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!


Becoming a Badass at the 5K

It’s been said that marathoning is the new mid-life crisis.  The marathon is awe-inspiring and one of those goals you set for yourself without really knowing if you can do it.  When non-runners hear people talking about running a marathon, they are either really  impressed or pretty much think you are insane.  The 5K, however,  holds no such glory. Tell people you are training for a 5K and they will probably politely nod and then talk about what they had for dinner last night.  Running a mere 3.1 miles just doesn’t sound all that impressive.  Almost anyone can run that.  Kids and old people and dads with strollers run those!  Heck, people walk those things and even pay to get blasted with colored cornstarch.  5Ks are really not for serious runners.

Except if you want to win.

I ran my first 5K a week after the Boston marathon last year (Recovery? What’s that?).  I realize that I have done the running thing a little out of order, but I wanted to go straight to the most prestigious event as soon as possible.  5Ks just aren’t impressive, remember?  My first training run ever was probably about a 5K (never mind that I was sore for a week afterwards), so racing one just didn’t occur to me as a good running goal.  I wanted to get fit and see how far I could go.  Getting faster was not on my radar yet.  But after my third marathon, I wanted to change things up and see what I could do at a shorter distance.  So I signed up for the 2015 Falafel 5K at the Jewish Community Center and set off on the hilly course to see what happened.  I finished in second place in just over 21 minutes.

I raced two more 5Ks last year, (even winning one of them!) each getting a little faster, but I have never officially broken 20 minutes.  I have done it in training, but never in a race.  Asheville is a hilly place and I have yet to race a flat or track 5K, so I’d like to see what my potential is.

A 5K plan differs from marathon training in that the weekly mileage is less (looking forward to that!), but the speed work is not terribly different than some of the workouts I have done in the past.  Mile repeats, 800s, 400s, cut-down tempos are all in the mix.  I also plan to keep up with weight training and plyometrics classes, perhaps even bumping up to three days a week.

The 5K is a different kind of pain than the marathon.  For most of a marathon, you are running at a “comfortably hard” pace until it gets really hard near the end.  During a 5K, it’s just hard the whole time, without being a complete sprint.  You start fast and just hang on for dear life.

While not many people outside the running world appreciate it, doing well at the distance that balances speed and distance is an accomplishment.  It will also give me a chance to focus on speed and focus on a new aspect of running.  It will be a literal change of pace.

And who knows?  Maybe I’ll ditch the marathon for shorter distances.  I’m giving myself the summer to find out.  Maybe the 5K will be my latest mid-life crisis.