Full disclosure: I signed up for this race for the t-shirt and sadly, I was disappointed. I ran this race several years ago – it’s a super hilly course and not at all conducive to a PR, but I got this great long sleeved cotton t-shirt. Usually, I prefer tech tees but I love this shirt. It’s seen better days, so I thought it was time for an update. It was also perfect timing to “test” my fitness and see how much work I needed to do once Hansons Round 2 begins. I showed up to packet pick only to find they switched to cheap, ill fitting tech tees. The logo is the same, but this was one time I was really hoping for cotton. Silver lining: it will make a good throw away shirt for the fall!
My speedy friend, Megan, decided to join me. She ran a 1:23 at the St. Luke’s Half Marathon, but also spent much of May recovering and running easy. We both thought this would be a fun, low key event. I know it isn’t reasonable to stay in peak fitness all year round, and I’m not one of those people who can do minimal work and bust out a PR. Although I’d been running consistently over the past few weeks, I knew the lower volume and lack of intensity would rear it’s head in a 5K.
We arrived early and did a 2-ish mile warm up. By the end of the warm up, we were drenched in sweat and the sun was beating down on us. It was very hot and humid, and I knew the heat and the hills might make this a tough morning. I felt decent enough, but certainly not prepared to break my 5K PR (18:48) from the St. Pat’s 5K in March. My goal to treat this like my first tempo run for Hansons and do a solid “speed” workout. I wanted to warm up, run the 5K at my goal marathon pace, and cool down. This meant I needed to average 6:45 pace, or a 20:58 overall. If I began the race and felt amazing and effortless, of course I’d try for a PR (because why not) – but that was unlikely and not my focus for this race.
We lined up at the front and the race went off on time. It begins downhill, but after that it feels like the course just climbs for the duration of the race. In reality, it’s probably about equal but the climbs felt like they lasted forever:
I went out fast, and a whole bunch of younger girls (think high school aged) blew past Megan and I. Within the first mile, I’d passed all but one of them. The first climb hit and I was sucking wind for sure, but I didn’t feel terrible. Mile 1- 6:09.
The second mile was mostly uphill.Megan glided past me and I hung on her heels for a little while. She gained some distance on me, but I could still see her and I wasn’t that far behind her. The last race we ran together was the Superbowl Sunday 10K (very early in Hansons Round 1), and I lost sight of her in the first mile. At that moment, I made it my goal to stay as close to her as possible and not let the gap get any bigger. Mile 2- 6:38.
The final mile had a little more of a downhill grade, and I kept the distance between us the same. I wasn’t winded or tired, but my legs didn’t have that peppiness they had during any of my spring races. And why should they? The last time I did any sort of speed workout was before Boston – the first week in April, and that wasn’t 5K pace. It was marathon pace minus 10 seconds per mile. The last time I ran 5K pace was in my last 5K – in March. I was pretty happy that I was feeling good, just not peppy. My heart rate really confirms what I felt:
So my heart was there, but my legs didn’t seem to understand WTF was happening to them. Mile 3 – 6:31.
We turned the corner and I saw the finish line. I knew I couldn’t pass Megan, but I wasn’t too far behind her. Final .1 – 5:29 pace. Oh hey legs, you are awake. Nice to see you.
My time was 19:56, and Megan’s was 19:47, and I feel really good about it. I exceeded my expectation of holding marathon pace. It was a great way to coax my legs out of hibernation and prepare them for Hansons Round 2.
We cooled down for another two-ish miles, and then came back for awards. The first place female was a high school student and finished in 19:30, Megan got second and I got third overall, or first in the 30-34 age group. We got medals and I know from running this in a previous year that we usually get a gift certificate or prize money in the mail a few weeks later.
Most of all, even though the time on the clock was over a minute slower than my PR, this race was a good measure of physical and mental progress. Two years ago (2014, what I previously referred to as my golden year), I was just breaking 20 minutes in a 5K when I was in peak fitness, and now I was able to do it at the end of a recovery period. In 2015, I was constantly injured and couldn’t run even one 5K, let alone break 20 minutes – the speed would have destroyed my Achilles and my calves. Mentally, I never would have been able to show up at a race, run slower than my PR, and be okay with it before this year. I crossed the finish line and felt happy and proud of the race I ran. Even though the t-shirt didn’t meet my expectations, I’m sure I’ll run this one again!
Ever sign up for a race during recovery to test your fitness? Do struggle with the mental aspect of racing when you know a PR is unlikely?