East Lake Fire Rescue 5k

I was eager to run a five kilometer race during my week in Tampa since I have been feeling fit and fast lately and Florida’s air—which carried more oxygen molecules than Colorado’s—was likely to augment those sensations. So there I was lining up at the front of a 300+ field of mostly local runners waiting for the five second countdown at 8:00 A.M. in the town of Crystal Lake.

Right off the bat there were some jackrabbits which of course included whippersnappers who looked like they were of middle school age, but also included a man that looked to be in his 50s and was super eager to start. At first I thought he would be a threat for the masters awards, but then I saw how he ran: with a very forward lean, slow cadence, and heavy breathing. I passed him after a quarter-mile and think I got a pretty significant gap on him from that point on.

So then I ran with some younger dudes. The first mile had a headwind and initially I thought it would be a good idea to draft off one of the taller folks, but he fell slightly off the pace after another 400 meters so then I was running side by side with another guy until the Mile 2 marker.

He was starting to breathe harder than I was—I was still inhaling and exhaling every three steps at that point—so then I made a move and established a gap while taking the shortest line around a long curve in the road. I felt like I was having good leg turnover and stride length. As my breathing transitioned to a two-count I set my sights on the runner ahead of me, another tall fellow whom I estimated to be in his 20s.

Turns out he was only 14. With half a mile to go I made a half-hearted effort to bridge the gap, but gained only a few meters on him. According to the Strava data I did pick up the pace enough that my final tenth of a mile was at 5:10/mile pace, but I think so did the kid and he successfully held off my late charge.

No matter. I crossed the finish line very happy with my effort, especially when I saw the time clock had one and nine as the first two digits. I went 19:46, my first time going sub-20 in two years! My final overall position was seventh.

I was also hoping that I got first masters, but it turns out a 48-year-old beat me by 49 seconds. While I felt like I probably could have run a little harder, that is a substantial enough difference that I do not think I could have challenged him regardless of how tip-top the effort I put in today.

Three fifty-somethings managed to finish within 90 seconds after me. This gives me hope that I can maintain my current speed pretty well even as I age over the next decade.

The East Lake Fire Rescue 5k was a charity run for the Children’s Burn Foundation of Florida and Joshua House, and according to a volunteer during the pre-race announcements, over $20,000 was raised for this case. The post-race festivities also included a pancake breakfast, a goodie bag that included a hat and a two-serving bag of brown rice, and frozen yogurt for those lucky enough to pick up a carton before there were none left.

The awards also included really cool trophies of a runner in gold which were given to the top three overall, masters, and age group runners. Unfortunately, they forgot to order trophies for the masters winners! So I did not get to carry home my second-place masters trophy back to Colorado with me. That is ok as they said they would mail it to me. If they do, I’ll post a photo here.

Race Data

Final time: 19:46 (6:22/mile)
Masters place: 2
Overall place: 7/327
Strava data
Official results

A big pond by East Lake Fire Tarpon Special Fire Control District Station 57, the start of the race.The final stretch of the East Lake Fire Rescue 5k.Pizza man beyond the finish line of the East Lake Fire Rescue 5k.Felix Wong with an ice cream man.A volunteer making delicious pancakes in bulk."Do not feed or molest alligators." I did not see any around here.The trophy for 2nd place in the masters division was shipped to me a few months after the race.

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