This race is put on by Erin's running club. It has also been voted "Race of the Year" for two consecutive years by the Chicago Area Runner's Association. Given all the amazing things I'd heard about it, I was very excited to check it out this year for the first time.
|Lindsay, Kelsey, and me post-race|
Photo thanks to Adam
I had very high hopes for myself going into this race. Unfortunately, things didn't go nearly as well for me today as I wanted. But we'll come back to that in a moment.
Let's talk first about the race itself. I can certainly see why this race won its awards. The organization was spot-on and the logistics were really easy. Among the highlights:
- The race site was accessible by both CTA and Metra, was just a few minutes driving-distance off of the interstate, and had ample free street parking available along all the surrounding streets.
- Gear check, day-of packet pickup, and all sponsor booths were held inside the Oak Park River Forest High school. No lines for anything. Weather wasn't a factor today, but if it had been it would have been nice to have the protection from the elements.
- We were allowed to use the indoor bathrooms. INDOOR bathrooms! No lines for these, either!
- The course was nearly completely flat, and approximated a square through a posh residential neighborhood. This made it easy to run the tangents.
- There were separate start times for the men and women. After the first minute or so the runners spaced out nicely and there were no issues with crowdedness along the course.
- Friendly, enthusiastic volunteers.
- In addition to the finish line food (bananas, bagels, granola bars, pretzels and hummus), other post-race refreshments (Jimmy John's sandwich samples, brownie/cake bite samples, and portable apple sauce packets) were available inside the school's cafeteria. I'm used to either standing up or sitting on the grass at post-race parties, so I appreciated all the tables and benches in the cafeteria. Again, no lines.
- Each woman received a carnation at the finish line.
In addition to the stellar organization, the weather was perfect. Sunny blue skies, no wind, and temperatures in the low 40s. Everything was set up for me to blow things out of the water.
|My vision for the day|
Now, getting into my actual performance.
From the day that I registered for this race, I had targeted it as a PR attempt. My best recent 5K time was 26:42 in September of last year, but my goal was to break my all-time PR of 25:55 from July 2001. Admittedly, I wasn't hoping just to "break" the 25:55 - I wanted to destroy it. Hit it out of the park. Smash it to smithereens. I was even thinking that maybe, just maybe I might be able to run a sub-25.
Why the crazily-lofty goals? Because of all the training improvements that I had made as described here. There were two changes in particular that I really thought would make a difference. The first was the uncomfortable weekly speedwork sessions that I'd been undergoing. All that effort had to account for something, right? The second was that I'd lost some weight. I had read this article about how much weight loss could improve pace, and accordingly I thought it was an automatic 60-second improvement staring me in the face.
|I don't have a conscious idea of how this photo relates to my point here, but it just seemed appropriate.|
I had also read this article and this article about pre-race shake-out runs (done in addition to pre-race warm-up), and how they could enhance race performance. I decided to give it a go. The women's race started at 9:10 AM this morning (by the way, I LOVED the later-than-typical start time). Accordingly, I was up at 6:45 AM to do an easy shake-out mile on the treadmill.
Unfortunately, I felt awful during my shake-out run. My stride didn't feel fluid, I felt like I was going much faster than the treadmill pace indicated, and I just felt sluggish in general. But, I attributed it to being so early in the morning and not having had any breakfast yet. Plus, I thought that maybe the shake-out would help work out some of the kinks that I would normally have otherwise felt during my pre-race warm-up.
Fast forward to 20 minutes prior to the race start time. I went to do a 1-mile warm-up run. At slower paces, I felt fine. But, when I tried to do a few acceleration gliders, it didn't feel great. I remember thinking that it would be a long race if I was feeling this way at that type of pace. I tried to steel myself away from thinking that way and to stay positive, but deep down I was apprehensive.
Fast forward to the race start time. When the gun went off, I set off on what I felt was a comfortably hard pace. I looked down at my Garmin a couple of times and saw that it read 7:37, which would be too fast for me. I dialed things back a bit and hit the Mile 1 marker in 7:54. After trying for so long to run a sub-8:00 mile, this was a nice win for me and I was happy. I didn't think much about the fact that I might have started too quickly. Instead, I thought that this was the payoff from all my speedwork. I told myself that if I could hold this or a reasonably similar pace for the next two miles, that I WOULD be able to achieve all my goals. Push, push, push.
Shortly afterwards, the wheels started falling off. I could feel myself slowing down. I tried to fight it but I was hating the exertion and how uncomfortable it felt. At one point I thought I had to be getting close to the Mile 2 marker, only to look down at my Garmin and see that I was only at about 1.4 miles. Ugh, not even close, and not even halfway done. Mile 2 was done in 8:49.
I wanted to stay positive. I told myself that Mile 2 was always the hardest mile for me, that all wasn't lost yet, and that if I could find a way to pick it up a little bit in the final 1.1 miles, I could still PR.
I tried to push a little harder. Then, I started getting a cramp in my right side. I wanted to ignore it but it kept nagging me and I didn't have the drive to push through it. Mentally I began spiraling into a vortex of negativity. All I could think about was that I couldn't reach my goal, that I wanted to slow down or stop, that everything hurt, how much I hated the 5K distance, how could there still be so much distance left before the finish line, why the [expletive] was I doing this. People were passing me left and right and the last mile felt like it was taking forever.
As the finish line finally came into view, I looked down at my Garmin and saw my goal time come and go. At that point, I lost what little remaining competitive drive I had left. I was resigned and still hurting from the cramps, but I tried to finish strong.
|Here's me while dying, shortly before crossing the finish line|
(Photo thanks to Adam)
I didn't clock my Mile 3 split, but my official finishing time was 26:32. That comes out to an average pace of 8:56 per mile during the final 1.1 miles. Way to completely positive-split the race, eh?
Needless to say, I am unhappy and very disappointed in myself. I truly believed I could do better - much better - than I did today. I know it's just one race. But I keep thinking about how I can't believe that all of my training efforts over the past few months only netted me a 10-second improvement from last year. Ugh.
Right now I don't have any other target-able 5Ks on the calendar until this fall. That's both good and bad. I am in no hurry to experience that feeling of running at puke-speed again, and more training can only help me. But, I also want to get this bad taste out of my mouth as soon as possible.
In summary, the race itself was superb and very well-organized. I enjoyed seeing Erin (who was volunteering), Lindsay, and Kelsey there. I was very grateful to Adam for coming to spectate, and for trying to keep my spirits up after my finish. But it was not a good day for me on the course.
Back to the drawing board for me with the 5K PR. But, time to keep focusing on my next goal race - the Illinois Half Marathon on April 26. Probably with some adjusted goals.
I am sorry to hear it did not go like you had planned. I am also disappointed with my finish time for my 50K.ReplyDelete
Thanks Zenaida. I am sorry to hear that things didn't go as you had planned with your 50K. But, I am so, so proud of you just for finishing that distance!!! You are an ultramarathoner!!!Delete
Boo! I'm confident you were having an off day. Try again soon!!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Natalie! Here is hoping that it was indeed an off-day. Although, I have to admit I'm starting to think that in the future I might only run races between 10K and the half marathon, or maybe even the 10-miler. Basically, distances where you don't have to run at puke-speed, but not so long that the distance becomes mind-numbing, you know?Delete
I know what you mean. The 5K is definitely a puke factor. At least with a half it's more about finishing strong (and not so much about sprinting to the finish).Delete
Seriously - if I were given the choice to run a 5K versus a half marathon, I'd pick the half marathon anyday!!!Delete
Congrats on the speedy first mile! Sorry to hear that you cramped up and things went south for the last mile. Sounds like it wasn't your day. Don't give up on the 5k - it can be a fantastic distance, and doesn't need to be run entirely at puke speed - just for the last half mile! :) BTW, I'm thinking about running the Ravenswood Run 5k in a few weeks.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Pete. I really need to work on being able to run splits that are more even during 5Ks. For me, it's easier to run even splits during longer distances. At 5Ks, there is so little margin for error, you know? I hear AMAZING things about the Ravenswood Run 5K and its pancake breakfast. I vote that you go for it! I am running the Illinois Half the day before, otherwise Ravenswood is a race that I would have loved to do!Delete
Yes, even splits are key in the 5k. For my 5k PR, my three mile splits were all within 5 seconds of each other. The key is to save enough energy to run the last one as fast as the first. Not easy, but possible. I have to repeat a mantra to myself during the first mile of a 5k to "just slow down". Also 3.1 miles might not seem like a lot to us marathoners, but it is definitely a good distance that still needs to be respected (somewhat)! :)Delete
I agree with Pete - it sounds like you started off too fast. Puke-speed is tough to hold onto for too long (without actually puking) so you want to save it for the end. I wonder if you had started out just above 8:00 for the pace and saved the sub-8 for the last mile if you would have been able to maintain it and PR.Delete
Also, have you ever run with a heartrate monitor? Race paces are tricky (if you're trying to all out race and/or chase a PR) and I personally haven't done a race in years without my trusty HR strap. It takes some time to really get a feel for your heart rates and what zones work, but it really takes the guesswork out of race paces.
Pete - a 5K with all three splits within 5 seconds of each other? AMAZING! Yes, I'm going to have to start telling myself to slow down in the first mile, too, which will be hard since it feels counterintuitive. And yes on how the 3.1 miles doesn't seem like much to us experienced runners. Since I've become a runner, I don't think I've ever trained specifically for a 5K. My running training is always focused on the longer distances, you know?Delete
Maggie - heck yes on puke speed being tough to maintain for too long (which is probably all the more reason why I've had such a bad experience with 5Ks in general, because I DO try to maintain that speed the whole time). It's funny - for half marathons, I always think it's no big deal to take it easy for the first half and then try to speed up at mile 10. But for 5Ks, it's harder for me to put that mentality into practice because it's such a short distance to begin with! But that's a really good suggestion on using a heartrate monitor - thanks. I do have one that I've never used, and I've been meaning to try it out for the longest time. Yesterday's race is probably going to be the kick in the butt that I need to finally give the heart rate monitor a go!
In any training run, try and make your last mile your fastest. If you do this a few times a week you will train your brain to moderate the pace. It won't let you overdo it early on as it anticipates saving energy reserves for the last fast mile.Delete
Great day for a run. Sorry it didn't go as planned. I died about halfway through myself. I am no where near ready for a 5K PR. I looked for you ladies after the race but I guess I missed you.ReplyDelete
Eric! It was a gorgeous day for a run, indeed. I am sorry that things didn't go as planned for you, either. I'm starting to think that 5K PRs are better attempted in the fall, after a better training cycle, than in the springtime when it's hard to train over the winter. I looked for you after the race but didn't see you, either. The split race times made things a little tougher to coordinate and I realized afterwards that we never identified a specific location within the high school to meet up. But - you're running the Chicago Spring Half next month, yes? See you there!!!Delete
Congrats on the sub 8!! Yay! But sorry to hear the race didn't go as planned. It seems like you just had an "off" day unfortunately and that shouldn't deter you from running future 5ks. It is a fun distance as Pete said. :) I love the distance because it's so challenging to get pacing down because it's over so quick.ReplyDelete
Don't be so hard on yourself about not PRing there will always be another race. Keep running fun. :) sounds like the race was well organized and all sorts of fun. I'll have to look into it next year.
Thanks, Xaar. I am usually able to identify what factors might have contributed to an off-day, e.g. issues with fueling, hydration, training, etc., but yesterday I am really not sure how to pinpoint what went wrong. That's what's most frustrating, you know? But yes, you're absolutely right, it's more important to keep running fun. We aren't paid running professionals, so we might as well have fun with it, right?Delete
I think you'd really, really enjoy this race! Definitely look into next year!!!!!!!
Sometimes there is no good reason for an off day... Hormones playe a huge factor too-electrolyte depletion + raised body temp. It's killed me on loads of runs in the past. Don't get down about it. Sometimes our bodies know when we need to back off (even though our minds are all LeTS GO!) you still got out there and had a good time. ;) I'm sure your next race will go much smoother.Delete
Yeah, you are right, hormones might have had something to do with it yesterday. I looked at the calendar and the timing during my monthly cycle is not out of the question. Again, thank you for being so understanding and so supportive, I really do appreciate it!!!Delete
That first mile is awesome! I am sorry the rest didn't go as you wanted...some runs just aren't great and it sucks when they hit on race day :( I hope you get your PR attempt soon!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Heather! Yes, in my experience about one out of every five runs isn't great for whatever reason, but it really does suck when it happens on the day you least want it to happen. But the nice thing is that now that we're into April, there are SO MANY races to pick from. So plenty of future opportunities.Delete
BTW - what is your blog URL? I wanted to read yours. But, when I click on your blogger profile, it brings me to your Google Plus but doesn't list your blog address!
Ugh so sorry to hear about the crappy race! I hate to sound like a cliché but it happens, and usually when we least expect it. Sometimes it's a mental thing and other times our bodies simply won't cooperate, but either way it's best to forgive and forget! Next race will be better for sure and I cannot wait to see your hard work and efforts pay off! Plus...5Ks are HARD, physically and mentally and your time is still great regardless :)ReplyDelete
Thanks, Irina. I really appreciate your encouragement! You are so right about least-expecting it, too! During the days leading into the race, I didn't even remotely consider the possibility that I might crash and burn! And I am growing more and more convinced that 5Ks are one of the hardest race distances out there! But yes, forgive and forget, and then try, try, try again. Good thing there are so many 5Ks out there to pick from!Delete
Ugh, the 5K is sooooo hard. I chased a PR in 2012, and even had a coach and couldn't hit it. Then in 2013 something clicked and it came, twice, and by a huge amount the second time. There is just something about that painful push... that I don't want to do! My two PRs were actually somewhat comfortable! Anyway! That is awesome you hit your sub 8:00 mile. Do you think you will follow the same plan when you do try the 5K again? Was your speedwork at or below your goal race pace?ReplyDelete
The 5K is seriously one of the toughest distances I've ever run. I think a lot of people take it for granted because it's short, but the intensity is really something else. I am really glad that you were able to nab your PRs not once, but TWICE last year!!! What an AMAZING accomplishment and something you should be SO proud of!Delete
Funny you mention that your two PRs were actually somewhat comfortable (which makes them even MORE awesome, btw). I was just thinking about how when I set my original PR back in 2001 it was by no means a PR attempt. It was just what I was able to comfortably do back then without straining myself too hard. (Ah, my younger days! Hahaha). I can only hope to get back to that point one of these days. =)
My speedwork actually had been going really well. I was to the point where I was able to consistently hold a pace of right around 8 minutes, or just below, without nearly as much difficulty as I used to experience. For me, that was a big win! I think the biggest change that I'll make next time, based on what Maggie and Pete suggested, is to really focus on running even splits and not going out too fast in the first mile. I like the idea of only running at puke-speed during the last half-mile, rather than trying to do so the whole time. =D
Even if the race didn't go your way, I'm glad you had you came :-)ReplyDelete
Thanks, Erin! Sorry that we didn't get a chance to chat more when I saw you, but it looked like you had a LOT going on. Congratulations on a very well-executed race by you and your running club! As I said, I can certainly see why this race has won so many awards. I plan on being back next year. =)Delete
What a bummer! But don't be too hard on yourself - that's still a great finish time! If you weren't so busy, I'd encourage you to give 5ks another try and suggest holding back from going out too fast. I know that you have a ton of races on your docket though, so soon this 5k will be a distant memory!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Amy. I am definitely looking forward to working on running even 5K splits in my next 5K, now that everyone has helped me identify what was probably my biggest downfall yesterday. I actually already started scouring the local race calendar for "revenge" 5Ks. Funny how short our memories can be when it comes to things like this, no?Delete