Monday, June 13, 2011

2011 Race Into Summer 5k

Saturday was a unseasonably cool morning for even early June in Florida. It was also the date of the local running club's annual fundraiser 5k. This was a target race for me. I did 1.5 rounds of Furman FIRST 5k training before I realized I needed to start training for my half marathon before this race would arrive. Going into the race I actually felt like the longer distance workouts would help me maintain pace and hopefully not bonk. I started out at a quick but (somewhat) relaxed pace and settled in behind the front pack but also kept some distance ahead of the next bunch.

The course was an out-and-back (a first for me since all of my prior races had been loops). It started at mile 0 on a paved trail that was marked every 0.5 miles. This meant that I had some pretty good pacing cues. Apparently I wasn't as relaxed as I thought because the volunteer at the 1 mile mark called out "6:45" just before I crossed. My actual time was probably closer to 6:50 which is still a personal best mile split by about 5 seconds.

So I took my foot off the gas a bit and hit the turnaround point at 10:52 and suddenly had hopes (although not overly rational ones) of finishing under 22:00. However, by 2.5 miles that opening 6:45 split came back to haunt me with a resounding "BONK!". I crossed the finish line at 22:37 - a personal record by over a minute from less than 2 months before.

I learned a few good lessons during this race:

  1. I start too fast. I did the same thing on my last race. I backed off more quickly that time since I had a GPS squawking at me, but this time I went by feel for the whole first mile. I guess it needs to feel slow.

  2. Training at longer distances helps. While I was doing training designed for 5k distance, only my long and tempo runs were over 3 miles. Now even my speed work is hitting 4-5 miles. This means I am pushing myself harder longer so keeping up the pace for 3.1 is easier.

  3. Changing my form has helped. I almost completely eliminated my heel striking and concentrated on cadence and body lean as my primary form thoughts for this race. I think I still have some conditioning to do on my upper legs to get used to this form, but it is clearly easier to run faster longer.

  4. At my current level, I was able to get huge gains based almost entirely on effort. While I did train hard for 2 months between these 2 races, I'm not convinced I am really over 20 sec per mile faster. Maybe 10-15. Maybe as little as 5. I don't know if I left anything on the table for this race so 22:00 will be the result of training. However 23:00 was as much guts as conditioning.

Overall it was a great, fun race. Seeing the leaders run past me in the opposite direction was new and interesting. The most satisfying part was running to my full (speed) potential for the first time in my running "career".

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