The thought of reducing mileage and focusing on speedwork for the next month was somewhat unattractive to me a few weeks ago. I was absorbed in 80+ mile weeks and addicted to the euphoria of double days, long runs and the strength I was deriving from them. The mileage only became easier and easier to sustain, so the thought of scaling back made no sense to me. But alas, with three races (one of which is a National Championship) in one month and with coach pushing shorter, more intense workouts on us, the logical part of my brain (which seems to oscillate in and out of range) kicked in and I realized that I would be better off taking advantage of the speedwork, reducing the mileage a little and sharpening up for the end of the fall season.
With this in mind, back I went to try and nail a sub-18:00 for 5k ‘officially’ – on the roads at that. I figured going down to the Hammer would be an appropriate place to drive this nail in the board, so to speak. I was joined by fellow angels Kathryn and AZ.
Now AZ is normally quite a high-energy individual. On the ride down to Hamilton, however, she seemed particularly rambunctious. I think ‘OH MY GOD I’M SO NERVOUS!’ were the first words she uttered upon entering the car. ‘5k! It’s so INTENSE! What am I supposed to eat? How long do we warm up? How fast should I go? Oh my god I feel sick. Ooooh my stomach. Oh god I have to go to the washroom.’ I looked back to make sure she was breathing in between her unremitting words, and was relieved to see that she had not fallen into sweaty convulsions. ‘AZ, relax!’ I said, ‘It’s only 5k! You’ve run an ironman! What could be more nerve-wracking than 10 hours of racing?!’ ‘Ummm...a 5k...or maybe a 3k? My stomach hurts...’ She continued on with her nervous chatter. I couldn’t figure out why she was so nervous, since there was virtually no pressure on her – hell, Nic wasn’t even in the car to instill REAL LIFE fear in her! When I asked her what her 5k PB was, her voice became shrill again ‘PB? PB?! I have no PB! I’ve never run a 5k!’ Aaaaaaah it finally all started to make sense to me! The long distance runner’s fear of running anything shorter than a marathon. I can understand that. Luckily, the calm Kathryn was there to appease AZ’s nerves by telling her they’d run together, and that Kathryn was going for a sub-19:10, or 3:50/km. ‘Ok so I’ll just follow you then? We can do 3:50? Ooohhh that sounds intense!.....’ AZ continued..
When we arrived in Hamilton winter was upon us. It was freezing cold, windy and we shivered in the registration tent wearing full-on skiing gear. Of course when AZ asked me SPECIFICALLY what I intended on wearing (the logical part of my brain again slipping away) I stood by my weather-network outdated decision of a singlet and half-tights. ‘YOU ARE CRAZY G.I. JANE!’ She yelled. ‘What is wrong with you? You are a freak!’ I thanked her for the compliment and defended myself by saying I would sport some trendy arm-warmers and gloves as well (but really they were just to make me look more hardcore). By the time we warmed up, however, it had gotten a few degrees warmer and I was legitimately HOT. I rolled up my half-tights.
My goal for this race was to go out anywhere from 3:25-3:30 and hang on, really focusing on staying strong in the last 2k. My ‘A’ goal was to run 17:30; ‘B’ was to run 17:45 and ‘C’ was to PB (sub-18:00). I felt pretty relaxed through 1k, which I went through in 3:26 or so. I was pleased to see at 2k I had apparently picked it up to 3:25. I began to think I’d have no problem going 17:30. I started to increase the intensity in the next km, only to pass through in 3:41. WTF?! How is that possible? I realized that the km markers were likely off and that I should shift my focus to my cadence and effort and not on splits. I tried to push harder from 3-4k but only managed a 3:38, which I ended up maintaining to the finish, where I crossed through in 17:48. I was initially a little disappointed, seeing as I was on such a road2hope to a 17:30 early on, but eventually began to appreciate that I still ran a 37s 5k road PB and was 11s faster than my 5000m on the track earlier this summer. Can’t really complain. I am still dissatisfied with my ability to push harder in the last km of my races, however, since the guy I was with until 4k managed to squeak under 17:30 in 17:28 or so. Argh!
Kathryn was close to cracking 19:00 with her 19:04, which we have justifiably blamed on the horrible hairpin turn at 3.8k, where not only did she (and everyone else) lose momentum, but also ran around the marshall standing 2 feet away from the cone instead of directly around it. Next time will be a sub-19:00 fo sheeze. As is the bliss of one’s first try at a distance, AZ set an awesome PB of 19:34. Way to eliminate the 20:00 barrier by blowing by it on your first try! Of course, the whole way back AZ exclaimed how much she LOVED 5k’s and promptly began planning her attack on a sub-19:00, which I have no doubt she will attain by next Spring. I suppose pre-race nerves are a good thing in some cases!
After the race I felt strangely perky and energetic. My legs felt great on the cooldown and my energy was high all day, leading me to suspect I could have dug a little deeper. I wish I had another chance to run a 5k this season, but it doesn't look like this will be a possibility with two cross-country races on the horizon. That is, unless I raced every weekend and squeezed in another 5k in the third week of November, but I'm not sure that's a good idea. Nevertheless, I am chipping away at my 5k time season by season without ever really focusing on it, so I am hoping that it will continue to get incrementally faster with each try!
I will also have ample opportunity to be forced out of my comfort zone in the coming weeks, as I prepare for the AO Championships and AGSI Nationals Cross-Country, both being held in Guelph. Looking forward to it!