Sunday, August 28, 2011
My 18:02 finish was 9 seconds off my personal best, but this race wasn't about PRs. This race was about getting back into racing. In order to do that, I needed to have a good race; one where I felt in control and strong the entire way; one that left me with a hunger to race faster and harder. Yesterday's race did that for me.
I have some experience racing the 5k distance and have never liked it. That awful burning feeling in my legs that comes on during the last mile always screams "SLOW DOWN OR YOU WILL DIE" to me, and I always obey. My 5k races have always been run in the middle of marathon training. Over the last 8 weeks, I've given myself the luxury of training for the 5k with race-specific workouts, and I think it made a big difference. First, I now have a consistent warm-up routine: 2 mile jog + 5 minutes of drills + 5 strides. I basically do this routine before all of my track workouts so it is familiar, and I know it is effective. I timed my warm up so that I ran my last stride 3 minutes before the gun.
Second, I really know my race pace. I started a little fast in the first 400m or so, but I very quickly fell into 5:45 pace--my first mile split. I went through the second mile in 5:42 and felt really good compared to how I felt last year at that same point on the course. The third mile was my slowest this year and last year. It's a naturally slow mile because it has 4 out of the 4 90-degree turns on the course. Plus, it was the last mile which is always the toughest. I thought about that last mile at the end of every workout over the last 8 weeks.
My friend Brooke ran her first race in a while recently and gave me the best advice, "don't go out too fast and remember the burn is normal!" I repeated, "the burn is normal" with every step in that last mile. The thing that made me happiest was seeing that I ran that 3rd mile 5 seconds faster this year than I did last year. It's a good thing too, because the 24 year old second place finisher wasn't far off of my tail. I led the whole race, so I had no idea where my competition was.
While I came in 9 seconds slower than last year, I can't complain at all. I was in awesome shape at this point last year, so being even close to that fitness level given how little training I've had to work off of is really promising. Of course, I would love to be faster, but I also feel like I am not yet fully baked. I think I need about 3 more weeks to get back into the swing of racing so I can really push myself and test my fitness.
I am changing my schedule accordingly. My original plan was to end my 5k training with this race, take a major down week next week and then do some base training before starting into a 15-week marathon program on October 3rd. Instead, I'll recycle some of the mid-week 5k workouts from the Squires and Lahane plan and race the next 3 weekends. I'm also going to bump up my weekend long runs a bit each week, so I'll be ready to roll out consistent 20 milers come October. More than anything, I just want to get my body and brain used to racing aggressively. Next weekend I'll run a local 5k cross country race. The following two weekends are 5k road races. I'll then do one week of base and take a week off before hitting the marathon plan.
Countdown to the Olympic Trials Marathon: 138 days!