It seems fitting that the first and last races I did this year were 5Ks, an event I have very little recent experience with and a pretty strong dislike for. Spoiler: The 2011 Christmas Caper falls under the “oops, I PR’d” category but doesn’t quite hold the same sense of accomplishment as a race that is, I don’t know, TWO SECONDS FASTER.
Katie and I decided a few weeks back to register for the Potomac Valley Track Club’s last event of the year to be held down at Hains Point. I was itching to race the shit out of a 5K — I felt like my recent race results indicated that my PR, set in February of this year following a very long hiatus from the distance, was begging to be broken — and Katie was eager to PR her 10K as a solid way to close out the 2011 season. PVTC’s races are like $10 — there’s no swag, but I’d rather that than $30+ for a t-shirt I probably won’t wear — and you go out and just run, which is really the whole point of all this anyway.
So — this seemed like a really good idea a few weeks ago after a particularly good tempo run, but as the race neared, I became a little less enthusiastic about making this my epic 5K blowout. Thanksgiving and a trip to Florida interrupted my training, I’ve spent a whole lot more time in the pool than on the road, and my knees are still stiff and covered in purple bruises. I didn’t do any real thoughtful training or taper or nutrition or rest or anything leading up to the weekend, and I stayed up a little (ok, a lot) later on Friday night than I probably should have. It was just a 5K, right? Nothing compared to the five or 12-hour races I’m used to doing. So nothing to it. Whoops.
Not to mention that 6:30 is too early for an alarm on an off-season Saturday.
I ran the 2.5 miles down to Hains as my warmup — almost the distance of the race, I know — which was great because I was sweating and ready to go by the time I met up with Katie and Thom, though maybe a little less so after sitting around for 20-ish minutes while it got colder and the wind picked up. I grabbed my bib and danced around in an attempt to stay warm while waiting for the race to start.
Sidenote: This race totally took me back to high school cross country. With super-low entry fees, it’s a no-frills event. No chip timing, a guy saying “go” over the megaphone, chalk start/finish lines and turnarounds, etc. Just a bunch of people out to run for the sake of running — and gems such as this:
Anyway, I lined up toward the front of the pack of 200 or so people there for the 5K event. Because the event wasn’t chip-timed, I knew it’d be important not to get stuck in the back (and that I was really counting on my Garmin for the official time based on when I actually crossed the start and finish). After a quick intro from the race director about the course, we were off.
The brilliant thing about Hains is that it’s flat. The not-so-brilliant thing is that it’s windy as all hell. The 5K was an out-and-back of about 2/3 of the loop — wind at your back on the first part and a terrible headwind on the second. Ouch.
I have basically no idea what to do in a race this short other than go balls to the wall from start to finish. Thom suggested I try to land myself in the (nonexistent) medical tent, and that’s exactly what I set out to do. That means I went out way WAY fast. Like, half a mile in was my “oh shit” moment. I was actually leading for the women until a bit after this point, which was exciting. Then my first mile split at 6:09, and I was having a hard time deciding whether this was brilliant or a disaster. Turns out it was more the latter. My lungs were burning from the cold, and my stomach was freaking out over the effort level. Then mile 2 split at 6:27 and mile 3 at 6:34. Oof.
This is exactly how NOT to execute a 5K.
I had in my head that a sub-20:00 was totally possible. That milestone has haunted me since forever, and I was never fast enough to quite get there in high school. A mile or so in, I thought I totally had a 19:30 in me. Then my pace slowed and I thought that surely a 19:59 was there. Then, as I was sprinting that last straightaway, I could see the clock counting up starting around 19:30. 19:40. 19:50. And I JUST. COULDN’T. GET. THERE.
I crossed the line at 20:01.
I mean, really.
This is a huge PR for me. In a 5K, 35 seconds is a lot of time to drop. I was the second woman overall. And that’s fantastic and I’m proud of it. But to miss that huuuuuuge milestone by so little is really frustrating. I know I had 2-3 more seconds in me. I was hoping not to have to do a 5K in 2012 — it’s one of my most-hated distances — but I don’t think I can go a whole year with that one second taunting me. I’d rather expend my energy on training for and racing longer distances that I actually like, but maybe I can throw one into my marathon cycle and finally check it off the list.
In any case, I definitely worked hard, at least according to Garmin (which, as we all know, is always right). Hello, average HR of 195. I didn’t even think that was possible, but it sure as hell felt like I was working that hard.
Anyway, after I finished I joined Thom to wait for Katie to come back around and go out again for her second lap (the 10K did the 5K course twice, duh). As soon as I stopped running I was freezing, so I collected gloves that Katie threw away and a headband that another friend dropped and an extra pair of sweatpants that Thom was carrying. It was a good look. When Katie finished, we did a quick cooldown, claimed my prize — a snowman cookie jar! — and jumped in the warm car. The rest of my day included another short run to and from Stroga for a TRX class (more on that later) putting me at almost 9.5 miles for the day, three batches of fresh-baked holiday cookies, and movie night with friends. All in all, a solid Saturday.
I’ll be back for you, 20:00.
*PVTC’s official results say 20:04. I joke about Garmin always being right, but in this case I’m actually using the Garmin time because we didn’t have chips.