The first race of the year brings excitement, apprehension, and promise. So much so I decided to forego my goal of an 800 mile year (795.1 according to Runkeeper, but my daughter insisted I had some unrecorded mileage, so I am probably good) to rest and be able to run on fresh legs for the first 5K of the year. I didn’t pay particular attention to what I ate the night before (or what I drank), but my husband made me blueberry pancakes for breakfast.
The day was cloudy, cool, but not super cold, and the big dilemma was whether to wear gloves and a hat. I went with the hat-but no gloves, Nike tights,my new Brooks long sleeve front zip shirt and my Gore wind vest. And I got to try out my new Brooks Pure Connect shoes.
I warmed up well, and used my Fall 2015 playlist. I wore my TomTom cardio watch but set it and forgot about it. I didn’t check it once during the race. My goal was to run strong with no walking breaks, and to monitor my self talk.
I went out of the gate somewhat conservatively-I didn’t want to burn myself up before the long South Street hill, and as usual the first half mile felt tough. My first mile was 9:50. Fortunately I was pretty warmed up after the first hill by the time we turned the corner and headed up South Street (which is only .25 by the way, but the 2 hills combined were almost .75 of hills) I felt strong and good. I paid attention to my pace, shortened my stride and tried to maintain consistent effort so that I would not need a walking break. My time through 2 miles was 18:47-almost a 9:25 mile.
By the time I got to the top of the hill my left glute was pretty tired, but I focused on running strong; I slowed down a bit to recover, but I knew the rest of the race was downhill and I wanted to take advantage of the downhill to pick up the pace-but at the same time I didn’t want to burn myself out. I was really tempted to peek at my watch, because sometimes it’s hard to pick up the pace after climbing a hill. It feels like you are going faster than you really are. But still, I decided not to check the TomTom, and just ran as strong as I could. I ran the next half mile at a 9:00 pace-not as fast as I wanted, but knocked off some time. The last half mile was about the same-a 9:00 pace.
I felt strong throughout, and it was a huge advantage conquering the hill knowing the remainder of the race was downhill. I had a difficult time judging the mileage, and had I known how close I was to the finish, I probably could have pushed myself a little more, earlier in the race.
At one point I thought about how sore my left glute was but I told myself it wasn’t that sore and forced myself to concentrate on strong strides. Typically I would have rested a bit after the hill, but I told myself to concentrate on my breathing while jogging. My heart rate came down a little, but overall, once my heart rate got up to 165 or over it stayed between 155 and 170 most of the race. Did I push myself as hard as I could have? Probably.
The end result? A 28:31 5K-my 3rd fastest time in 3 years. Off my PR by 35 seconds two years ago on a flat, downhill course. (Those previous 5k’s involved multiple walking breaks).
Do walking breaks work? Maybe, there were a few kids running this race who used the sprint-rest-sprint-rest method and I’m pretty sure they blew me out of the water!
But since my goal was not to run my fastest 5K ever, but to use this as a measure of how I felt and my mental attitude and toughness, I am happy with the results.
I am also happy my trainer decided to throw some sprints and hill sprints into my weekly training sessions, because mentally, I knew I was not exerting an all out effort running up those race hills. I knew had plenty of gas in the tank to continue running.
I felt a little tired and sore after the race, but recovered pretty quickly. It was a good way to start my 4th year of running. Progress is not a straight line, but the overall result is definitely forward. I am super happy with my progress over the last 6 months. I am realizing once again, I can do more than I think I can, and it helps to have someone paying attention to the little things in a supportive, positive environment.