With marathon season officially behind me (for now) I have jumped head first into my 5 and 10K season. I’ll be honest- sometimes just thinking about running a 5 or 10K makes me tired. They are just so short and way too fast! But I know they make me a better runner so I continue to sign up for them. I like the practice they give me in racing and I know they push me out of my comfort zone. Way out of my comfort zone… I get extremely nervous about running in them before the race but I am always so glad I did them afterwards.
Yesterday was the third time I participated in the Toad Suck Daze race in Conway, Arkansas. I have run the 5K twice before (2010, 2012) and decided to run the 10K this year. I actually just started officially training again last week so the 10K I did last Saturday was my main “practice” for this race. As I mentioned before, last week I was not ready physically or mentally to try to PR in the 10K but I really wanted to go for it this weekend. My body felt more rested and not as heavy and sluggish. It seems to take me at least two to three weeks to feel mostly recovered from a marathon. Last Saturday my legs still felt heavy but I was feeling much more like myself yesterday.
All week long I’ve tried to convince myself that I could break 39 minutes. I have attempted to break 39 minutes in the 10K twice this year and failed both times. The first time was in February when I did my own time trial around Harding. After the first mile I knew it wasn’t going to happen. The pace felt too hard and my splits gradually got worse and worse. Then I tried at Capital City Classic just four weeks ago. Physically, I knew my body should be able to do it but for whatever reason I couldn’t get my mind focused and I ran a mediocre race. I was able to PR by 22 seconds but did not run to my potential. Does that make sense?
John texted me Friday afternoon and told me to pack an overnight bag with all my race stuff. We had already arranged for all the kids to spend the night with my-laws Friday night because we would have to leave around 6 for Conway. John decided to surprise me and make a mini getaway out of it all! We dropped off the kids around dinner and headed to Conway that night. We ate at a great Chicago style pizza place and checked into our hotel.
|Dinner date at Old Chicago Pizza|
Saturday morning I woke up feeling fresh and ready to race! The weather was much cooler than last year at this race. Yesterday it was cool and in the low 40’s while last year it was hot, humid and in the mid 70’s to low 80’s. I would much rather race in cooler weather so this was fine by me! Packet pick-up was pretty crowded and I was only able to get in about a mile warm-up before it was time to line up.
|I’m in the pink looking very anxious and cold!|
I decided to break this 10K up into three parts. I did this for the River Trail 15K in February and it really seemed to help me stay focused during the race. I modeled my strategy after the following matra.
The 5 and 10K run the first 1.25 miles together at Toad Suck. There were over 1200 participants in these races with about half doing the 10K and the other half running in the 5K. (The 10K is part of the Arkansas Grand Prix series.)
My main goal for this race was to keep my pace under 6:15. I knew I could make this for a few miles but I didn’t know how I would feel later in the race. I kept telling myself that I could do this- just focus on what part of the race I was in.
Part 1 (Miles 1 & 2): Run with my head. I made myself think positive and stay focused.
Mile 1- 6:08. Perfect. This race always has a fast start thanks to the 5K runners. There also usually seems to be a lot of children near the front which can be a little dangerous. I tried to get around the kids and closer to the front within the first few minutes. Around the first mile I passed the two girls in the lead who I assumed were running in the 5K. (They were.)
Mile 2- 6:13. Early during this mile the 5K split off and the 10K runners kept going. I started passing a few guys who were slowing down. I started to pass one but he came back and stayed right behind me. He was an older guy in a do-rag. He actually stayed right there with me holding the pace.
Part 2 (Miles 3 & 4): Run with my personality. I focused on one of my racing personalities- being competitive. I was going to stay with du-rag guy and not let him leave me.
Mile 3- 6:09. Do-rag guy told me he would take the lead and block the wind for the next bit. “Ok.” was all I could mumble. He told me when a right turn was coming up and gave me a few other helpful course tips.
5K- 19:08? I just looked at my watch and I knew that breaking 39 was very possible if I could just hold on for one more 5K.
Mile 4- 6:16. This mile had the most incline. I was running alongside do-rag guy at this point just letting him lead the pace. He seemed to know most of the volunteers along the course because they kept cheering for him. Apparently his name was “P.T.” because that’s what they kept yelling.
Part 3 (Miles 5 & 6): Run with my heart. My heart wanted to fight for it. My heart wanted to break 39 minutes. I wasn’t going to let myself down.
Mile 5- 6:08. Really? I couldn’t believe I pulled out a sub 6:10 mile at this point in the race. I am pretty sure it was because of
do-rag guy P.T. leading the way. I just kept telling myself to hold on and stay with him.
Mile 6- 6:15. I knew I was slowing down and beginning to fade. P.T. started to pull ahead just a little and I tried to stay with him or at least follow him as close as possible.
|Entering the track for the last 300 meters|
|Heading around the curve about to run into a pack of 5K-ers|
Mile 6.25- 1:29 (5:56 pace). The last part of this 10K is challenging. The 5K and 10K runners merge on the track to run a final 300 meters together until the finish line. I’ve always loved this finish as a 5K runner because the track is fairly empty and anyone on it is running around my 5K pace. This was not the case yesterday. It was extremely challenging (and dangerous) trying to weave around the 5K runners. Quick fact- 5K runners pacing at a 12:30 pace and 10K runners pacing at a 6 minute pace do not mix well on the track.
I came through the finish line 2 seconds behind P.T. I thanked him for his help along the course.
Official finish time- 38:41 (6:14 avg.)
1st female/ 9th overall. Official results can be found here.
After I finished I talked to John for a few minutes and ran a quick cool down with Tish. She had run the 5K and ended up placing 3rd overall. Then we headed inside the field house for the awards ceremony where it was warm!
|Jennifer (2nd overall female 10K), Tish (3rd overall female 5K) & I|
|Me & P.T. (aka- the du-rag guy!) He won 1st place Grand Masters|
Post Race Thoughts:
I knew I had the physical ability to break 39 minutes but this race was all about pushing myself mentally and staying focused. I know P.T. pacing the way helped immensely. I’ve never raced along side a stranger like this and I’m not sure when I will again. It just happened to work out this time. I kept my head in the game and really talked myself through each part of the race. Last week my watch pace average read 6:22 for my 10K. This week it read 6:11. I know those 11 seconds per mile difference had a lot to do with marathon recovery but also staying positive and focused. It is so tempting to give up on yourself when things start getting uncomfortable. I know because I have done it many times mid race. I settle and start making excuses for myself. I know not every race is a PR. And sometimes it is even possible to PR but know it’s not really your best. Yesterday God helped me race to my potential. I was able to PR and know I did my best for me for where I am right now. This is my favorite race feeling.