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.