rabbitELITE Dan Nestor delivered a huge result this past weekend at "The World's Fastest 5k" the Carlsbad 5000. A resident of Boulder, Colorado, Dan has been training hard for this notoriously speedy Southern California 5k and all his hard work paid off with a 4th place finish in the elite field on Sunday.
You know those running magazines that seem to have captured perfect pictures from races? The ones that look photo shopped or staged? Well, the Carlsbad 5000 was straight out of a magazine. This 5k takes you through the beautiful town of Carlsbad along the beach and coastline of Southern California. Combine those views and a hard race, and you’ll get a whole new meaning to the word breathtaking. Carlsbad is definitely one of those races you should put on your bucket list.
When I opened my email about 2 months ago, with an elite entry status granted to this race, I was in disbelief. This race is notoriously fast, it’s called “The World’s Fastest 5k” for a reason, and the elite field is typically filled with some impressive names ranging from US Champions to Olympic Medalists. As a guy whose best finish at a U.S championship is 14th, I was in a bit of shock when I was entered into the elite field. But the shock quickly turned to excitement as the opportunity to compete on this stage does not come often, so I knew had to make the most of it.
As I arrived in the beautiful town of Carslbad, California, the nerves quickly started to take over. These nerves are quite typical for any runner. You start to doubt your fitness and what you’re capable of accomplishing. Luckily, and something I need to continue to remind myself on race day, is that those nerves dissipate immediately with the sound of the gun goes off.
This years elite field was quite competitive filled with several accomplished foreign athletes from countries such as Sweden, Denmark & Ethiopia. With a few other major races going on such as The Commonwealth Games & The World Half Marathon Champs combined with less prize money available than usual, the field was lacking in a few of the bigger names, but it was still fast. On the bright side, I knew from my workouts I was in shape and that no one in the field was going to be able to ‘run’ away with the win.
At the start of the race, an Ethiopian runner took off and immediately gapped the field. With a breeze kicking up, the rest of the field quickly grouped together in hopes of blocking the wind. I found myself leading the chase pack side by side with a Swedish athlete. We were slowly reeling in the lead, I did my best to stay relaxed and composed as the race started to heat up and I began to labor. As we came through 3k, two of the Swedish athletes put in a surge to catch the leader. Two other athletes quickly followed suit, and I found myself in sixth place losing ground quickly. This is the point in the race that is always the toughest for me, the middle.
Knowing there’s still quite a bit of racing left and having the slightest feeling of discomfort come over me, quickly led to a moment of doubt. That moment of doubt quickly turned into 50 meters of separation between myself and fifth place.
With about a mile to go, I was in no man’s land, but I could see that the gap between myself and fifth place wasn’t growing anymore, it was actually shrinking! This thankfully brought back some life and momentum into me. As I was feeling sorry for myself and thinking about how bad I felt, I was able to switch gears in my head.
I told myself, “Just catch 5th place,” as I finally caught and ran past the runner into 5th place, I could see fourth was in range. There was about 1k to go and I told myself, "Just one hard last kilometer, try to catch 4th,” and coming around the final turn, I had moved into fourth place with third place in sight. I kicked as hard as I could crossing the finish line in fourth place.
I had finished as the first American, just 3 seconds off third place, and with a 5k PR. I am very proud of this effort, as I fought through difficulties and feelings to finish hard and well. Not every race will feel great and that’s okay.
As distance runners we tend to emphasize feeling good and maintaining consistent rhythm, but in most cases races do not turn out to feel that way. The best thing to do is embrace the uncomfortable feeling and know that uncertainty in races can lead to a favorable end result if you leave it all out there.