Last Sunday was the third weekend in a row where I raced the 5k distance. I had it in my mind that if I could just get a nice flat-ish course that was 3.12 miles (or so), that I would be able to beat my recent PR of 19:20. I ended up not racing very well, but learned some things.
I still have a lot to learn...
I had a little trouble getting out of bed Sunday morning, but eventually got ready and out the door.
The sky tore open and rain dumped out for the last 20 miles to Eugene, (and never really stopped). I arrived at Alton Baker Park in plenty of time to register, use the restroom, and warm up.
While I was signing up, I bumped into an old race rival/friend "Chicken Head", also known as Tom. We discussed the weather and if he should wear his costume or not, and both of us were in a little bit of a foul spirit about conditions. (pardon the pun).
An easy mile of warm up later, and I looked at my watch. I ran about a minute and a half slower than my "good" easy pace. I told myself that "it's good to warm up easy first", and that "I have felt crappy before and managed to race well despite it". My racing self was not buying any of the positive-affirming-coach self-talk.
A few racers were warming up, and I made sure that my shoes still could do strides and drills in puddles. Then I found a dry spot to wait for a few minutes before the race started.
At the start, I was surprised at how many people showed up at the last minute, several in costume. (I will speculate a good many did not turn out since it was between pouring and light rain right up to the gun, but there were about 300.)
This was a dog-friendly race (a first for me), with lots of little dogs in costumes. (Makes me wonder if the RD will ever start charging a fee and make them wear a bib.) Anyhooo...they were on leash, much to my relief.
The race started and we were off. The course followed a familiar path along the river, and in the first mile I started struggling. There was a dog running behind me- a big dog. I could hear his nails and tags, and I kept thinking..."How is this dog (and his owner) running this pace?" I don't run with a dog, so maybe that is not that uncommon, I just kept waiting for them to back off. I was a little afraid the dog might get tangled in my feet and cause me to go down. Irrational, maybe, but that's where my mind was.
I was none too pleased about a 6:08 pace mile one. I had worked hard for that, and I began to lose the mental battle there. Normally my body can make up for whatever confidence I don't have, and my perspective improves mid-race. Physically I was not having a good day.
Shortly after the first mile, I was passed by a woman and a few guys. She wore pink shorts and I didn't recognize her from any other races. And no wonder she passed! I was slowing down.
The second mile went over a foot bridge. I kept losing speed as we went, and I kept getting passed. I could not push away the negative thoughts about it, and was fighting my own gut feeling that I was too tired to race. Nothing felt "on". My shoulders and back have been very tired, and my legs just weren't turning over at the rate they had been recently able to. I considered stopping, (and then how ridiculous that would be). So I kept going...
It was work. Not fun, work. Mile 2: 6:19
I heard footsteps and knew there was a woman behind me. Could I do it? Could I stay ahead of her? That became more important than the fading time on my watch. I just didn't want to be passed by another woman. Somehow I kept her behind me as we went up and over the second bridge. Mile 3: 6:29
With the finish line in sight, and the sounds of third female trailing at my heels, I just tried to keep my feet rotating. And here, FINALLY, I felt like my core and hips were engaging properly (something missing in the entire first 3 miles of the race). All this to keep ahead of the other racer- racers- behind me. last .15 @ 5:52 pace - official results
We crossed the line a second apart - 19:51, and 19:52. Relieved to beat 20 minutes, (as I had not been watching my watch very carefully after mile 2), I turned to see who had been pushing me. A woman in wet fairy wings! We talked for a brief moment as our tags were taken, and she asked me something about the race, and if I normally run that for a 5k. I have no idea why she asked this, or what she expected me to say, but I admitted it was not what I was shooting for.
- I might not be the kind of runner who can race a hard 5k three weekends in a row. Two might be pushing it. Every other weekend might be better.
- Just to make sure I could do it, I ran a short "light workout" of 4x600's in between races at just faster than goal 5k pace. In hindsight, this might not have been a good idea between races, but I don't really know. I probably won't try it the same way again, though.
- There are some silly dogs and dog owners in Eugene!! It was fun to see all the costumes and the kids who came out to run the kids race. I need to take pictures at races!
- The finish time is a failure today, only because I prepared myself for something much faster; but, three months ago it was a good pace for me. I am improving- I just need some time to let my body absorb it all.
- Instead of focusing on what went wrong, I am using this and going to keep my "season" open. Flexibility is good!!!
- When I can't motivate myself, and am frustrated with how things are going, it is amazing what a little competition can do!