So as I mentioned in a previous post, my friend and I have actually been speed training each week. We go to the track and do a workout — 800 m repeats, 1600 m repeats, etc., to train our bodies to get used to running at a hard pace. While I know that comparing 5K times across different courses isn’t entirely accurate, I have enough experience to gauge how finish time is affected by the course vs. how it’s affected by my body and training.
But, going into this race, I had chest congestion. Experience also teaches me that I’m a lot slower when I have chest congestion. It’s hard for the body to get as much oxygen when the airways are partially obstructed. In fact, my New Year’s Day race this year posted the slowest 5K finish time I’ve had in 5 years. Part of it was due to the extreme hills on the course and lack of speed training, but the other part of it is due to chest congestion.
I had talked my friend into doing this race as it’s only her 3rd 5K race ever. There was no way I was going to ditch this race!
During warmup, I was hacking up half a lung, but I didn’t feel bad (other than having to cough, that is). Legs felt OK, overall energy felt OK….it was just the urge to cough up junk that was an issue. We ran a mile and did a few pickups, then headed over to the start line. I kept debating with my friend whether I should go all out or run with her and help her have a good race. In the end, knowing how competitive I am with myself, we decided I should go all out and slow down if necessary.
About 600 people lined up at the starting line. My rule of thumb is that since I typically finish in the top 20% of racers, that’s how far I line up away from the front-runners. It seems to work fairly well. I gave my friend some more last-minute pointers, and we were off!
The first part of any race, especially a 5K, is particularly congested. I was weaving around slower runners (which you technically shouldn’t have to do if everyone lines up as they’re supposed to, but people don’t). I found one guy who was doing an excellent job of weaving through the crowd, so I followed him until the pack thinned out.
The first mile was surreal. I have never felt this way in a race before, but I liked it. I felt GREAT. I felt like I was flying, but my perception was that I was in slow motion outside my body. Nothing hurt. Everything felt great. Garmin beeped at 7:42 pace, and I passed the official clock at 7:50. Beautiful.
Then the second mile kicked in. Things started feeling rough — that typical feeling I generally have in a 5K where I’m pushing hard and wondering why I’m there. Except this time because I’ve been training hard at the track, I didn’t question why I was there. I just accepted it and kept pushing on. I passed some people, was passed a bit, but hung in there as we went around a lake in a nice park. 7:58 pace, and passed by the race clock at under 16 minutes.
Mile 3 is where the wheels came off the wagon. I was slowing down and it felt REALLY tough. The course changed to rolling hills (slight, but a hill is a hill). I did my typical “pump your arms hard on the uphill and let go on the downhill”. I checked my Garmin and saw that I had about half a mile to go. I reminded myself that it’s the same as an 800 m repeat on the track and held myself to the feeling of pushing myself hard that I do at the track. We got to the part of the course that goes uphill to the high school track where the finish line was. I knew that we had to go 3/4 of the way around the track to the finish, so I decided to just run HARD like we do on the track. Garmin had my time at just under 23 minutes….could I come in under 25???
I felt like I wanted to puke and wondered if I would. That’s the feeling where I KNOW I’m giving it my all. I didn’t want to puke on the track or until I was finished. But I desperately wanted to finish in under 25 minutes.
I saw the clock ticking down and knew that I’d never make it in under 25 minutes. 24:59, 25:00, 25:01..a man and woman blew past me at the finish line (whatever, I would do the same if I had the energy)….25:04 as I crossed the finish line.
Volunteers handed out wet towels at the end of the race (NICE). I wiped my face and wrapped the cool towel around my neck as I went in search of bottled water. The urge to throw up passed, fortunately. I went to the track entrance to wait for my friend, but I didn’t see her. She finally came up behind me and said, “You missed me!” I guess she entered the track as I was searching for water.
She finished in 27:18, a new personal best, and she was so happy to find out that her pace was 8:48, well under the 9 minute mile pace she predicted for herself! Plus, she was 6th of 42 in the 45-49 age group! Woo hoo!
Not that you can help who shows up, but I like to see how I compare in any given race. I finished 126th of 564, was 35th female finisher of 321, 6th of 60 in the 40-44 age group, and 13th female master of 149 (i.e., old fart over 40). I consider it a victory to finish in the top 10 of my age group in races greater than 400 runners.
Am I disappointed? Heck, no! I shaved 21 seconds off my March 17th 5K! And oxygen-depleted to boot! I’m that close to getting back into the under-25-minute-5K range where I was in 2011. I WILL get there again.
Did I make the mistake of going out too fast again? Heck, yeah! But I would have been upset with myself if I hadn’t pushed the envelope.