Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mini-Race-Report: My second 5k!

Last fall I did my first 5k ever (I ran several halfs before doing a 5k...backwards, I know) and I immediately decided that I didn't like them.  I didn't like running for 3 miles at top speed; it's uncomfortable, and I'm still not fast even when I'm running as fast as I can, which is disheartening and makes me feel like my training is ineffective.  Last year I also messed up with the pacing and went out at a 7:30 pace in the first mile and then completely blew up and had to walk a little by mile 3.  I felt awful, and nothing about the experience was particularly fun.  My time was 28:53.

I guess I shouldn't complain about how much I hate running fast since I guess the point of racing is to go as fast as you can, but I much prefer the nice steady plod of a longer-distance race.  You can run it steady, or you can have some lower paced parts and still have time to correct with faster miles.  That and finishing a longer race is satisfying in and of itself, even if I'm not superman with the speed.  And I like the strategy involved in a longer distance.  5ks around here seem to always have a healthy dose of high school xc runners and people who make 5ks their race of choice, which leaves me in the dust completely.

BUT this morning I did a 5k (the same one I did last year, with a slightly different course) and it went a lot better.  I'm sort of wondering if I misjudged the whole 5k race distance and maybe they aren't as awful as I thought.  I can't believe I'm saying this, but I actually had a lot of fun today.

D. talked to me last night when I was already getting grumpy about having to run fast this morning (I guess I just knew I wasn't going to be very fast, which is and always will be disappointing until I do something about it), and was saying that I should just run it to run it and not worry about speed so much since I'm training for a marathon.  And that if anyone harassed me about my time I could just be like "I'm training for a marathon, so there."  It's funny how much better that made me feel, not that anyone cares about my time anyhow other than me.  But I arrived there with a positive attitude, and I didn't go out all crazy fast when the race started.

The course had some gradual uphill parts (and I do mean gradual--the fact that I noticed them as uphills is probably evidence that the hills on the marathon course will destroy me).  I think I kept my pace in the 10-minute or under range the entire time, averaging around 9:03/mile and peaking at 7:35/mile.  I tried to focus on form and on keeping my feet under my hips/not heelstriking/keeping my stride shorter, all that stuff, because I'm really paranoid about introducing too much speed running at this point in my marathon program, since my mileage has been up-up-up.

Getting myself to keep going at a (for me) high pace wasn't easy, but I did it.  Honestly my muscles were more tired than anything... I wasn't feeling especially winded, just my legs were killing me.  And for a change it was tired muscles instead of "omg all of my joints and the bottoms of my feet hurt" like it was on that 18 miler last week.

I have a new max HR:  212.  Seriously, I thought my max was 206, then I discovered it was 208, and then I had it up to 210 at one point...but now apparently it's actually 212.  I guess I should recalculate my heart rate zones?  Sam doubts the accuracy of my garmin's heart rate function because I have such a high max, but it seems to be accurate--I don't know why it wouldn't be accurate.  The charts say for my age my max should be 193, but I guess not everyone fits with the charts.

So here's what was great:

  • The shirts for this race were SUPER-SWEET this year--there were women's-fit shirts! So rare.  So I will actually be able to use and train in this shirt.  It's fabulous.  Also I got a free water bottle, which is perfect for taking water in the car to my group runs.  So yay.
  • I actually really care about this charity, so it was pretty awesome to be like... wow, for my $30, I not only got this sweet shirt and a bottle AND a chip-timed race AND water AND snacks, but also I know what's happening to my money and it's something I want to happen with my money.  It's kind of amazing that I can not only get a race/race experience/shirt, but also give money to charity.  Half the time I don't know what happens to my race fee, which is disappointing.  I might actively start seeking out races that make it clearer that your money is going somewhere good.  In fact I wish I'd planned a bit better because I'd consider doing fundraising for my marathon...but I have a lot going on in the next 5 weeks that might make it difficult to get a late start on that now.
  • It was fun to hang out before and after the race with Sam and his friend, and I saw some others I know there, too.  And we got food afterward.
  • I see the merits of running a 5k, because you finish the race and you don't feel like a corpse. I mean, I was winded and felt nauseous for a few minutes, but I got home and had a shower and it's not like my whole day was done in as it is with longer races.  My ankles/knees/hips all feel fine.  My muscles feel like I used them, but not like I shredded them.  I was expecting to do my usual post-race recovery routine but I don't really need to.  I ran a race, and can get on with my day.  Kind of amazing.  Also I finished running and didn't feel the need to eat everything I could get my hands on--rare these days.
  • People there seemed to be having fun and socializing a lot more than at a big race.  Probably because 5ks don't have the tense pre-race port-a-potty lineup and pre-race-routines and post-race-routines and pain and feeling like death at the finish.  Running a race strictly for fun and to socialize is sort of a new concept.  Somehow even though I'm not a fast runner I've never really been like "Oh, I'm going to do this race just for fun!"  And well, it was fun.
Did you hear me?  IT WAS FUN.  I am actually saying a 5k was fun.  What the what?

So I might start introducing a shorter race to my training now and then.  There's an Oktoberfest 4 miler in late September and a nighttime 5 miler and some other ones.  I didn't get to fit in a half in August like I wanted (ironically, there was one today that would have fit in perfectly with my training, but I chose to do this 5k), so maybe I'll just do a couple shorter races in the meantime.  Maybe an added benefit will be that this will help me get faster, since I can't seem to make myself do effective speed training on my own.

I took almost a minute--not quite--off my PR, finishing in 28:03.  If I knew I was that close to the 27 minute range I would've run a little harder for those 3 seconds!  In spite of my slow time, though, I still came in 5th in my age group which is the FIRST TIME EVER that I've been close to the top of the pile.  If I would've finished 30 sec faster I would've gotten a sweet prize.  So this has introduced a whole new concept to me:  Wow, I could actually RUN TO WIN FREE THINGS (and bragging rights).  There weren't really many fast people in my age group at this race, obviously. Heh.  But still.  Maybe someday.


  1. Awesome race report. And good work on the PR! Sub-30 is a very respectable time, especially for someone who ran 18 miles last week!

    I too hate the shorter distances, for the same reasons that you list. And like you say, marathon training isn't exactly conducive to improvements in speed! Reading this has inspired me to give 5 and 10ks more of a chance though. It'll make a nice change once the marathon is up!

    Funny what you say about your feet / hips / stride too. Those are all the things that occupy me when I'm running now too. I think it's the marathoner's paranoia at getting injured!

    Oh, and as for the HR: that 220-age thing is wildly inaccurate for a lot of people. It's just a rough gauge. I've registered 211 before, and I'm still around on this earth. So I wouldn't worry ;)

  2. Great report! I'm SOOOO with you on the not wanting (or not really being able to?) run fast thing. I'm also a distance-loving runner, and I've sworn off paying for short races because it never really seems worth it. I figured it I want to torture myself for 3.1 miles, I can do that for free. :)

    But you're totally right -- 5ks CAN be used as good practice for race morning, pacing, a solid tempo, posture, and even being exposed to some new energy. Plus bling and t-shorts are always nice, too. :)

    Man, oh man, how I want to win free things... at my 5k this morning, the winner clocked in at 15:59. :| Pretty sure I'll never be up there with that group!!! That's okay, though. :)