After the challenging race the weekend before, I was looking forward to vindicating myself here. A couple of things were working in my favour: the weather was cool but sunny (perfect!), the race is along the lake, flat and a bit breezy but better than super hot, or raining (also perfect), and I know this course like the back of my hand (I run it almost every Saturday morning with my group of friends). I also was in a better frame of mind. The previous week I was putting some pressure on myself, and I also failed in doing what I was supposed to do, which was negative split. This time around, I resolved myself to run fast, but also run smart. Not go like a banshee out of the gate, but start at a decent speed, around 5:30m/km and once people spread out and the course opens up, pick up the pace. I did not want to blow up half way like I did before.
The warm up run was good; I ran it extra slow and cautious. I got to the race about 20 minutes before the start; perfect timing to do a bit of a cool down walk around, and wait for the race to start. Like I said, the weather was IMHO perfect. My breakfast was sitting well, and I felt great.
I had a bit of a challenge seeding myself in the corral; I wasn’t really sure how fast/slow everyone was. I put myself around the middle of the pack, and hoped it would be a good spot. At 9am the announcer counted down, and we were off.
The first 500m were pretty congested; it is the Waterfront Trail, and everyone was thundering along it. Eventually it started to thin out, and I got into my groove. My coach said to run it “like I stole something”, but again, I was worried about flaming out, so I slowly pushed the pace to 5:00. The course does have a few ups and downs, nothing major but enough to make a difference. Once I got down to the flat part right along the lake, I pushed a little harder, trying to keep my HR at Z5 on the nose (5.0 or 5.1). I looked down and saw my pace was 4:45. I felt pretty good, so I held on.
I hit the turnaround (which essentially was a dead stop and an about-face) and started back. I held on to that 4:45 pace right up to the 4km mark. At that point, my HR zone was 5.9 and I was starting to hurt. My breathing was very fast (gasping) and I was getting a cramp, so I opted to power-walk up the hill and pick it up at the top. That 20-30 second walk was just what I needed; once I started up I felt awesome, and resumed my 4:30-4:45 pace right through the end.
The turnaround ended up not being placed correctly, so when I finished my Garmin said I still had 100m to go. That’s why at the end of the race my pace drops dramatically. I walked the 100m until my Garmin registered 5km then stopped it. So while my Garmin time says 0:24:58, my actual timing chip time is 0:24:11. According to the official results I was 8th overall, 6th in my gender, and 4th in my age group (19-59). It’s also my 2nd fastest 5k EVER! WOO FREAKING HOO! I was so happy at the end!
That said, I didn’t follow my coach’s instructions as closely as I could have. I’m pretty sure I had a bit left in the tank at the end. The walk break was disappointing, but necessary. I would have cramped up or blown up without it. I could have run a bit harder in that last km, but again, I was worried about having to stop again, so I just ran a fast and uncomfortable pace and pushed it through to the finish. I don’t have a lot of experience with pushing myself that hard in a race, to leave it all out there. I’ve done it a few times, but not in recent years. It’s something I’m working on.
Another thing I’m happy about is my mental game. Before the race I vowed not to let any negative thoughts affect me, no matter what happens, or how I’m doing in the race. I told myself to relax, and run it fast. Discomfort is necessary for growth, and I told myself to just let it come, but not get consumed by it. That was very different from the 10km where I beat myself up and essentially gave up half way through. That will not happen again.
I smiled through the whole 5km cool down on the way home.
Next race is not until the end of July, so I’ve got some time to build up my speed, and continue the build-up to STWM.