I really had no idea what I was going to run today - my workouts have been going really well in the last two weeks, but I'm training (well....tapering now) for a marathon, not a 5K, and I've never been one to race well at shorter distances when I'm in marathon shape. Plus, I'm not really a 5K specialist - I hate them, and it shows in how I perform in them. I much prefer either road miles (too short to think/hurt) or 10K and longer (the longer distance gives me more time to find a rhythm). 5Ks are awkwardly painful, like shoes that are both too wide and too short.
So why did I run this race? Especially 10 days out from my marathon? Well....I'm one of those people that tapers best by cutting the volume but keeping the intensity during taper. So I really had to get some fast running in this week. And due to various scheduling issues, I wouldn't be able to make any of my team's workouts this week. I could either do fast running on my own at some point on Thursday or Friday, or race a Turkey Trot. I chose the latter. And I went with a 5K simply because I wanted to keep the race distance short this close to the marathon - no 5 milers or 10Ks.
So I went with SOME, which was a 5K, a fast course, and conveniently located partway between my own home and my parents' place. As I noted before, I had no idea what I'd run. If you had asked me on the starting line, I would have told you somewhere between 19:30 and 19:45. Any of which would have been a good 5K time for me - though my PR is 19:10, that was set several years ago. Since turning 40 and returning from the torn hamstring (I'm not sure which was the bigger setback), my 5K times have been:
2014 - 20:24, 20:24, 20:16
2015 - 20:29, 20:16, 19:51 (but also managed to break 40 for 10K)
2016 - 19:48, 21:05 (asthma), 20:22
I've had plenty of decent and some great performances at other distances, but my 5K races have been relatively mediocre. Hence my modest expectations. And my delight at running 19:20.
The SOME 5K is a very fast course in downtown DC. It's pancake flat, and though it has two hair pin turns, they come early enough in the course that you don't lose too much speed. When you get great weather (like we did today), it's a great race to shoot for a PR on.
SOME did start at 9:00 am, lending itself to a casual morning. I left the house around 7:40 am, which was more than enough time to find parking, chill out, warm-up, and hit the bathrooms a few times (5Kolitis). I noted that the (mild) wind was coming from the east this year; usually it's from the west. Since the race starts heading east and ends heading west, this was good news - I'd have the headwind for the first part, when there would be others to draft off of, and then the tailwind would help me home.
As always in shorter races, I timed my warm-up to include two hard running segments of 60-90 seconds about 15 minutes before the race start. Yes, I've tried racing shorter stuff off of just easy jogging and strides, and it doesn't work well for me. The first few minutes of hard running are always really tough for me, so I prefer to get them out of the way before the race.
Then I lined up. Holiday races are always packed with people who go out like idiots, so I seeded myself a bit further back than I normally would, so that I'd start the race with people who (in going out too fast) would be running my pace).
The race start was a bit odd - at 8:59 the airhorn sounded. No advance warning or announcement, it just went off. Everyone flinched, then looked at each other and shrugged. Nobody actually crossed the starting line (that I could see). At 9:00 am the airhorn went off again, and this time we started. I'm still not sure what was going on - whether the first airhorn was a mistake, or whether we were supposed to start but nobody did.
But anyways, we were off. I ran this race with my watch blanked like always, so my pacing strategy was based on feel - be patient for the first half mile, then start moving up, but try to stay relaxed throughout. Patience was necessary in the first half mile, as people surged and faltered and surged and swerved. All part of the Turkey Trot experience, I guess. I dodged runners carefully - the last thing I wanted to do was to twist my ankle before CIM.
After a few hundred meters, the worst of the logjam cleared, and it was smooth sailing. Too smooth, in fact - I had a distinct feeling of a) not working that hard but b) not being able to find the next gear. That's normal for me when I'm in marathon training -and while some of it may be physiological, I think more of it is mental - I'm just not used to the 5K flavor of hurt, and so I can't go there. And it's compounded by the fact that my goal marathon is so close that it's hard to care about a 5K. And if I don't care about the 5K, then I have no appetite for 5K effort.
This course has been changed slightly from the last time I ran it, and so it was difficult during the middle section to know how far I was from the finish. Especially since mile marker two was missing. Fortunately, almost all of the last mile of the race is on Pennsylvania Avenue, and so once we turned there, I could see the finish and measure my energy. Additionally, I know the route well enough to know that:
- 12th Street - the finish
- 11th Street - 3 mile mark
- 9th Street - 400m to go
- 6th Street - 800m to go
- 3rd Street - 1200m to go.
I ran this race with my watchface blanked as always, and so I didn't know my time until I approached the finish. I was pleasantly surprised to see it counting up from 19:1x. I kicked and kicked, and when I finished and hit "stop" my watch read 19:19. Unfortunately the official race time is 19:20 - a slight bummer, but the difference between 19:19 and 19:20 is nowhere near as painful as the difference between 19:59 and 20:00. Especially when neither would have been a PR, and both are significantly faster than I expected to run. Appreciate what you have.
Mile 1: 6:20
Miles 2-3: 12:21
last bit: 0:38 (5:48 pace).
- I ended up second masters female, to a local woman I wasn't familiar with who ran just over 19:00. For a bit I thought this might be another case of bib-swapping - a good news/bad news thing. Then I confirmed that she was legit - she just mainly does triathlons, not road races. No cheating here, and I was second. So that was good news/bad news too.
- Weather was high 40s and overcast, perfect!
- Debated on whether to wear my marathon shoes (Adios Boost) or my preferred short distance shoe (Takumi Sen). Decided to play it safe and race with the Adios - it's still a very fast shoe that many people use for 5Ks. And racing a 5K 10 days before a marathon is risky enough without compounding it by wearing flats you haven't worn since May.
- Ended up a bit tight chested in the morning, so had to use my rescue inhaler pre-race. My guess is that this is because I didn't get a good puff of my Advair this morning (I was interrupted mid-puff this morning by a cat litter box altercation, and that's all you need to know).
- Had an expresso GU in the morning pre-race, plus some shot blocks (Tropical Punch). Yummy in that runner way. GU really does have the coffee flavors down.