Breaking 19:00 with a Mental Breakthrough

Runners love two things:  running and round numbers.

We don’t like to run 7.98 miles.  We like to run 8, so we’ll take an extra few steps past our destination to get that 8 to appear on our watches and our Strava logs.

And just like a sale for $1.99 seems like a way better deal than $2, getting just under that round number you’ve chosen for your race goal is so much more satisfying.

Last year my goal was to break 20 minutes in the 5K and I did that in all three races I entered.

Of course, that meant the new goal became breaking 19.

But so far this year, I hadn’t been able to even break 20 again even though I had been focusing my training on speed. Each race felt harder than the last and I was wondering if I was moving backwards.

Doubts about my ability and progress started to cloud my normal optimism.  Had I reached my peak already?  Have I set my sights too high for my ability?  Am I just kidding myself here?

So I stopped racing for 6 weeks.  You can’t fail if you don’t try, right?

All this because of a number on a clock.

I wasn’t having fun and I didn’t want to keep putting myself out there just to disappoint myself.  The marathon is where I want to focus my training and the red-hot speed necessary for a great 5K is barely relevant to the marathon.

But I still had this last 5K race on the calendar.  It was technically my “goal race” for the spring.  I wondered if I should even do it.

Then my friend Veena who ran it with me last year said she might go, so that was enough incentive for me to hit the register button.

The Downhill at Dusk 5K, as the name implies, is downhill, but not the entire time.  The first mile has a short but steep descent, the second mile is flat, and the finish is an annoying uphill.  My watch calculated it as 45% downhill, 45% flat, and 10% up.

Last year I got a nice 21-second PR in 19:33 (6:17/mile pace).

It is not an automatically fast course for everyone since downhill running can beat up your legs more than you think if you are not prepared for it.  It’s also very easy to go out too fast on the first downhill without realizing what you are doing to yourself, coming back to haunt you later as you crawl up the final inclines.

Which is what I did last year.

In 2016, I certainly went out too fast and remember feeling the struggle start in mile two.  By mile 3, my pace had slowed by an entire minute per mile and the last tenth of a mile was a painful stagger, nearly two minutes per mile slower than the start.

Pretty much the opposite of what you want to do in a 5k.

But this year, I had no goal.  After flatlining on my progress this spring, I decided the time goal simply didn’t matter.  All I wanted to do was race hard and get it over with as soon as possible.

Getting below 19 minutes never entered my mind.

But here’s what did:  calmness.  Clarity.  Relaxed focus.  And even a little fun.

Call it the elusive “runner’s flow.”

I was even relaxed enough to say a few words mid race to the guys running around me, which is usually impossible when you are in the red zone.

I have been practicing getting into the right frame of mind while racing and running hard and it certainly paid off on Saturday.

I only glanced at my watch at the first and second mile splits and instead focused on how I felt.

Mile 1 felt easy and light.  I ran it 3 seconds faster than last year at 5:44, but my breathing was calm and smooth so I wasn’t worried about it being too fast.

I was expecting to start hurting in Mile 2 at about the same spot as last year, but that point never came.  There were no other women ahead of me to chase this year so I focused on the men, pretending they were women and making myself smile at the idea.  The water station at the end of Mile 2 seemed to arrive much earlier than I anticipated and again, I was three seconds faster than last year at 6:08.

I was actually feeling good and repeated that fact to myself over and over again.

But Mile 3 is where this race really starts. I knew what to expect this year and just focused on staying strong.  I wasn’t doing the math and didn’t bother looking at my watch anymore because it didn’t matter at that point.  I remember thinking as I turned the corner to start the uphills, this is the last 5K you have to do for a while.  It’s almost done. Just get there, just get there, just get there.

I later found out the Mile 3 split came in at 6:24 vs 6:43 in 2016.  The hills slowed me somewhat, but they were not a struggle this time.

The finish line is in a parking lot and the course makes a sharp right turn off the road with about 50-75 meters left to the finish.  As soon as I turned, I saw the race clock ticking at 18:45.

Huh?

Ohmygodohmygodohmygod!! 

I had no idea that I was so close to my dream goal and just pumped my arms and legs as fast as they would go in a desperate attempt to beat that clock.  I ran at full speed across the timing mats not stopping until I was well past them to be sure that I gave it my very best shot.

I made it by a literal split second: 18:59.2.

I closed the final tenth of a mile at a 6:16 pace compared to my exhausted 7:36 last year.

Veena also did awesome, knocking out a PR for herself after a long break recovering from injury, earning her a second place finish!

I plan to go more in depth about the mental work that I have been doing in future posts.   I credit staying calm and focused as equally important, or perhaps even more important, as the physical training.

This race felt better and less intense but yet was faster than last year.  Sure I’ve logged a lot of miles in the past year, but the breakthrough was more in my mind than in my legs or lungs.

Naturally, this begs the question, am I now reconsidering 5ks and going for an even faster goal?  18:45 or 18:30 perhaps?

As enticing at that sounds, I think the lesson I’ve learned here is to hold those time goals a lot less tightly.

Training with a goal in the back of your mind is probably a good thing.  But maybe racing without one is better.

A Little Racing, A Lot of Luck

It’s been said that comparison is the thief of joy.

Except when you win.  Then comparison is awesome.

Well, sort of.

When you put your toe on the starting line and then you cross the finish line before the rest of those in your field, it’s a wonderful feeling.  Sure, there are always people out there that are faster, but you showed up.  And to be faster than everyone that showed up is worth celebrating.

But like they teach in kindergarten, winning isn’t everything.  It’s how you played the game.  With running, it’s how you ran the race.

And even though I’m certainly very happy to have been the first female at this weekend’s Valentine’s Day 5K, it also happened to be the slowest I’ve ever raced a 5K.

I won with my personal worst.

I don’t want this to come across as being ungrateful or in any way insulting to those who raced on Saturday.  I’m not trying to compare myself to those that raced with me, I’m comparing myself to myself.

Which still steals a little joy.

Now, I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me for running a lackluster race that I ended up winning. I realize that many recreational runners would love to be in my position. I am simply telling my story so that I can improve and maybe inspire someone else to get better.

There are lots of reasons I didn’t run faster.  The course is hilly and there is a steep incline in the first half mile and rolls a bit before looping back.  It’s not a PR course and everyone’s times are a little slower than they would be on a flatter course.

Chasing the leaders up the first hill

Coming off marathon training, I haven’t pushed myself into the red zone in a long time.  My body and my brain have forgotten the pain of such an intense race.  So even though I’m pretty fit, I’m not well-prepared for the 5K right now.

Here’s why:

A big part of good training is specificity or workouts that mimic the duration and intensity of what you’d go through in that particular race.  Which means the long simmer of marathon training feels nothing like the fiery burn of 5K training.

Another thing that caught up with me was a flawed race plan.  I have always gone out too fast in the 5K, so I really wanted to be sure I didn’t do that this time.  The big hill is right at the beginning so I figured that would keep me slow for the first mile and I could really make up time after that.

But that didn’t happen.

I crested the hill and headed on to the flatter greenway section and my first mile was 6:23.  I thought that was about perfect for my fitness and was pretty happy with that.

But after telling myself over and over to stay even, stay slow, stay controlled for over six minutes, I stayed slow for the rest of the race.  I never increased my effort level, which is essential for simply maintaining pace, let alone speeding up.

I coasted between pack groups and never felt the adrenaline rush of trying to reel someone in.  By the end of the first mile, there was so much space around me that I just settled in and didn’t feel any drive to push harder.

Downhill with no one in sight

I ran the last two miles just a touch faster than my marathon pace.

I have built up a big aerobic base from marathon training, but my anaerobic development obviously needs a lot of work.  Aerobic capacity is the ability to use oxygen to move your muscles.  You build a big aerobic engine from lots of easy running.  Anaerobic capacity is the ability to run beyond the point where you are consuming oxygen at the highest rate you can.  In other words, sprinting.

While the 5K is mostly an aerobic race, anaerobic capacity still matters.  According to a study done at Georgia State University, “anaerobic capacity explained 31 percent of the individual differences in 5K times. Aerobic capacity and ventilatory threshold (the point at which you begin breathing hard) combined explained another 50 percent of 5K performance.”

I really had no expectations for this race, so of course it’s nice to be lucky enough to win.  Every race is a lesson and I know where I need to improve.

While I can’t control who stands next to me on the starting line, I can control how hard I work to get better for the next race.

And if I truly run my best for the day, that will give me a sense of joy that can’t be compared.

ZERO 5K Race Report. New PR!

Have you ever noticed how little kids run?  They shoot out and sprint everywhere they go and quickly fade to a walk.  They have no experience with pacing or patience and just give it all they’ve got from the beginning.  It’s a beautiful image of joy and freedom, but it’s a really stupid way to race.

It might seem like racing a 5K would be easier than running a marathon  After all, 3.1 miles is just a fraction of the distance of 26.2, right?  Well, a 5K is easier only because it’s shorter, but the intensity is so much more.

It’s like the difference between dunking your hand in a pot of boiling water for a split second versus sitting in a hot tub for three or four hours.

Like any distance longer than a half mile, going out too fast at the beginning will cause you to slow dramatically at the end.  Staying even in your pace leads to a faster time overall.  But in order to keep your pace even, you need to increase your effort significantly as your legs and lungs start to burn and beg you to slow the f^@& down.

I ran my 5K tune up on Saturday like a five-year-old.

Despite my poor pacing, I ran the course 32 seconds faster than I did in May at the EarthFare 5K,  eleven seconds faster than my gravity-assisted PR at Downhill at Dusk in June.

I certainly wasn’t expecting to set a 5K PR with heavy marathon legs.  All of my speedwork in the last few weeks–months, really–has been marathon-specific, which is a much slower pace than 3.1 mile race pace.  I have had very little practice running in the red zone of my ability and didn’t know what to expect at my current fitness.

This was the inaugural year of the ZERO 5K in Asheville and it also happened to be on the same day as the infamous Shut In Ridge Trail Race in Asheville.  Many of my speedy teammates were racing Shut In and I was the only Maggot on the starting line.

When the starting gun went off, I raced through the velodrome to complete a half lap, then got on the trail section of the course.  Two men passed me at this point and I glanced at my watch.  5:40 pace.  Oops, that’s ridiculously too fast.  I tried to reign it in, but I was feeling fresh and didn’t want to be a slave to my watch.

First mile: 6:03.  Way too fast.  That is not a pace that is sustainable for me for three miles, but I have to admit that I loved seeing that split flash on my watch.  Hmmm, maybe I could keep that pace up, I told myself.

Of course not.

Just as there are running demons in your head that tell you to slow down, there are overly-optimistic cheerleaders waving their pom poms in your brain shouting, “you’re so awesome!  Keep it up!” when they have no idea what they are talking about.

I kept up the same effort level during mile two and realized one of the guys in front of me was slowing down.  I could catch him!

As I got closer, I thought I could use him as a wind block, so I drafted behind him for a few strides before I realized he was still slowing down.  I passed him mid-way through mile two and headed for the turn around.

Second mile: 6:25. A 22-second slowdown. That is huge in a 5K.

I tried to pick it up and I could still see the lead man in front of me.  The gap was too much for me to come close to catching him, but I wanted to have a strong final mile.

Since I don’t practice this pace often at all, I’m not familiar with what my breathing pattern should be.  It’s hard, obviously, but there has to be a balance between hard breathing and all-out hyperventilating.  I thought about that for probably way too long but kept pushing to the finish.

I rounded the last bend in the velodrome and could see the race clock click 19:09.  I only had a about 50 meters or so to go and I gave it as much as I could.

Final mile: 6:25.

Final tenth of a mile: 27 seconds or 4:57 pace (yay!).

So after a too-fast first mile and a dramatic slowdown, at least I was able to keep steady and kick at the end.  I’ve got a lot to learn about 5K pacing and hope to work on getting better at them after the marathon recovery.

Sneaking under 19 minutes would be a big accomplishment for me, so that’s the next goal I’m working for.

I just have to learn to run like a grown up.

 

 

 

Is it Crazy to Race During Taper?

Tomorrow begins the last full week before the Richmond Marathon.  After two months of dry, warm weather, the forecast for November 12 calls for a 55% chance of rain with a high of 57 degrees during the race.  If I had to be picky, I could do without the rain, but the temperature and cloud cover is pretty close to perfect for racing.

The taper cycle for this marathon is different than any I’ve had so far because I’m racing twice in the last three weeks.  The first was the French Broad Half Marathon and tomorrow is the inaugural Zero 5K happening in flat Carrier Park where I train most days.  I had originally planned to race the Vance Rocket Run 5K tomorrow, but after jogging the course and its SEVEN hills, my coach and I came to the decision that it was not going to be beneficial for Richmond and pounding out those downhills could actually contribute to a little more muscle damage that I’m not willing to risk at this point.

Flat and fast it is.

So why am I racing a 5K a week before my marathon?  Shouldn’t I be tapering and resting and only doing a little marathon-specific work?

Yes and no.  The point of a fast 5K right now is to open up some speed in my legs that I haven’t felt in a while.  The faster speed of a 5K also pushes me into the racing red zone for just a little while, practicing one more time what I will feel like when I am pushing myself harder than I ever have before in the last few miles of the marathon.  Yet the 5K is short enough that I will be fully recovered by race day.

In other words, this is mental strength training.

I do not expect to PR at this 5K since I have not been putting in the kind of speed training specific to the 5K.   But you never know.

My PR is 19:33 (6:17 pace) from the Downhill at Dusk 5K back in June and as the name implies, it was mostly downhill, so I have gravity to partially thank for that time.  I know that I’m am much fitter now, but I have a lot of marathon miles in my legs.

Another nice benefit to racing during taper is that I have something to distract me rather than just getting bogged down by the taper tantrums.  Most marathoners struggle with taper because it is such a shift from our normal running routine.  We feel nervous and cranky and heavy and we miss our runners’ high.  We doubt our training, worry about eating too much and gaining weight.

Having this shorter goal has helped shift my focus to what is right in front of me.

Another nice distraction from taper anxiety has been this week of coaching at Runners Connect. I truly love the community of athletes we are growing and I’m enjoying being a part of so many runners’ journeys.

But I have never sat in front of a computer so much in my life!  I’m still working in real estate and plan to continue doing so for the foreseeable future, but I typically do not spend hours upon hours staring at a screen.  My eyes are tired at the end of a coaching shift and by butt feels suction cupped to my chair.

So today, I  installed my high-tech stand up desk.

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My glutes feel better already.

 

Downhill at Dusk 5K Race Report

Well, that was fun!  Normally, I don’t describe racing or even running in general as “fun.”  Most of the time, running is just good ol’-fashioned hard work.  I get a sense of accomplishment, it gives me a good body-cleansing sweat, and it feeds my need for self-improvement. I love running, but I’m not the type of person who says after a run, “whee!  Now that was fun!”  But this race was actually fun.

(Okay, the first two miles were fun.  The last mile was a lung-burning, deceptively difficult mental battle.  And let’s not even talk about the last tenth of a mile.  So if you want to get technical, let’s say 67% was really fun.)

I chose this race because I love running downhill and I was hoping for a nice PR course to see what I could do.  Veena, Nate, and I had jogged the course earlier this week and I’m so glad we did, because it didn’t seem all that downhill.  It was more of a gradual decline along Old 70 with a few little rises, ending in the town of Black Mountain with a very short, but fairly steep uphill finish.  “This is supposed to be downhill!” Veena complained.  “It’s a misnomer!”

What we didn’t see on that practice run was the actual starting line.  It sat on top of a ridge in the steep parking lot of the Ridgecrest Conference Center.  The first tenth of a mile was about as steep as a ski slope.

Me with Veena and Megan.  You can see the 80% humidity in the air!
Me with Veena and Megan before the start. You can see the 80% humidity in the air!

We knew we had to careful on that first descent and hold back and we promised each other we wouldn’t go out too fast.  Megan was definitely the best at that.  Veena and I barreled down the parking lot and I really tried to stay conscious of not going full out.  Some guy near us was racing in modified flip flops and all I could hear was the smacking of his feet on the pavement every step.  Thwhack, thwhack, thwhack!  “That’s not annoying or anything,” Megan commented.

As we turned onto Old 70 for the straightaway, I looked at my watch and it said 5:25 pace.  Stupidly unsustainable.  Veena was still accelerating as I called out our pace and I had to let her go.  That is the hardest part of the first mile of a 5K.  You have to be conservative even when people around you are passing you.  By mile 1,  Megan and I passed Veena and were in third and fourth place for the women. Mile 1:  5:47.

For the next mile, Megan and I were shoulder to shoulder.  We are pretty evenly matched and had talked about racing together to support each other.  We were running well and both of our breathing was even.  We were even gaining on the second place woman ahead.  “Let’s catch her,” I said.  I started to try to speed up and Megan was with me for a few steps and then dropped back.  “You can do it!” I encouraged her.  But she lost some ground and I had to keep going.  Mile 2:  6:11.

The last mile has a couple of baby uphills that you have to crest before getting a gentle downhill.  I tried to stay strong, keep my speed on the ups and open up on the backsides, but I was running out of downhill.  My legs felt halfway decent, but my lungs were starting to burn.  Relax, deep breath, relax, I told myself.  I was slowing, but my effort was just as high so there was never a clear awareness of how much I was slowing, but it soon became obvious as I made the turns into town. A quick glance over my shoulder told me Megan was not too far behind.  Mile 3:  6:43.

The last tenth of a mile has two very short, but very steep hills that I was psyching myself up for.  I did the best job I could, but there was no kick left in me.  Arek was at the finish line screaming, “Let’s go, Maggot! Leave it all out there!  Kick!!!”  Last tenth of a mile:  7:36/mile pace.

After the finish
After the finish

I was able to hang onto 3rd place female, 8th overall, and got a 21-second PR with 19:33, 6:17/mile average pace.  Megan and Veena both won their age groups with 4th and 5th place.  Veena PRed and Megan got her North Carolina PR.  They both did a great job.

So I obviously need to work on my third mile and my kick.  The last mile will always be the hardest of any 5K and I need to be better prepared for it mentally.  But the nice thing about this race versus the EarthFare 5K two weeks ago is that the pain of the race started much later this time.  If I can just push that red line of pain further and further down the road each time, I can keep getting better at this distance.

And maybe I”ll even have some fun!

Chamber Challenge 5K Recap

Sometimes it’s more fun to be a spectator than race.  The Jus’ Running Racing team had four teams of four racing today and with my 5K race tomorrow, I decided to bring the kids and cheer the group on instead.   There was no relief for the runners from the traditional heat and humidity that always seems to accompany this hilly 4pm race, so I was pretty happy to be in the shade for this one.  So were the kids!

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Tess and Ashni found great spectating seats!

It was a bit of a wacky start.  Most people I talked to thought the race started at 4pm, but no one was even at the starting line at 4.  Then someone said, “the race starts at 4:20, typical Asheville!”  About 10 after four, the racers headed to the starting line, doing a few stretches and strides.  At 4:15 without any warning, a horn went off from the above parking lot and nobody moved.  The runners looked at each other in confusion and assumed it was a false alarm.  Then about 30 seconds later, the race official at the start line yelled “GO!” and the bewildered runners started running, most starting their watches about 25 yards in.  Very strange.

Blurry shot of the confusing start
Blurry shot of the confusing start

Despite the craziness, Maggot Blue dominated the top spots with legendary Jay Curwen taking the W for the men and superstar Kate Schwartz easily winning the women’s race and coming in third overall.

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The clock was off by 20-30 seconds since the start was a confusing mess. Jay for the win!

 

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Kate edging out Mikey Riley for third overall and the W for the women!

The rest of the team did phenomenally as well, crushing the top of the leader boards in multiple categories.  It was great to cheer on these amazing runners and friends and show my kids what being a part of a team is all about.  Yes, even though I said I’m happy I didn’t run, I still felt a little twinge of wanting to be out there.  But part of being on a team is being on the other side of the finish line at times.  I’m so proud of everyone who raced those hot and muggy hills today (and I’m glad it wasn’t me!).

Making Strides with Strides

My 5K training plan calls for most of my easy runs to finish with four 20 second strides.  The idea behind strides is that you are not too fatigued from your easy run to run fast with good form.  It’s a dose of speed work on your light days that is short enough that you don’t need recovery like a true speed session yet it wakes up your fast-twitch muscle fibers on days when they are normally dozing off.

During marathon training, I had some easy days with strides and some without so I pretty much forgot about them by the time I was done with my run.  I was also a lot more tired in general from the heavier running workload than I am now, so I am itching to do a little extra these days.

So in the last mile of my run home, I focused on my form.  First, I thought about my ankles.  Maybe that seems like a strange place to start, but I find that when I concentrate on getting a full range of motion in my ankle by pointing my toe almost to an exaggerated degree right before I pull the leg forward, my entire leg flexes while in the air and acts like a tighter spring when it reaches the ground again.  If you watch videos of elite sprinters (or little kids), the back heel rises almost up to the glutes before the knee comes forward.  That would require too much energy from me to sustain very long, but I’ve read that the hang time gives the leg a split second of rest before it pounds down to the ground again.  I don’t attempt to butt kick when I run, but I do think about letting the heel rise a touch longer before I bring it forward.

Then I mentally move up to my knees.  Raising the knee too high spends a lot of energy, but some knee lift is essential for good speed.  The key for me is to think about driving the knee in a forward motion, rather than up and down.  All motion forward creates quickness so I also think about my knees moving straight and not inward as they tend to do when I’m tired.

At my hips, I think about my forward lean.  It’s true that you really need to run leaning from the ankles instead of the hips, basically using gravity as you fall forward, but my hips and glutes are where the power comes from.  So my hips are more like the fulcrum of a seesaw, with my straight leg and pointed toe trailing behind and my straight chest leaning forward over the opposite bent knee. If you’ve ever seen me run in person, you’ll notice that I’m not a natural forward-leaner.  Maybe it’s because I’m short that I’m used to standing up tall, with my shoulders back.  That works great to save energy in a marathon, but it’s not great for speed.  So I’m working on it.

Best shot at Chicago (2)
Good example of my lack of forward lean at the 2015 Chicago Marathon

Once my easy run was done today, I stopped for a couple minutes to let my heart rate slow down. I made sure my watch was set to time my intervals and then hit the start.  The cool thing about strides this short is that you really don’t start breathing hard until halfway through and then in ten breaths, you’re done.  All of the form focus on the last mile really seemed to help today because I just felt fluid.  I missed hitting the button on the first one, so I don’t know how fast that one was, but my next three were 5:34/mile, 4:47/mile, 4:54/mile.  Obviously, there’s no way I could run those last two paces for a whole mile…or could I?

 

Shut Up, Nancy!

I’m skipping track this week.  My schedule called for my speed work to be done today on a Monday and for Tuesday to be easy in preparation for the 5K race on Saturday.  I knew if I went to track it would be a lot of shorter, faster segments and at this point, I need to be as race-specific as possible.  I decided to go to the park instead.

The workout was 3 miles of warm up, 2 x 1 mile at 5K pace (6:10-6:20) with 4 minutes of rest in between, then 2 x 400 meters (a quarter mile is close enough) 10 seconds faster than 5K pace (6:00-6:10), then 2 mile cool down.

I took the long way to the park and got there right at 3 miles.  I stopped to get a drink and do some dynamic stretching, which is moving through a stretch rather than holding a stretch (static stretching).  The loop I chose for the mile repeats is somewhere between .4 and .5 of a mile and I know from experience that GPS is a little wonky in that section, but it’s flat and shaded and has a bathroom with a water fountain.  I figured two laps around was better than 4 laps on a hot track.

I began the first mile and quickly started breathing very hard.  I glanced at my watch and it said I was going 7:30 pace, which could not possibly be true.  A few seconds later, it said 5:55 pace, which also wasn’t true.  Sometimes GPS tries to correct itself when it makes a mistake, so I just focused on running hard and getting through it.  Halfway around the first lap, my quads started burning and the negative voice in my head starting telling me it would be fine if I stopped and caught my breath.  I knew I could do it despite how hard it was starting to feel, but each time I looked down at my liar of a watch, I lost a little bit of confidence and almost felt a sense of panic.  I was running as fast as I could manage and it was telling me I was going marathon pace!  I knew it couldn’t be true, but what if it was?  Had I really lost that much fitness?  Yes, I’ve gained 6-8 pounds since Boston, but was marathon pace (6:50) really a wind-sucking effort now?

As I finished the second lap, my watch told me I still hadn’t made a mile so I kept going.  When it buzzed, my split read 6:51. Ugh.

After my rest break, I decided to run the second mile in the opposite direction.  Maybe counterclockwise was better luck?  Turns out it was.  I ran the second mile with the same effort–maybe even less–and I clocked a 6:21.  That was better.  I concentrated on relaxing and not letting the panic creep in. And I had validation that GPS was off since the mile alarm went off just before I completed two laps.

For the 400s, my goal was to just run a touch faster than the miles.  Since it was hard to tell exactly where a quarter mile was, I ran hard for 90 seconds instead and used my lap button.  Those two came in a 6:13 pace.  Good enough for today.

I am getting better at controlling the negative voice in my head during hard effort.  Perhaps I need to give that voice a name.  Give it a personality so whenever she talks, I can just say, “Oh, that’s just Negative Nancy trying to sabotage you.  SHUT UP, NANCY!”

The other lesson learned?  Always run counterclockwise!

 

Pacing the Girls on the Run 5K

Well that was fun!  Today I was the rabbit for the Girls on the Run 5K at UNC Asheville.  I had reached out to volunteer in some capacity a few weeks ago and Robin had the perfect job for me. The course was 3.75 laps around campus so my job was to make sure that the girls got the laps counted right and peeled off to the finish line at the right time.

I brought my kids with me so they could be a part of the action, even though they are too young to race.  They volunteered by picking up the beaded necklaces that the girls wore to count laps.  Every time the runners lapped the “Aim for the Stars” station, they would toss one of their three necklaces at the star sign and the volunteers would scoop them up.  Tess loves everything girly and was covered in bling when I came to get her!

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There were a few fast girls and one named Evan stuck with me the whole way.  She never stopped for water, only slowed slightly up the big hill, and raced me into the finish line at 24:32!  She did an amazing job!  She’s the one in the blue headband behind me.

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Last lap to go!

It was inspiring to see thousands of people out there running for such a great organization. I definitely plan to be a part of this again and can’t wait until my daughter is old enough to join in!

Earth Fare 5K Race Report: New PR!

I signed up for the Earth Fare 5K since it’s one of the few flat courses in town.  I’m still coming off marathon training and haven’t done much speed work at all so this gives me a baseline for the 5K for this year. And judging from the top times last year, I figured I could get third or at least first place Master’s (I love being a Master’s!).

It was a gorgeous, sunny and cool day in the upper 40s-low 50s.  I had thought I would run to the race as my warm up since it’s only 1.25 miles from home, but at the last minute decided to drive so I would have a place to stash my long sleeves.  It turned out to be a very good plan since they checked IDs at bib pick up and because I had so much swag to carry home after the race.  It’s a very good thing when a grocery store is the main sponsor!

I really have no idea how to run a 5K as far as strategy goes.  My plan was to start fast, keep going fast, and finish fast.  I got the first part right at least.  My first mile felt good, but certainly a little hard.  I was pleased to see my split at 6:06.  If I could hang on to that pace, I’d not only break 20 minutes, but I could break 19!

I was in third place for most of the first mile, trading spots with my teammate Megan.  We run track together and are pretty evenly matched.  Sometimes I’m faster; sometimes she is.  Of course I would love to beat her, but my goal was just to stick with her and we did that until about halfway.  A cheerful brunette in a Crossfit shirt bounced by us easily, cheering us on, “keep it up, girls!” I thought she must not be running hard enough if she could have the energy to not only pass us but encourage us!  Were we slowing down?  Mile two was the turn around point and my watch clicked a disappointing 6:38.  Wow.  Thirty-two seconds slower?  That is an eternity in such a short race.

Megan had fallen back enough that I could no longer hear her breathing.  At this point, I knew I had fourth place and therefore 1st Master’s, so I just did what I could so stay there.  I would not say that the pace was painful, but it’s definitely something that I was ready to stop doing.  On a scale of 1-10, I’d give it an 8.  I slowed much less the last mile, coming in at 6:41.  My chip time was 19:54, an average pace of 6:25.  Megan crossed the line 15 seconds behind me for fifth.

I wonder if I would have been more pleased if I had started at a 6:25 pace and held it the whole time.  Pacing is a skill that I am a long way from mastering.  The winner, my teammate Kate, had less than a 6 second spread between her mile paces.  I know my first mile cost me time at the end, so would starting at perhaps a 6:20 pace leave me enough reserves to stay stronger through the end?  I’m not sure, but probably.  I’m sure that I need a lot more work at this.

Tomorrow is track with the infamous Newton workout.  Lots of 200s and perhaps even some puking.  Yay.