back to the road briefly but I think the mud was too soft to stay by the lake for a short stretch. There was a water stop at about 1.7 miles and I stopped briefly to drink some of my water/coconut water.

There is a short bridge on the south side that we cross to return to the dam. It was interesting to cross that at race pace with other runners. The bridge rocked under our feet a little, kind of a strange bouncy sensation. We reached the 2 mile mark soon after that. My pace had slipped to 7:15, a little slower than I was hoping but it sort of averaged out if you consider the first mile was fast.

On the dam, several of us were in a little bit of a fartlek series. Mainly there were 2 other women that were running at a great pace (one of them medaled in her age group). I passed one of them and tried to stay close to the other one. I did use a :30 walk break during the race somewhere near the dam. In retrospect, I think I maybe should have cut in in half. But the break did allow me to finish under a target pace that I set near the ned of the race (the 22:00 mark).

During the last mile, I felt a tiny bit of fatigue, my legs were not quite running the pace I needed them to and I tried to keep a little bit of energy left for the last .11. Like I said before, I couldn’t see the 3 mile flag during the race very well, the wind was twisting it a bit. But there’s a nice downhill to the 3 mile mark towards the finish. Once I reached the 3 mile mark, I accelerated. I was in a small pack of 3-5 runners and didn’t know what ages/groups they were in. Past the 3 mile mark, I ran 5:10 pace. It was awkward chasing a 22:00 goal at the finish seeing the time-elapsed clock showing 22:00 but knowing I had crossed it after that by about :11.

My official time was 21:49. My Garmin said it was only 3.08 miles (someone else’s watch said it was .05 short of 5k). I decided not to extend it and just take the official time. It’s not a certified 5k course but it’s not that far off from the 5k distance. Close enough. And to happen on runstreak day 1,349 it’s somewhat remarkable. I’m very relieved the wheels didn’t come off this race for me like they did last year.

Immediately I knew it was unlikely that I medalled. But I knew it was almost 4:00 minutes faster than last year and only :02 per mile from being 7:00/mile. 7:02 pace officially. I finished 6th of 14 (it said 5th unofficially maybe there was an error in the original results). 44th place out of 212 total runners. 32nd of 106 men. One of those men was the 11 year-old I told you about earlier. Maybe I taught him too well (he was even taking all the walk breaks that I did in our last group run so he has been indoctrinated into run-walk technique, also he was speeding up when I was in our group run). He’s a very gifted runner. I wish I had known he was in front of me not too far, I would have tried to catch him at least to congratulate him. I was a little surprised to finish :05 behind another 49 year-old in my age group. But we’re the same age so it makes sense we run about the same pace.

Overall, I was very pleased with this race. It was a good race and inspiring to watch all these runners from 11 to age 82 (I saw the 82 year-old finish). Yes, we may be a little bit older but I promise you we will run bolder! Age is just a number! Believe it and achieve it!