I don’t usually recap 5K races, and there is nothing unusual about this race, but it’s always good to take some mental notes that might help moving forward.
This was the first official 5K of the season- a small, local fundraiser for a private elementary school, run on a familiar 5K route. In spite of a week that was completely out of the ordinary as far as everything goes, my overall race results were not too far off the mark.
Having been sick with a stomach virus on Monday and unable to eat more than a few hundred calories of mostly bland, but salty, fairly un-nutritious whatever Tuesday-Friday, I knew going into the Saturday morning race my body would feel iffy. But I had a decent meal Friday evening, felt about 50% hydrated, and had an okay night’s sleep.
I also knew that because I had been sick I crammed all of my weight training into 3 consecutive days, with some pretty heavy squats on Wednesday, upper body work on Thursday, and some dead lift and barbell reverse lunges on Friday. By Friday evening, even more so than typically, my legs were toast.
But I looked at the race as an opportunity for a hard 5K run, on a beautiful day, for a great cause. I went into it with no time expectations whatsoever, I was just hoping to be able to do it.
I always get a little bit anxious on race day, and yesterday was no exception. I did about an hour of mobility work and yoga in the am, including meditation, to try to get my breathing under control. The only goals I had for the run were to focus on my breathing and to run hard.
As I crossed the bridge to the parking lot to pick up my bib, the first person I saw was my former trainer and I was able to remain calm, cool and collected and really did not give it much more thought. As long as we live in the same area we will continue to run into each other, and I would have to say my anxiety about that is nearly gone. I was running the race with my daughter, which is always fun, so we went for a nice warm up jog around the block, did some dynamic stretching and went over to the middle of the pack, but more toward the back and waited. I sent my daughter to the front where she could get off to a fast start.
As the gun went off and the race started, I completely forgot what the back of the pack is like! I was trapped! I had small children in front of me, a large stroller on the left, and people walking. I was with the walkers and families out for a leisurely stroll. At first I thought, no big deal, I will just pick up the pace once we clear the bridge, but then I panicked a little thinking about how much time was ticking off the clock and I started trying to make a darting dash to get away from people. I am pretty sure my first half mile started at an 11:30 min pace and ended up at a 7:30 pace. Once I cleared the pack I got into a groove and realized my Tomtom cardio was still set for .25 mile intervals. I had no idea what my pace was, but I tried to slow it down a bit and breathe to get things back under control.
Mile .5-1.5 is a series of hills before the route takes a turn and is flat and slightly downhill to the finish. If you do not pace yourself right in the beginning, those hills use up your energy pretty quickly. I forgot about the hills. Because the second half of the race is downhill, for some reason my brain likes to remember this course as being easy; and it is-AFTER you conquer the hills. I remember feeling ok going up the last part of the hill, but I wanted to try to slow my breathing down, but there was no way I could do it without walking, so I took a brief 30 second recovery and then picked up the pace pretty good going into mile 2.
As I turned the corner to the flat part of the course I remember feeling really tired, not out of breath tired, just tired. My breathing was not bad, but I was running pretty hard-mentally trying to make up time after my start and my little recovery walk. That is the problem with focusing even slightly on time. Because I pushed myself to run faster than I could maintain, well, I couldn’t maintain it. So the second half of the race was all over the place. At one point I was running between an 8:15 and 8:45 pace, and then suddenly I was at a 9:45 pace. (I did not spend the race watching my watch, I just happened to glance at it every half mile or so.) I usually like to run on the street and was able to do that, but occasionally had to jump back onto the sidewalk due to traffic or cars parked in the street-another time waster.
In the end, I just tried to keep myself and my form from collapsing, I tried to sprint through the finish, and my time was pretty typical for a first run of the season- (29:43). I told myself I did not really care what my time was-but I always do, and I felt a little frustrated for about 5 minutes. I was definitely surprised at my anti-negative reaction however. I did not really care how I placed in my division or overall or who beat me buy how much. My daughter was more curious than I was. At first I thought, “Oh, no, maybe I have lost my competitiveness!” But then I quickly realized I stayed pretty focused on my goal for the race and it was not to try to crush my time and to run a PR. (I placed 7/16 in my AG and somewhere in the top 25 %).
My average pace, according to my GPS which I started a little late, was 9:32. My splits were: 9:40, 9:29, 9:24 (negative splits are good).
My cadence was 191 strides per minute (good).
My heart rate was high-averaging 168 beats per minute; nearly 26 out of 30 minutes was up over 169. My heart rate stayed really good (through the first part of the hill, it was in the low-mid 150’s)but when I got to the top and tried to pick up my pace, it jumped to nearly 180 and stayed between 170-187 for the remainder of the race.
After analyzing how I felt and where I might have lost time, I felt good knowing my time could have been faster based on how I felt, and all things considered, it was a pretty good run. I would like to be able to run another 5k race feeling better, physically, but we’ll see. I can’t believe I am saying this, but, it probably isn’t necessary.
Last night I had another moment when I thought out loud-what if no matter what I ever do for training I only ever get a little bit faster than what I am right now? And if so, why am I doing this?
At some point I may decide to just run as part of my overall fitness plan and race for something fun to do, and that day be coming sooner rather than later. If I want to get faster I need to feel a sense of urgency and competitiveness to want to improve, and there has to be a measure of that. Right now, racing is the only way to truly measure that. There is no way to mimic true racing conditions, so there is no way to measure if you are truly improving unless you race. The question is, how important is that number? If you base improvement on how good you feel, then yesterday I did not feel very fast, and I did not feel 100%, but conditions were not optimal, either. I do not know what the answer is. In the big picture, being able to run a 5k is a good test of fitness.
So, all things considered, yesterday’s run was a good measure of possibility. I feel it is definitely possible for me to run faster with a proper week going into a race. I feel it is definitely possible for me to get my heart rate down to be able to sustain a certain pace over a longer distance, I just need to work on what the pace is. I feel it is definitely possible to improve with continued consistent work and training.