Why I wanted to run this race:
The Lake Merritt Joggers and Striders Couples Relay is a 2-person, 10K race, where each team member takes his/her turn running 1 lap (5K) around Lake Merritt. The Gypsy Runner and I ran this relay in 2012 and 2013 and had fun both years. We skipped it last year because I opted to run the Inside Trail Chabot 30K instead. This year, coming off solid training for the Kaiser Half, I really wanted to run a 5K and attempt to better my PR (26:16) — coincidentally, set at the 2013 Couples Relay.
Goals & Strategy:
As stated above, my main goal was to run a personal best. I was fairly confident that I could run faster than 26:16 based on two facts: one, I had run the same course in October, and despite a mental meltdown in the 3rd mile, I still finished in 26:30. Two, I’m much fitter than I was in October. Therefore, all signs pointed to a PR, but the question was by how much.
My primary strategy was to prepare myself mentally, since I didn’t have time to do
a lot of any 5K-specific training in the weeks leading up to the race. I spent the days before the relay coming to terms with the fact that I would be in pain for 25+ minutes. The morning of the race, I decided on a mantra/theme song: “Push It” á la Salt-N-Pepa. I had no pacing strategy, outside of the usual, “Don’t go out too fast and try to save something for the last mile.”
The Gypsy Runner and I were parked by the Lake and had our bibs picked up by 8:35 a.m., with plenty of time for a short warm-up and bathroom stop before the 9:00 a.m. start. I was running the first leg of the relay, so shortly before 9, I wished the GR a good race and walked to the start area for pre-race announcements. Because this is one of their larger races, the start was delayed slightly to allow for latecomers and people still in line for the porta potties.
Around 9:05 a.m., a man with a megaphone counted down, “3…2…1.. go!” And off we went! I tried not to get caught up in the early stampede and immediately honed in on a few women who appeared to be holding my desired pace. I purposely tried to avoid looking at my Garmin and hoped to pace by a combination of effort and the runners around me. I confess that I glanced at my Garmin only once, about 0.3 miles into the race, and confirmed that I was off to a fast start — 7:xx. I backed off slightly, but not too much, since I was feeling good.
Besides one somewhat annoying runner in front of me who kept slowing down, only to surge whenever I or another runner attempted to pass her, there’s not much to report. I locked my sights on 2 older ladies ahead of me, both wearing green tops and both running at consistent paces, and decided to make them my rabbits. I paced off of them for almost the whole race, allowing my mind to focus solely on staying with them.
The last mile was the toughest, as it is in every race, but it seems especially tough during a 5K. I tried not to think about how much longer I had to run and focused on my mantra, which got shortened to just, “Push.” I quickly added “dig” to the mantra, as in “dig deep”. As I huffed and puffed my way towards the home stretch, I mentally chanted with every exhale, “Push. Dig. Push. Dig.”…repeated about 100 times. I felt slightly ill as I crossed the 3 mile marker. Feelings of nausea washed over me even as I told myself to keep pushing harder, that there was only a tenth of a mile to go.
Just when I felt like I couldn’t run any more, I rounded the curve and saw the “Handoff” banner. I looked for the race clock, but it was turned the other way, so I had no idea whether or not I was about to PR. After I crossed the timing mat, I frantically looked for the GR and gave him a high-five (the very official handoff, no need for batons here), as he handed me our sweatshirts. As he took off on his leg of the relay, I glanced down and stopped my Garmin, which read 25:28. Even though that wasn’t the official race time, I knew I had just PR’d, and by a wide margin. YES!!!
Splits: 7:49, 8:11, 8:16, 7:27 for last 0.15 mile.
After catching my breath, I approached my 2 green-shirted pacers to congratulate them on a solid race, and to thank them for pacing me. They were both extremely gracious and thanked me in return for spurring them on. I grabbed some water and then did a quick cool-down by jogging our sweatshirts back to the car. After 20 minutes had elapsed, I went to the finish area to wait for the GR. Even though his PR is 19:05, we both knew he wasn’t in PR shape. His last run was back in September and he had recently bruised his tailbone, which made sprinting more painful than usual. Still, he’s an athletic guy, a natural runner, and a competitive person, so I expected him to come through in good time. He crossed the finish line after 23:27.6, which, with my official race time of 25:25.6, totaled 48:53. Not our fastest combined time, but we both did the best we could. We then met up with JT and MR for brunch, where I had one of the best waffles I’ve had in a really long time. It was a good morning!
Goals, Revisited, & Positive Takeaways:
I accomplished my goal to run a personal best, finishing 50 seconds faster than my previous PR. After a PR-drought of over a year, it felt good to break a personal record again! Other positive takeaways:
- My end-of-the-race mental stamina has improved so much in the past year, and I was really proud of myself for not letting up towards the last half mile or so.
- On the same note, I didn’t fall into any mental crises or have a meltdown like I did in October. The couple of times where I started dissociating, I caught myself doing so and was able to get back in the game relatively quickly.
- I only looked at my Garmin once, which means I’m learning how to pace by feel and trust my body more than the GPS.
- I ran my fastest “during a race” mile split ever at 7:49.
- I got to run a race with my best friend on a gorgeous day in one of my favorite cities. I’m a lucky girl.
Garmin stats: 25:24 for 3.15 miles (8:03/mile)
Individual time: 25:25 (8:12/mile)
Team time: 48:53; 22/51 AG; 69/163 overall