I decided to run this past Sunday’s Lake Merritt Joggers and Striders 4th Sunday race only 3 days beforehand. KP and I were texting back and forth, trying to decide when our next running date would be. We were having some trouble coming up with a day when she suggested running at Lake Merritt, to which I replied, “Well, I was actually thinking about doing the 4th Sunday race…” Then JT hopped on the last-minute 5K train, and the 3 of us decided to do the race and then eat brunch afterward. Perfect!
I had originally considered doing the LMJS 5K as an indicator of how MAF training was going, in addition the usual gamut of MAF Tests. It would be a good trial of the “run slow to run faster” paradox that’s often referenced by MAF devotees. Since I ran a 5K at the end of August, only a couple of weeks into MAF training, I had a nice baseline/reference. In that race, I finished in 27:23 (8:51/mile) — though my Garmin read 8:39/mile for 3.17 miles. (Despite the title of this blog, I’m apparently horrible at running tangents.)
My goals were to run hard and see if I could PR (26:16). In the days leading up to the race, I tried as hard as I could to prepare myself mentally to hurt, as 5Ks often do. In retrospect, I wish I had had more time to visualize and work on mental strength, because I think that was my biggest issue. (*Foreshadowing*)
I won’t write too much about the logistics of the race, since I’ve recapped several of them previously (e.g., here). I will say that I love these low-key races for their community vibe and low entry fees. I do not love the fact that it’s an open course around a popular, multi-use path that is often narrow and crowded.
Sunday morning was cool and a tiny bit windy. I met up with KP and JT, did a short warm-up, and listened to the pre-race instructions. Just minutes before the race, we discussed race strategies. I declared that I was going to try to PR. KP and JT both said they were going to take it easy, having (separately) run hilly trail miles the day before.
Before I knew it, the race director started counting down from 10 and then we were off! I ignored my logical side and went out fast, carried forward by the momentum of the college cross country team that dominated the front of the pack. After a minute or so, I looked down at my Garmin to see 7:3x. Woah, nelly! Time to slow it down. I found a few people around me who looked like they were going about the “right” pace and tried to stay with them. For about a mile, I followed 2 young girls, about 10 years old, until they fell back due to cramping. I also kept leap-frogging with a woman in a tank top and pink shorts – in a friendly, not annoying way.
Eventually, I got “strollered” (the equivalent of getting “chicked”?) by a young dad who, to be honest, did not look particularly fit. He passed me about 1.5 miles into the race and even though I was struggling, I was determined to stick with him. Just then, he had a stroller malfunction where the stroller wrist strap came loose and caused him to trip up, which also shook me out of my rhythm. Almost simultaneously, KP and JT came up and passed me. I was shocked – I thought they were going to take it easy?!?! But there they were, effortlessly gliding along and pulling farther and farther ahead.
I’m sad to say that this unexpected turn of events broke me mentally. I was already struggling, and to see my friends, whom I had thought would be tired and taking it easy, run past me was a big blow. For about a minute, I thought about giving up, and I began to feel even more deflated to see my pace slow down to almost 9:00/mile (I ran my first 2 miles in 8:12 and 8:20). Then, I began berating myself for even thinking about quitting and also for allowing myself to be so rattled by KP and JS passing me. What a crazy, counterproductive cycle to be caught in!
Fortunately, I eventually fought my way out of this downward spiral. With about half a mile to go, I came back to the race and focused on finishing strong. There were 2 teenage girls ahead of me and I told myself just to hang on to them and to try to pass them if I could. I managed to stay with them and even had a little bit of kick at the end to finish in 26:30 (8:32/mile). (For what it’s worth, my Garmin read 8:22 for 3.16 miles. Stinkin’ tangents!) It wasn’t a PR, but it was still 53 seconds faster than August! Honestly, I think I could’ve done better if it wasn’t for that mental lapse in the last mile.
As for the HR stuff, here’s the data from the 2 races:
Looking at the data, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that I was able to keep my HR more constant throughout the race on Sunday even at an overall faster pace, especially in the 3rd mile. This indicates an improvement in my fitness. The bad news is that the August data shows that I’m clearly capable of pushing myself physically to a very high HR late in a race, but I definitely didn’t do that this past Sunday (highlighted boxes)… which reconfirms my instinct that I could’ve finished faster.
To be honest, I was a little disappointed with myself after the race, but I got over it pretty quickly. That’s the nice thing about last-minute 5Ks – there’s not that much riding on it and there’s always another one just around the corner. As for KP and JT, they both had big PRs — mostly because neither of them have raced a 5K in many years. The 3 of us finished top 3 in our age group (out of 5 – haha). Go us!
47/90 overall, 3/5 AG