Pretty consistently, whenever I really really don’t want to get up and run or work out is when I end up having the best runs or workouts. This morning was no exception. It was my first official 5K race of the year, and while I’ve been filling up my dance card for the year mainly with half marathons (signed up for 6 more before September), I haven’t forgotten my affinity for the 5K distance.
And my supreme, gut-busting, soul-crushing desire to break 30 minutes in a timed USATF 5K race.
I wrote recently of breaking 30 for 3.1 miles on the treadmill, and according to the GPS on my phone, I’ve broken it on the road as well, but we all know phone GPS isn’t always accurate and there is something about the official-ness of a timed race that makes my finish time seem that much more, well, official, I guess.
Long story short but I partied away my Friday night, forewent yoga (bad Nevie), then didn’t feel very well all day Saturday, so I only got in about 3 miles last night. Even that I wasn’t sure was exactly a good idea the night before a race, so I figured I’d just do the best I could at the Run Your Heart Out 5K and try to keep it under 35, because I’ve felt pretty sluggish in my last few runs and I knew it would be a very hilly course. So you could say my A goal was to PR my previous 30:46, B was to keep it under 32, C was to keep it under 35.
I do not give race day adrenaline enough credit, but maybe that’s a good thing for training.
After very little sleep, the only reasons I forced myself out of bed to get to the race were a) I knew my friend Jill had signed up and had been looking forward to seeing her, and b) I knew I’d feel even shittier if I didn’t go do it. So I hauled my ass out of bed, slapped together some sort of pink outfit for the heart/Valentine’s Day theme occasion, left the house, realized I forgot my wallet, went back to the house, realized I might show up after they closed Packet Pickup, made it to South Lakes HS in the nick of time, only to be met with the most annoying parking lot ever because of bored runners wandering around waiting for the race to start and wandering straight in front of my car while I tried to park.
I was grumpy and curmudgeony, and very luckily ran into Jill in the hallway of the high school where we kept warm until about 10 minutes before start time.
The race starts around the high school track for a little less than a quarter mile, then reaches around to a very narrow stretch where weaving was absolutely impossible. I was yet again frustrated and grumpy at the claustrophobia of the thing, but assured myself that the course had to open up at some point and maybe keeping a steady, slow-ish pace was keeping me in check from going out too fast.
I was right. A little after the mile marker, at which I saw the 1st place runner whiz by me, a mile ahead and on his way to the finish line, I was able to start doing some weaving. The course was indeed very hilly, but I was feeling strong and just reminded myself to push up the hill in a run, even if it meant smaller strides. I’d tell myself I’d walk once I got up the hill, but then felt so good when the course would even out or drop that I just kept running.
The winding nature of the course was so interesting too that it kept me mentally occupied. A couple of times I thought about slowing for a quick walk break but then would spot something ahead that was either a runner slowing that I wanted to pass, or a race sign that would intrigue me to keep running so I could read it sooner, or just a pretty bend in the path, and I kept running.
The hardest part of the race was at about mile 2.6 or 2.7. It was an out and back course and a previously very steep drop that was hard due to a lot of people slowing in front of me that I didn’t want to trip over, now became a very steep incline at the tail end of the race. Once I was up it my lungs were really feeling it, but I told myself it was all mental and I could breathe just fine and I just needed to keep a steady pace.
Once back on the track, the last stretch of the race, I turned on the “speed interval practice” switch in my head and went all out to the 3 mile marker. From there it was just another 100 meter dash to the finish line and I gave it the best I had. Once I saw the clock at just turned to 30 I knew I could beat my PR even though I’d missed the sub-30. But with the hilliness of the course and the lack of sleep the night before, I was super proud of myself for the time I was getting. At that point I figured I’d just give it the most margin of a PR I could and pumped through the finish line.
Official time: 30:13, a 33 second PR!
Jill also PR’d! We lost each other once I put my headphones on (sorry for being an anti-social runner, Jill, it’s hard enough for me to do conversation at ‘conversational pace,’ let alone ‘race pace’) but found each other at the finish line for a big hug. And pictures, of course.
I’ll just end this by saying I’m excited to tackle the next PR Race Series event I have lined up for 2014 (Jill is running it too!). PR Race Series races have excellent swag – I love the tech t-shirt that came with this race, and their collectible pins are always pretty. Next up for PR Races is the Reston 10 Miler, which will be my hilly long run practice for Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half in March, but of course, first thing’s first: next weekend is the Virginia is for Lovers 14K in Virginia Beach, then it’s GLASS SLIPPER CHALLENGE TIME!
In the mean time, I’m gonna celebrate my PR and reflect on having cut off 4:59 seconds since my very first 5K in May of 2013. If I can just cut off 14 more seconds at a 5K before May 4, I’ll have accomplished a major feat in my personal bucket list – the sub-30 5K within a year of running my first one. Mission: go!
Age Group: 19/59