Ava Brown Memorial 5K (and a bike ride)

I first "met" my teammate Robby's daughter Ava in this post (which tells you everything you need to know about how amazing my teammates are) back in 2011.  Robby and his wife Sarah lost Ava to SIDS in 2009, and since the following year they've held a 5K race in her memory to raise money for First Candle, an organization working to advance infant health and survival.  In the past, I've donated money to First Candle, but that's not the same as actually being at the race, and this year I was finally able to make it work to run in Ava's race.

This was also the race I'd targeted for my attempt to get a new 5K PR (currently 26:15) and hopefully meet my goal of beating 25 minutes.  I've done a pretty good job of training consistently, but I also knew that the last mile was pretty hilly and I might be pressing my luck to hope for a PR in Jefferson City.  I was really nervous the morning of the race; going for an ambitious goal is much different that my usual attitude of hoping to make it through alive.

I got up at 4:15 to make sure I had plenty of time to get ready to make the 2.5 hour drive to Jeff City and arrive in plenty of time to register and warm up (and thank you Emily for the warm-up advice!).  I chatted with several teammates and friends for a while -- Robby and Sarah, Luke, his wife Becca, Adam, his girlfriend Michelle, Stoney, Team TOG's Aaron, and Christina and her daughter Beth -- and then ran my warmup.  When I got back, Beth wanted to do some warming up, too, so I ran another quarter mile or so with her and Christina.

Photo credit: Sarah Brown

We moved to the starting line just before the 9:00 start time, and I lined up nearer to the front than I ever do.  Robby sounded the horn and we took off.  The race starts with a sweet downhill, and I was a little freaked out to see a pace in the 6's on my Garmin, but of course that quickly rose as the course flattened out.  I did my best to maintain a pace that hurt but wasn't unbearable, and I was rewarded with a first mile of 7:55 (my fastest in a race ever).  The first half of mile 2 was in the 8:1x's and hurting.  I knew that if I wasn't able to keep pushing my sub-25 was going to be in danger with the hill in the last mile.  Thankfully, I hit a sweet downhill which helped me end at 8:07.

For the first two miles, no one had passed me and I thought I might be the lead girl. My thoughts were confirmed at the end of mile 2 when Sonya, who was acting as course marshall on that corner, told me she hadn't seen any other girls.  This was uncharted territory for me, and I savored it for about .1 mile until a girl passed me right after I turned Stoney's corner and started up the hill.  As much as I liked the idea of being the female winner, it was not to be.  She quickly put distance between the two of us as I struggled to maintain a running-like fashion that probably wasn't any faster than a walk.

I had heard the last mile was hilly, but having neglected to look at an elevation profile before the race I didn't realize it was one .79 mile hill.  I know that's probably nothing to you people who live in mountainous states, but ouch.  It was pretty demoralizing to see my pace drop into the 10 min/mile range.  Even so, I had to smile when I looked up the hill and saw Bob, his mom, and his wife Cara at the top and heard their cheers.  Thankfully, that third mile ended with a slight downhill and it was enough to salvage a 9:53.

I didn't have much left for the last .1 mile, and I was sure glad to see the finish line...until I saw the clock: 26:30.  Not even close to my goal and 15 seconds slower than my PR.  Still, that PR was set on a pretty flat course, so I'd say this is a respectable time for me.  Not what I wanted, but there are plenty of 5K's.  And honestly, I can't blame the big uphill for taking away what the earlier downhills probably gave me.  I don't really think I'd have been able to beat 25 minutes on a flat course.  Of course, now I'm going to have to test out that theory and hopefully prove myself wrong. :-)

And regardless of meeting or not meeting my goal, I still got to bring home some bling.

A rare occasion, indeed.
I ended up coming in 1st in my (new) AG, 2nd female, and 16th overall.  Those are all pretty nice consolation prizes for a disappointing time.  Big congratulations also to Luke's wife Becca, who set a new PR and took second in her AG after just starting running again a month ago!


We followed up the 5K with a 55 mile gravel ride, my second in two weeks.  I'm loving my new bike more each time I ride it.  I definitely need more training, because I consistently fell behind on the hills.  I was able to climb every single hill -- and my goodness, there were a lot of them -- but I'm definitely slower than the guys. Worse are the downhills, where they scream down and I creep and whimper the whole way. I never needed to walk any uphills, but there were a few of the downhills where I wanted to! I did get slightly braver towards the end (I'm not sure "braver" is the right word; more accurate to say I thought my chances of crashing bc of braking were better than my chances of crashing while going fast) and kept my hands off the brake levers for several hills with very thick, fresh gravel.  I've now got three touchstone phrases which ring through my head on hills:

"Get your ass up!" ~ Bob
"Heavy feet, light hands." ~ Luke
"Your bike wants to stay upright." ~ Jeff Sona (our guest racer for the CAC2 non race...report coming soon!)

As I flew down that fresh gravel, I muttered over and over again, "It wants to stay upright...it wants to stay upright..." and thankfully, it did.  Definitely a tough, but fun, ride.  If I keep training like this I'm going to be in serious shape.

Snack stop!
Bob, Aaron, Dave, me, Jim, Robby

Robby, Dave, Jim, Aaron

Jim's left side, me, Bob

Hills.  Lots of 'em.

Rutherford Bridge


  1. It sounds like a great day to me! That was a great first mile for sure, and on a hilly course....I'm sure you exceeded your old PR effort. You'll get it handily the next flat one.

  2. Not a disappointing race in my opinion - fastest race mile ever and fist in AG! Congratulations!

  3. Great race! Great time! Great racer!
    Plus a long bike ride after! Even better.
    I wanted to ride but both days this weekend have been sleety and snowy and awful.
    Except for the whole half marathon thing I have been a slug.

  4. A couple of those downhills were in fact seriously sketchy. I was braking hard though a couple of them myself.

    For your 5k PR - Chesterfield Valley Pumpkin Run, a week or so before Halloween. You aren't going to find a flatter course than it!

  5. Nice work chick! YW for the warm-up plan. Now that you've done it once, modify at will! And, funny thing, Jeff's given me that same advice. Good stuff!!

  6. You have such a big heart; PR or not, it was for a great cause and it's so cool that you did the race.

    That pacing things for short races is tough, especially when they're a hill involved. I dropped my pace drastically on my half last week when I hit a teeny 60' climb. Bleh.

    Do lots of hill repeats for prep for your next 5k and warm up a bit longer and do some strides beforehand. Helps :).

    Great job on the AG and overall placement - awesome!

  7. 1st age group and and 16th overall; you are a champ!
    Congrats. The PB is not important. It will come soon.

  8. Hardware! Congratulations. Awesome race report. Now, it's time to get that 5K PR. Pick the race!


  9. you need to find yourself a flat 5k course stat! you did an amazing job!


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