Sunday, May 24, 2015

Jog into Spring 5K Recap

I realize this recap is coming pretty late, but I've been prioritizing other areas of life right now. We're closing on our house in less than two weeks (you have no idea how excited I am for this!), and I think once Michael and I are in a place that feels like "ours," rather than his with my stuff scattered everywhere in boxes, I'll have a much greater sense of normalcy and can get into a routine. (Plus I'll be able to sleep whenever I want for however long I want!)

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.

Time: 27:14*

(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 mentioned this before, but I had to adjust my last 5K PR for a short course as well. It was a huge bummer to get a sub-27 time on my watch again, only for the real time to be over that. I know it's much better to have an accurate PR, otherwise I'm just lying to myself and will get frustrated when I don't beat it, but it is a bit of buzzkill. But don't get me wrong - I was thrilled to PR!

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?


  1. I did my 5th 5K at the beginning of May and 5K are getting really short for me on race day, but that is still a long run for me in training. I'm trying to slowly up my mileage to do a 10K in the near future. What a great race although I'm sad your course was short. I'm working on getting an under 30 minute 5K. I achieved my PR in May with 31:16, so you are not a slow runner.

    The funny part is that I walk pretty slow and my friends always walk faster than me. They are like you run, so you should walk faster. I always tell them that I run distance, which means that slow and steady wins the race. I don't sprint because they run fast.

    1. A sub-30 5K is a great goal! It took me quite awhile to get there, and I felt so accomplished once I did it. I actually like the 10K distance a bit better, since it's a little bit more about endurance than pure speed!

  2. I can totally empathize on the house closing. We just got the house we wanted to rent and the feeling is awesome (besides all that moving stuff).

    YAY!! Congrats on the PR. That is awesome. Bummer about the short course, but you still rocked it.

    1. Thanks! I just seem to be having a string of bad luck when it comes to courses being the right length. Congrats on getting your house, too!