Monday, August 20, 2012

"Hull of a Race" Report

On Saturday, I ran the Hull of a Race 5k in Hull, Illinois.  It is a fund-raiser for Parkinson's disease research.  My wife likes to participate because her father had Parkinson's, so we try to run it annually.  This year, I chose this event to attempt my goal of breaking 21 minutes in the 5k because it has a fast, flat course.

I didn't have that goal in January.  I set it in the spring when I realized how fast I had become.  I ran a 5k time trial to determine my training paces and set a PR...on a training run!  A few weeks later, I went just a bit faster during the run in a sprint triathlon after swimming 300 yards and cycling 13 miles!  My times were around 21 minutes and 10-15 seconds.  My previous 5k PR was two and a half years old (21:45).  I had been thinking that perhaps I was not going to get any faster.  So, I was quite encouraged by these runs and set my goal to break 21 minutes in 2012.

Recently, my training has not been consistent.  I have missed workouts due to conflicts and waning motivation and heat.  It is time for a change in my training, a change of focus or something.  I figured I probably had a sub-21 race in my legs, but it was going to be a test of mental toughness more than just pushing my legs to go fast and hard.

Race morning was cool--in the 50s when I awoke--sunny and calm.  Conditions were nearly perfect.  I had my usual race-day half-caff coffee with some toast before we left for Hull.  After arriving in Hull, getting our numbers and chips, and donning our gear, I took off for a warm up.  I jogged a bit, went through my dynamic quick-stretches, and did a few lunges.  At 8:00, I toed the line with the beginnings of a sweat.

I started near the front and took off quick at the start.  I felt a bit fast and checked my pace after about  200 meters.  Yep, too fast; I think I was about 6:30/mile or so (my goal was 6:45/mile or less.)  I slowed down a bit and watched a few people accelerate away from me.  No problem.  I intended to run my race against the clock.  Besides, lots of people start out too fast and don't realize it until it is too late; I expected that I would be passing some of these folks later.  My plan was to finish the first mile at around 6:50 - 6:55 and gradually speed up from there.  There was no one mile marker and I wasn't watching my distance on my Garmin, but I was close to 6:50 for one mile.  I gradually pulled pack a few of the runners who had sped ahead of me.  On the way to mile two, I slightly increased my pace, nearing 6:45/mile.

I was struggling a little, but I focused on my form and periodically checked my pace.  I felt like slowing down several times, but knew I only had to suffer for several more minutes.  Somewhere around 2 miles, I started to feel a little sick to my stomach.  That usually means I'm nearing my maximum heart rate, so I was working pretty hard.  Just after the two-mile marker, the course turns back into town, the home stretch.  Along this section, I saw that my pace was in the lower 6:40s.  I just had to maintain my pace, accelerating if possible.  As the distance-to-go decreased, I gradually sped up.  There were two young men in front of me that I was attempting to catch if I could, using them to pull me to the line.  I didn't catch them, but the challenge helped--all of us, I think.

I crossed the line in 20:38 (6:38/mile.)  Goal achieved!  And, exceeded!  An improvement of over 30 seconds!  Of course, I was satisfied.  I may have been able to go a bit faster, but not much.  I was just about at my red line.  What a great year!  I've PR'ed everything this year.  I have trained smart, pushed myself, and discovered new limits.  I am validated.

While chatting before the race, my wife told a friend of ours that I was racing for a PR--a friend who has inspired me with all of his athletic accomplishments.  After the race, he said that I had inspired him to attempt a 10k PR which he did.  That was just as satisfying as my own race performance.  It was a great morning, finished off with a tasty brunch at Thyme Square in Quincy.

Now...I wonder if I can break twenty minutes...

Thank you Karrie Butterfield for the photos.

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