It’s no secret that 5ks are my favorite distance to race. I typically race 5 to 10 a year. It’s easy to add them into my training schedule and they don’t require nearly as much recovery as some other distances I race. In my opinion it’s a great way to work in speed work plus get some race practice.
But after racing 8 weekends in a row I was looking forward to a month off. I had my first long run last weekend and had another long run planned for the weekend of the 5k. Then on Tuesday night my friends Dan & Carol told me about this race. It wasn’t a Grand Prix race but it offered prize money and it wasn’t too far from my house. I checked with John and my coach and they were both on board so I decided to register.
I was very impressed with this race. It was only $20 to register (even the week of the race) and it included a long sleeve dry fit shirt. The goodie bag was also loaded with random stuff that my kids and I loved. I didn’t know exactly what to expect from the course since I’d never run it before but I have raced in Jonesboro and every other race I’ve done there has its share of rolling hills.
I jogged slightly over 2 miles to warm up with Dan and Carol. During the warm up we saw a few other local competitive runners. Dan mentioned he thought one of the ladies had placed pretty well at Go! Mile a couple years earlier and thought she ran a 17 min 5k. In my mind I quickly resigned that I would just have to try for 2nd or 3rd place if I was going to try to win any prize money. I even went back to my car and told John I wasn’t going to win but I’d try for top 3. He reminded me to focus on my race and not worry about it.
My coach had recommended I shoot for a 5:50-6:00 min pace. I found myself following right behind the lead pack and I went though mile 1 right at 5:55. Right on track. There was a pretty good incline at the start of mile 1 and when I glanced down at my current pace it was 6:15. What?! This was discouraging. I had hoped to run in the 5:50’s. Was this race going to turn into one of my usual 5ks? Once we started heading down the hill the lead female started to pull ahead but I told myself to stay with her. I could do this. I needed to pull it together and get back in the 5’s. She picked it up and so did I. There was a nice downhill the second half of this mile so I used it to get my time back down.
When we went through mile 2 my watch beeped 5:48. I was actually on track for a negative split!! At that point I made up my mind that my last mile would be sub 5:48. I practice negative splitting in all my hard effort workouts- it was time to put this strategy into play in an actual race. I was feeling strong and I told myself that I could do anything for 6 minutes.
At the beginning of the final mile we started up another incline. I decided to pass the lead female runner then and I knew I really had to keep pushing the pace if I wanted a 5:40-something mile. I was going to have to really work for it and stay focused. I started counting down minutes and told myself I could do this. I went through mile 3 at 5:46 and then made the turn towards the finish. Wouldn’t you know the final stretch was all uphill! I had no idea how much of a lead I had but I didn’t want to lose it in the final minute. I pushed as hard as I could up the hill and I could see John right by the finish. Splits: 5:55, 5:48, 5:46, 5:54 pace avg. for last .16. (5:50 overall pace avg. on Garmin)
Official Time- 18:27 / 1st female OA
As soon as I finished I found John to hug him. I was so happy I had run a smart race and paced it right. Up until this point my best 5k pace average in 2016 had been 6:00 pace. The 3rd mile got the best of me every time. In this race my watch averaged a 5:50 pace and my 3rd mile was my fastest. This was huge progress!
I jogged an easy 3 miles to cooldown with Dan and Carol before the awards. Dan won the men’s race in 17:38. Official Results can be found here.
1. Weather. I know the cooler fall weather helped a lot. I’ve spent the last 6 months running in more hot, humid temps until the last week so temps in the mid 50’s felt amazing!
2. Competition. I’m a competitive person (shocker!) and being around strong runners always pushes me to do better.
3. Training. I feel like I’m in a good place in my training. It took a while but I’m finally feeling recovered from the San Francisco Marathon and I’ve found my training groove again.
4. Strategy. It definitely helped having a pacing plan. I didn’t start too fast and I used the strategies my coach has given me in practice in my race. Sometimes I spend so much time and effort trying to negative split in practice but I tend to throw it out the window when I race. Not this time! If I can make myself do it in practice I know I can make myself dig deep and do it in a race.
I don’t have another race planned until October 15 but my last two race experiences (the 20k and now this 5k) have been great confidence boosters going into my fall racing season. Could all my summer training be paying off? Maybe… I just need to keep it up. The 3 Bridges Marathon is 10 weeks from Saturday!