I didn't nail my PR, though I came very close running 17:57. It was a great experience full of good lessons including:
1. I still love my Garmin and am glad I wore her.
2. Warm ups are essential for short distances.
3. Time trials are hard to do well.
After my 10k race on Monday, I thought a lot about the things I could improve upon for my short distance racing. I focused a lot on whether or not to wear my Garmin since I was a bit of a slave to her during that 10k. In my conversation with my Garmin earlier this week, I resolved to use her as a stopwatch and to not look at my pace between mile markers.
Another thing I wanted to change was my warm up. I wanted to actually do one for this race. Last night, I decided to try some visualization techniques and started by recalling a short race where I really had a great experience. I looked through my Garmin GPS files and found two races where I felt particularly good and was mostly consistent in my pacing. Guess what? Those were the two races where I actually did a structured warm up. This also reminded me of one of the reasons I wear my Garmin in a race: it records what I'm doing. I could see exactly how I had warmed up, how close to the start time and how my race played out; mile by mile.
I showed up 45 minutes early for the race and started my warm up "routine". It consisted of about 11 minutes of slow running followed by 2 minutes at LT effort (5:57 pace) followed by 5 minutes of jogging. I then stopped at the potty facilities and walked over to the starting line. Fifteen minutes prior to start time, I began doing strides. Five minutes before the start, I moved into position behind the line. Then, we waited--for a train to pass by. This was a bummer because I was warm and ready to go, go, go. We waited 10 minutes for the train to pass and then we were off.
I took off with the lead cyclists and immediately felt like I was going too fast. And, that's because I was. Based on the chart below (with my splits broken down into 1/4 mile increments), I was at 5:24 pace for the first 1/4 mile, the 180-degree turn slowed me a bit before I slammed back down to 5:26 pace for the next quarter mile. I could tell by my breathing that this pace was unsustainable, but I didn't look at my Garmin! By then, I realized I was in for a time trial with the rest of the pack pretty far back as the picture below shows taken by D-Murr at around the 3/4 mile point.
While this course is flat, there are a lot of turns in it, so some of my fastest quarters were on the straightaways while the slowest were through the turns. Once I sort of settled into a pace, I felt good. My first mile split was 5:42. My second mile read 5:40, and I was feeling pretty happy with that. I was trying my best to stay true to my pledge to not look at my Garmin for my pace, but I am a little upset that I didn't because I would have seen how much I was slowing in the third mile. Without anyone to work with, I let myself slow down a lot and, based on my 1/4 mile splits, it looks like it started around the halfway mark. I thought I was still cruising when I went through the 2-mile mark, but I had already started to fade. My split at the 3-mile marker was 6:00. I was actually shocked when I saw that because I really didn't feel like I had slowed.
Apparently, I had actually picked it up as soon as I saw the 3-mile sign and brought my pace down to 5:30 at about 2.75 miles into the race. Just before I turned the corner toward the finish, I saw a woman holding a bag on my left, taking away my tangent. I did not see the two ladies on my right that decided to cross the street right in front of me (photo evidence provided by D-Murr). I successfully veered around them without incident. As I rounded the corner, I saw the clock for the first time and knew I was going to be cutting it close if I wanted to break 18:00. That was the motivation I needed to move my legs a little faster. I ran 35 seconds for the last 0.11 miles (5:23 pace).
I was slightly disappointed to hear that someone had stolen my thunder about 2 1/2 minutes before I crossed the line, sprinting to the tape while she was cheered on by finish-line spectators excited to see the top female finish--in 15:30. She took a wrong turn at Albuquerque, I guess. So, the fans weren't quite as jubilant when I came around the bend to break the tape for real.
As for my relationship with my Garmin, I am sticking with her. I wonder whether I would have picked up my pace sooner had I looked down to see how much I slowed in that 3rd mile. I was going by effort, and the effort felt hard. I guess I need to better understand what that effort should feel like, because it's not constant throughout the race.
Maybe because I slowed more than I should have, I was quite pleased with how I felt the whole race. A lot of that can be chalked up to having done a good warm up, I'm sure, even if I did stand around and get "cold" for 10 minutes before the race. Normally, at mile 2, I would be talking to myself about how shitty I feel and how it wouldn't be shameful to just pull off to the side and end the misery. None of that even entered my mind today. Honestly, I'm actually thrilled to be running this well right now given that 7 weeks ago, I wasn't even sure I'd be running at all at this point in time.
I want to thank everyone who cheered for me out on the course (whether I heard you or not--DG) and congratulate all the women who got out today to run or walk in this event raising money for WEAVE (Women Escaping A Violent Environment). It was fantastic to have such great support. Thanks to Fleet Feet Sports for putting on another great event.
This race experience showed me that I have something important to work on for my upcoming short races. I think my fitness is coming along nicely, but I do need to get used to the feeling of 5k pace late in a race. I want to do something big at the Masters National Championships in July on the track and that's going to take some serious brain training.