5K's are, according to some numbers I think I recall but don't care to look up or verify in any way, about 96% aerobic. But that other 4% can still be a bitch, especially on a hilly (to put it mildly) course. It's not enough to have a solid aerobic metabolism; you have to have that next gear, and the ability to run fast while in it. Essentially, you must produce less lactic acid and expend less energy at your "holyshitholyshitholyshit pace" than the guys running next to you. Your legs also need more fast-twitch fibers than the typical aspiring ultra-slogger (raises hand) tends to have.
Basically, the thing is, I'm pretty fucking slow. Like, I don't really have a 5K pace - or a 10K pace, for that matter - so much as a half marathon pace with the screws tightened a bit.
Enough excuse making? Yeah, I thought so. ON WITH THE ACTION.
I sprinted to the front and then pulled back, letting a kid with a red mohawk and University of Missouri singlet spring way off down the trail. Pretty clearly, he was going to win. Two guys tried to give chase, however, and I decided to let them. A couple minutes later, they were walking hills, and I chugged on by. Again, not fast, but I can keep moving.
There were some downhill sections where some free speed was available, however, if you didn't mind risking life and limb to do so. I just spun my legs underneath me, trying to always land with a slightly bent knee. Thinking efficiency, not reckless abandon.
I cruised and saw that Mizzou Singlet had a pretty sizeable lead, at the turnaround, but that I was a couple minutes up on third. Keep on chugging.
I occupied the middle stretch with cadence counting, targeting that supposedly optimal 180(ish) steps-per-minute mark. Same on the downs. Same on the ups. No real pop in the legs to give chase, but whatever. Just cruising, inhaling steadily and rhythmically slinging sweat with every burst up a hill.
Nothing much happened. I kept running and finished second, solidly behind first and ahead of third. No drama but a good tune-up for the 11 miler on the same course next week.
Know thyself, said, uh, Socrates, right? And I know this: My "fast" ain't that fast; but my "slow" ain't that slow.
More hills, next week. This time, more than an appetizer portion.