Sunday, April 3, 2011

5Ks of confidence boosting

When I wrote up my current training plan, I had a great idea to throw in a few 5Ks (like one per month) to work on firing up whatever fast twitch muscles I might have. Plus work on regaining my short distance speed, in hopes of improving my distance speed a little as well.

But after the Valentine's 5K in early February, I didn't manage to do another. The series I had in mind just seemed inconvenient and too much work to get to. The one 10k I planned to do was on a day that was bitter cold and icy, after a snowstorm earlier in the week. I ditched the race and went skiing instead. (The ski hill we went to actually had better weather, and amazing powder. I don't like skiing in soft, deep snow, but this was dry and light and fun even for me!)

So most of my runs have been longer. There were the four half marathons in January, then the Shamrock 15K, and finally the Birch Bay 30K last weekend. All of those were fine for the distance (especially the 15K and 30K), but didn't really give me a chance to see what my legs could do after a few months of getting back into speed work.

Then I got an Active email mentioning the Race Judicata 5K on April 2 (put on by one of the law school departments, of course). ("Res judicata" is a legal term preventing relitigation of claims that have already been decided. It gives rise to a play on words that is a popular name for law school sponsored races!)

It seemed like a good opportunity to kick off the "sharpening" phase of taper. At best, I might run a fast 5K and feel really happy with myself. At worst, even if my pace was way off what I would like, it would still be faster than marathon goal pace, a good (though short) training run, and a success regardless.

I didn't really decide to run it for sure until after I did a strong tempo run on Wednesday morning. I had been undecided whether to go for tempo or 800s, but when the rain continued unabated (I later saw the dirt section of the track was almost entirely a big puddle), I opted for the tempo run.

Because I had to be at work almost an hour early on Wednesday, I actually hit the pavement at 5:50 a.m. (which has been unheard of this winter). I did about 2.25 miles warm-up, then launched my first round of tempo miles, 3.1. I will admit that some of this had a downhill grade...but I also got to go up as well.

It was still dark out--and did I mention raining?--so I had to run by feel rather than looking at my Garmin incessantly. I tried to run at a hard but not lung busting effort. I didn't even get to see my splits until I was completely done later, but it turned out that each of the three miles was about 8:30, within 2-3 seconds. The final tenth was at 7:50 pace. Great!

I jogged for about 2/3 mile to recover and round off the mileage on my watch. Then I did two more tempo miles, 8:49 (uphill and into the wind) and 8:29. I jogged the rest of the way home and ended up with 8.75 miles (on a day when I didn't even think I had enough time to run before work).

That gave me enough confidence to sign up for the 5K today. It didn't start until 10:30, so I didn't need to leave super early, though it was a fairly long drive down there.

My trip through south central Seattle took me back almost 20 years, when some of my friends lived in the area. I drove down streets I hadn't seen for years, as well as some I'd never been on before. Finally I approached Seward Park on Lake Washington. Luckily I went easily to the right parking area and got the last spot near the starting area. That was convenient for dropping my jacket at the last minute. And being in a strange place alone, I just felt better parking close to the start.

I got my bib and race shirt (a tech shirt, nice for such a small race), and dropped them at the car before heading overt the restroom (also nearby). Then I quickly put my gear on so I could do a warm-up run. The race started in 30 minutes so I figured I could manage two miles and still have a cushion of time to get to the start.

I've only been in Seward Park a few times, including during the Seattle Rock 'n' Roll and the Seattle Marathon. It is a big park, with lots of running (and walking and biking) paths. Since it is right on Lake Washington, many paths border the lake, although the 5K ran inside the park as well as beside the water.

I did my warm-up in the opposite direction, just jogging about a mile then turning around and heading back. I was doing about a 10-minute pace, and had no sense of whether my legs would want to speed up soon. I had enough time to make another potty stop and round up my warm-up distance to 2.2 miles before heading to the start area.

I had a general idea where the start would be and figured the crowd of people would confirm it. As I was heading toward that spot, I saw several runners heading further along the path. I thought they were going too far, and did not follow them. Shortly thereafter, I saw another group of people and a woman with an airhorn and I met them at the real start. Unfortunately there was nothing to mark the starting line, which I am sure caused some confusion!

This was one of the smallest races I have ever been in. The final results show 39 participants. When we were gathered at the start there seemed even fewer, and the start was delayed a few minutes for stragglers to join in. (We did, however, run into some other misguided participants along the way, and I believe they may have jumped in from there.)

I had no idea how I could do with such a small group of competitors. Luckily, there were a few people running about my pace, or a bit faster, so I had people to pace myself by.

As the fastest runners disappeared into the distance, I hit my stride at a steady sub-8. The first mile was pretty flat, even slightly downhill in places, and although I didn't want to look at my Garmin too much, I couldn't really help myself. It was encouraging to see my pace consistently in the 7s, even 6:xx for a moment or two on occasion. Mile 1 - 7:41.

In the second mile, I knew from the pre-race instructions that we would turn and do the "Picnic Loop," and also that this segment involved a hill. Oh yes, it did. I don't know how long this hill was, but it was plenty long enough in the middle of a 5K. And it wasn't a very gentle hill, either. I don't know how slow I got on the hill, but it slowed my time for mile 2 to 8:30.

I'll admit that in my speedy first mile I had a glimmer of hope that I might have a shot at my 5K PR, but after the second mile I knew that wouldn't happen. I could still do pretty well if I could get back to pace in the final mile.

It's a little hard to get back on pace after wearing yourself uphill, but the downhill that came next helped a lot! Soon I was back under eight-minute pace.

I was, of course, sucking air like a vacuum cleaner (I couldn't come up with a better metaphor). But I only had a mile to go! I started targeting landmarks to run to. Specifically, garbage cans. This park had a garbage can every few feet!

Then I could see the finish line. The clock was just past 24 (PR long gone) but i knew I could beat 25. I pulled out everything I had and barreled across the finish line. I believe I crossed at 24:45 but my "official" time was 24:47. I didn't stop my watch immediately because there was a photographer there and I didn't want the picture to be me stopping my watch! Garmin time 24:49. Mile 3 - 7:49. Final tenth - 7:19 pace.

I might have won my age group--I might have been the only one in it--but they didn't have age group awards! There were only 39 finishers. I was 11th overall and 5th female. (Also 5th in F0-99 AG.)

I grabbed a few orange wedges and couldn't resist a piece of Costco muffin (about 1/5 muffin). Before leaving a ran another 1.2 miles so I could log a total of 6.5 miles for the day. I really don't like running more after a race!

Then I headed back north. I decided to drive along Lake Washington Boulevard for old time's sake. Man there were a lot of bicyclists! Once I got around the herds it was fine.

The weather for the race had been perfect, cool and cloudy with breaks of sun. The sun actually increased a bit afterwards, but was short-lived. By the time I stopped at QFC for a sandwich it wad pouring! I had been considering an iced tea at Starbucks, but went for hot coffee instead. A bit later the sun broke out again, but within another hour it was hailing. And this went on all afternoon. Love April.

I am so happy that I did this 5K under 25 minutes! It was faster than the Valentine's 5K, even though it was much harder. Without that hill I might have gone under 24...maybe. Still, it was good.

Summary of this week's taper runs:

Monday - 6.5 easy
Wednesday - 8.75 with 3.1 + 2 tempo
Friday - 8.01 with 6 @ goal marathon pace (3 around 9:30, 3 around 9:10 or faster)
Saturday - 6.5 with 5K race
Sunday (today) - 16.04 long run pretty easy, 9:55 average pace. This included some long hills near the end (Boston simulator style). I was mostly running around 9:50s, but the long hills were much slower! I made up for that with a few fast finish miles on the way back down. Then we went out for lunch. I had the best Rueben sandwich ever. With sweet potato fries. OMG. Heaven.

Total miles - 45.8

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