Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Most Excellent 5K Race Report

Oh, yeah: I ran a 5K last Sunday. Not only did I win my age group, I crossed as first female. Well, technically.

In lieu of speedwork during a week with a crabby calf, I decided to give a local 5K a try. While I had been disappointed in my previous race, I wasn’t out for blood on this race. In fact, I played some pretty hard tennis pretty late the previous evening, didn’t get much sleep and had almost no rest for my legs by Sunday morning.

Sometimes that’s just the way things work.

I was running a little bit late to the race and feared I wouldn’t get any warm-up let alone a proper one before the race. Lucky for me, the gun went off half an hour late. Unlucky for me, I warmed up to more tightness than usual and then sat around for half an hour waiting for the race to start!

My goal: run an even race and use it as a tempo around 7:30/mile. While I wasn’t feeling quite able at the start, I warmed into the race about 2-3 minutes into the race. 5K races always leave my anxious: there’s little room for mess-up, no spare seconds for anything, and I don’t have a clue how to run them well.

Last race I went pretty balls out the first mile and then tanked around mile two. At this Most Excellent race, I crossed a perfectly marked mile one at 7:09 (my Garmin and the marker were dead on) and felt fine.

In fact, I felt A-OK the first two uneventful miles. It was just a tempo run on the Cleveland Heights streets I trot during lunch three days a week. I slowed for the water stop (and didn’t drink too much water this time) at 1.7 and then cross two at 7:27.

Then the course turned EVIL.

The last 1.3? All uphill.

I was explaining to Neil last night that running this 5K didn’t feel any shorter than running the marathon. Mentally. I’m in shape to run way more than 3.1 miles, but even though I was running a steady pace, albeit uphill, it still seemed to be taking forever to find the finish. Until I found out where I was, that is.

“You’re first female 5K,” one woman cheered. Hmm? I picked up pace a bit. “First female: finish is just up the road,” another lady shouted down the way. Wow. Me? No way. While I was sick of the incline and feeling tennis sore, I picked up pace with my spirits (I’d slowed down for about .5 mile, according to my Garmin) and pushed to the finish.

I crossed in a PR 23:11 (7:57 last mile…yick!) to the ring of “First Female 5K,” received a pat on the back and engaged in a fruitless search for the glazed donuts I saw before the race (I only found the empty boxes). After settling for a chocolate macaroon bar, I cooled down with a few track laps and plopped down to massage a cramped calf. A race official stopped by to tell me I wasn’t first female and that I should enjoy the post-race treats.


Total upside to sticking around: I finally had a chance to meet Charlie, who ran an awesome 10K, in person! We hung out for the awards, where I found that I lost on chip time by two seconds (gun time I won by :18), but still picked up the same prize for winning my age group.

Regrets? No. Sure, if I had seen a woman two seconds ahead of me, I would have chased her down. But I ran my best race pace yet on pretty tired legs and crossed the finish line first for the first time. And I ended up getting a glazed donut the next morning. That’s a most excellent race.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Another Lesson Learned

For the first time in a very long time, I’ve learned something that I didn’t learn too late to put in play. Last time this moment hit I was in college and I found that if you did the readings and work all semester, you didn’t have to cram for finals. Cha-ching.

Here I am, years later, with another useful lesson: running yourself into the ground doesn’t make for good marathon training. Brilliant!

Lucky for me, I survived my last two poor training methods to try a third. Will it be the charm?
It didn’t take long for me to decide on the Akron Marathon – I didn’t meet my goal at Cleveland; I felt fantastic after two weeks off running; and I learned E-Speed was pacing my group at the race. Can we say stars aligning?

OK, maybe I’m just reaching. But we’ll see if stars align in a few months. While I haven’t been at this marathon game for long (and only running, period, since 2007), I’m giving my own plan a try this time around. I’ve collected tips and workouts from various sources I’ve used over the past two years (Runner’s World, Galloway, Fitzgerald) and created a 15-week plan for the summer.

Here in Week Four, I can honestly say so far, so good.

My typical week involves a base run with hill repeats on Monday, cross-training on Tuesday and Thursday, speed work on Wednesday, optional tempos on Friday, endurance on Saturday and restful Sunday. Yoga 3-4 times a week is blended with cycling and soon-to-be swimming for cross. I’ve also continued a pilates regimen and weight training for strength. And I’d like to integrate more races for kicks.

I was a little afraid of scaling back to 3-4 runs each week. Will it be enough? My previous plans ran me 6-7 days with high miles. But this time I’m focusing on the quality of my workouts and meeting my targeted paces. Instead of pace ranges, I’m being very particular about my goals. And I’m hoping that by late September I’ll finally be able to recognize a pace and run it in a stable fashion.

(A girl can dream.)

Only time (and the race) will tell if my approach to marathon training will work. With all the last-minute injuries and pains I’ve experienced these past three big races, I figure it can’t hurt to try. Cramming, it turns out, doesn’t work well for running either.