Anyway, even though this is several weeks late, I would be remiss not recapping this race since (spoiler alert) I set a new 5K PR there! My purpose is signing up for this race was to actually race a short distance and evaluate where my fitness stands after some extended base-building through the spring. I'll be the first to admit my training was nowhere perfect, what with job-hunting and my move, but I did my best to stick with it and was hoping to run somewhere in the neighborhood of my PR, even if I didn't beat it.
The race was only about 15 minutes from my apartment and didn't start until 9 AM, so I left a little before 8 to give my time to pick up my packet and do a warm-up. I've hesitated doing a warm-up for short races for a long time, since I felt like that was only for "fast" runners, but I've come to realize that is totally silly, since a warm-up will help pretty much anyone run relatively faster.
Packet pick-up only took a minute or two, then I grabbed my phone from my car and put on one of my favorite 8Tracks playlists ("Epic Motivation") for a mile warm-up. The race started at the Independence Civic Center, which is next to a few baseball diamonds and a fishing pond; surrounding this area was a sidewalk almost perfectly .25 miles around. I did four laps, picking up the pace on the second and fourth lap. That pace was still far slower than what my PR pace would be, so I hoped adrenaline would carry me through the actual race.
I finished my warm-up with about five minutes until the gun, and they actually sent us on our way a minute or two early. I haven't raced a 5K in probably about a year, so I paid careful attention to my pace the whole way to keep myself from blowing up.
Initially, I panicked when I saw my pace was around 8:45 min/mile. I'm slow - I had no business running that fast! (When I ran my previous PR, I had no idea that I would PR and only saw how fast I was going about halfway through, so I didn't psych myself out.) I was tempted to pull up right away, but I took a step back to evaluate how I actually felt - it was obviously hard, but I wasn't dying.
I asked myself if I felt exactly the same but my watch read 9:30 min/miles, would I slow down? The answer was a very strong no, so I knew I was simply getting in my own head. I was determined to hold that pace. I think everyone was regaining their sea legs for racing season, so whenever I tried to tuck in with someone, their pace would vary dramatically. Because I'm not used to running an 8:45 pace, this made it a lot harder for me to stay on track, since my body couldn't "feel" that pace independently.
My main mistake in that first mile was chasing down people I thought were running my desired pace. I didn't really taper for this race, and my legs kept screaming when I did this. I eventually gave up that strategy, but I think it did some damage.
Mile two was definitely a mental struggle, and I ran it 15 seconds slower. I thought maybe I was close to blowing up, so I made my goal to run under a 9 min/mile, to avoid a total mental meltdown. I think this mile contained a slight uphill that really took a toll, but when it ended with a long, slight downhill, I was able to catch my breath and recommit myself to the final mile.
I tried to do some race math and realized a PR was still doable, I just had to give it my all in mile three. I focused on landmarks and catching other runners around me in turn to distract myself in that final stretch. The course was a loop, and I had seen the mile three marker on the way out, so I knew from quite a distance when it was coming up. This helped give me a tangible goal to work toward. I used my usual trick of promising myself I wouldn't have to sprint the last .1 if I didn't want to, and just plowed ahead to the marker.
Around 2.75 miles it really hit me how short a 5K is compared to a marathon. (Who knew, right?!) Even though I was in a ton of pain and out of breath, I couldn't believe I was almost done! In fact, I was even more almost done than I thought, as the course ended up being .05 short.
(This is adjusted from 3.05 miles to 3.1 miles. I used my average pace for the race, even though my pace for the last .05 was faster than that. This estimate seems conservative enough that I feel totally comfortable using this number as my PR.)
|Not me...simply just a picture of the finish line.|
I've been using Hal Higdon's Multiple Marathons plans since Myrtle Beach, and not even following them perfectly, and I still PRed by 26 seconds! Even though I know Higdon's methods work, I always feel like a less serious runner for using them, plus it is so weird to run an easy pace and just trust that the speed will magically show up on race day. I plan to use Hal Higdon to train for Chickamauga in the fall, and this was just the reminder I needed to trust the training. (Again - who knew?!)
After walking it off a bit, I went into the pavilion where packet pick-up had been to grab some post-race food. They had pizza, and I enjoyed it at a picnic table outside. I stuck around for an extra hour or so because they were having a huge raffle, though I sadly didn't win anything.
However, first came the post-race awards. I'm used to marathons, where the ceremony happens way before I finish, so it took me awhile to figure out why they were waiting to start (because of the walkers). It felt very strange. I didn't place, but I was still really excited when I looked up the results.
I placed 6/9, however - I finished eight minutes ahead of the woman in 7th place. This isn't a put-down to the women who finished after me at all, but it was so weird to look at the results and see a significant dividing line between "fast" and "slow"...and I was on the fast side! In my head I'm always the really slow runner, and it's bizarre when I see something that definitively shows that's not the case.
Now the question is - can I have similar success this Saturday at the New Moon Half?