I never discount any race or distance. Sure, for me… I have to RUN a 5K before I’m ready to run a 5K, just to get warmed up. But I realize that there are lots of people out there for whom even this distance is daunting. And I admire and respect the accomplishments of those who dare to take on the challenge of any distance in order to make themselves better and healthier. I remember when I started running again after a long (10 year), injury induce hiatus, that the 1.25 mile track I was running on had to have been mismarked because it sure felt like twice that. But I kept at it until one day I went to run there and thought to myself, “You know… this place is just too short to run anymore”. That was a pretty cool feeling.
So yes, I am stuck in a bad training scenario. I have a half marathon in two weeks that I am undertrained for. I will do fine and it will be fun, but I have unburdened myself of time goals. I just wanna say I’ve run one this early in the season. It will be a big boost.
But that left me with the opposite problem for the St. Paddy’s Day 5K run that happened on Saturday. I say it was a problem again, not because I WASN’T training, but because I had not been doing the RIGHT training to do well in a 5K. My runs average around 7.5 miles and are usually intervals, hills or trails. NO SPEED WORK. I’m really trying to build my base up so that half ironman training will be easier. But most of the group that I run with on Saturday mornings was going to do this race and I thought “why not”. It’s the first 5K I’ve run in over a year… what could possibly go wrong?
So, at 7:30am (race started at 8), there I sat, on the curb by the starting line, baffled. So many people, so excited, chattering about their 5K training plans and how hard they had worked for this day. I remembered it. And I was excited for them. It was great to see the enthusiasm and excitement for the sport. I’m sure there were over 700 people in the race. But I was baffled by my own complete lack of excitement. I remember almost crying I was so nervous the first time I ran this race and REALLY being worried about not making it. Now I was wondering if anyone would want to do an extra 5 miles after we got done.
Anyway, I waded through the sea of green and bad Irish accents and lined up about 5 rows back from the lead group. I knew who they all were and knew once we got past the first half mile they would be a distant memory. I suspected by the crew at hand that someone would challenge 15 minutes and it was close. My guess was they would be crossing the finish line right about the time I hit the 2 mile mark. Someday… maybe…
Anyway, I had no goal time. My PR for a 5K is 22:15 and yes, someday I will break that magic 22 minute barrier, but had no expectations of getting anywhere near that. I was hoping for something under 24 minutes. The race starts on an uphill. Not steep but a bit of a punch in the face if you are not ready. As we took off I noted how flat it felt. The course is urban. it runs through downtown Columbia and through the campus of the University of Missouri. It’s a pretty place and always fun to run down the middle of the road and block traffic so I like it. There are no hills of note on the course. Gently rolling with a couple of short inclines to get you breathing hard. My “plan”, such as it was… was to push the ups, cruise the flats and extend my stride but keep my cadence up on the downs. My only indicator would be my breathing. I just wanted to listen to my body and then push it a little to see what happened. I hadn’t run HARD in so long that I wasn’t sure if I remembered how.
Mile one felt too easy. I was certain I was over 8 minutes because I wasn’t breathing hard. But I hit the mile marker at 7:08…? Wait… what? OK… That’s actually NOT good. Way too fast for a first mile. Rookie mistake. Of course, since I didn’t have a “pace” in mind, how the hell was I supposed to know?
Mile two was flat to downhill. I just cruised it and stayed inside my lung capacity. Crossed the marker at 6:58. Crap. At this point I knew I was screwed because the next half mile was mostly a gradual uphill. Whether it was physical or mental, I immediately got winded. I was breathing way to hard and backed off a bit. Once we made the turn back into downtown and hit a flat to slightly downhill section, I picked it up again but knew I was slowing. Through a little uphill and then around the corner to a downhill finish.
The two little ups and the crisis of confidence dropped my third mile to 7:32, even though I know I could have run faster. I think I panicked a little.
My final time by my watch was 22:30. That was what the chip timer said as well. For not having run or trained for a 5K…? I’m good with that. A minute and a half faster than I thought I would run. Cool!
The problem is, now I’m hooked. I’m back on the “under 22 minute” goal again. And actually it’s time to start doing speed work again anyway. I’m going to start alternating the Wednesday night hill repeats on the bike with the track workout our local track club hosts. I used to do them and loved them. Now I have a reason to go back!