On Saturday morning I ran the FOLEPI River Trail Classic 4-mile race in East Peoria. This is a race that I had run once before (in 2003) and I liked it. This race is quite unique in that it is a point-to-point race which is almost entirely downhill (at railroad grade so it's not steep at all, just fast Fast FAST). Since we were in Peoria for Thanksgiving I decided to give it another shot.
As Melissa pointed out to me before the race, yes, I am running a marathon next weekend. I've done very little speed work this fall, instead focusing on long distance. Still, what's the worst that could happen?
In my warm-up confusion I somehow caught the very last bus to leave the finish/registration area to head to the start. We arrived after the designated start time, though fortunately they waited. I hurried to the start line just in time to... stand around. After several minutes of waiting with little-to-no instructions a young woman (parade queen?) very softly said "Ready, set, go" at which point, I assume, the race started. I wasn't really sure. My GPS had turned off during the long wait, so it was just as caught off guard as I was. I eventually got it going about 50 seconds into the race.
Every race has a handful of people who want to start at the very front who really have no business starting at the very front, and this race was no exception. In fact there seemed to be a greater number than usual, as it took me quite a while to pick my way through. I thought this would do well to slow me down, but it didn't so much. The first mile was completely flat (the only flat part of the course) and I kept reeling in the fast starters. I crossed the 1-mile mark in 5:32. Hey, that's the fastest mile I've run in probably six years. And I still had nearly an entire 5K race left to go.
On the one hand I thought I was probably going too fast. On the other hand I knew the next three miles were all downhill. That would help, but would it be enough? Instead of easing back I pushed on. I reeled in a few more fast starters with a 5:38 second mile. I hadn't slowed down as much as I expected, but it took a lot out of me.
The third mile was much the same, slowing down a little bit to 5:43. As soon as I crossed the 3-mile mark a couple guys I passed earlier passed me back. Uh-oh. I was slowing down and the trail was starting to flatten out a bit. It was all I could do to not completely crack in the last mile. It wasn't pretty, but I eked out a 5:51 4th mile. There were a few more runners hot on my heels by the finish, but nobody else passed me.
So, I'm guessing my final time was somewhere in the ballpark of 22:44. Sure, it was mostly downhill, but still not bad for very little speed work. We left for Thanksgiving with my family right after the race ended, and the results haven't been posted yet, so I don't know my placing. Melissa and I both estimated somewhere around 15th place or so. In 2003 I ran 22:24 for 6th place, so the competition was much stronger this year. Anyway, I like this race for the sheer novelty of running three miles downhill, if nothing else.
Update: The results have been posted. I finished 15th overall (good estimate) and 2nd in the 30-34 age group.