After Hartford, I immediately started looking forward to Gansett, but also immediately started crunching numbers and looking forward to shorter races, where I could really test my speed, which I knew had probably increased quite a bit.
I ran a 5K on Halloween to see what the many months of marathon training speedwork would equate to in a short-distance race, and was very happy with the results - 21:57. Sub-22. A goal that seemed unimaginable a few years ago, when I was struggling to break 23 minutes in a 5K.
As soon as I crossed that finish line, I knew I had my long-term goal for 2012 - a sub-21-minute 5K.
I perused some pace charts, and seeing the pace required for a sub-21 (6:45) definitely made me a little scared, but it also made me excited - a new goal to chase, and one that I'd have to work hard to achieve.
This weekend's race, though, was the perfect place to start chipping away at that new 21:57 PR. A flat, fast course - one where I've set many PRs in the past - and perfect weather, to boot.
It was a bit chilly, but I've become one of those runners who likes to wear shorts anytime it's above 30 degrees, and Sunday was just slightly above 30, so shorts it was. It was a little chillly waiting at the start, but the second I got moving, I was fine.
I am notoriously bad about going out too fast in races, especially in 5Ks - and especially in this race, which is flat as a pancake for the entire first mile. I was determined to reverse that trend this year.
But then I found myself at the front of the pack, running a 6:30 pace in the first 1/4 mile. Eeek!!! I quickly dialed it back, though, and got myself down to just above a 7:00 pace, which is what I had planned to run the first mile in. Ended mile 1 at 7:08.
The only incline is from just before the mile 1 marker to just after it, and it's not at all steep, so it didn't really present any problems for me - in fact, I passed quite a few people on the way up. And when I hit the flat stretch at the top, I focused on increasing my turnover again and picking up the pace a bit.
I was feeling pretty good heading out to the turnaround, and after the turnaround, passed a few more people. Hit the mile 2 mark in 6:57, which felt perfect. I was working hard, and definitely getting tired, but I knew I could push it a little more during the final mile.
I flew down the small hill we had climbed on the way out, and made the turn to head back down along the beach toward the finish. There's sometimes a wicked strong wind down this stretch, but luckily that wasn't an issue yesterday.
I had glanced at my Garmin at the 2-mile mark, and knew I was going to PR, but I made a conscious decision at that point that I wasn't going to look at it again. I wanted to just run the 3rd mile as fast as I could, without worrying if I was hitting a certain pace or not.
So I just ran. Fast.
I wasn't watching the clock, but it sure felt like I was running under a 7-minute pace. My legs were starting to feel very heavy as I headed into the final 1/2 mile, but I knew I was almost done, so I held on.
As I turned the final corner, I saw the clock ticking away in the vicinity of 21:30, and I smiled. And as I crossed the finish line and it read 21:38, I smiled again.
A PR by 19 seconds, and 39 seconds closer to my goal. A victory, in my book!
My only regret for this race is that, when I was done, I felt like I maybe could have pushed myself a teeny bit more. I didn't feel like I left it ALL on the course. I felt like I left 98% of it on the course.
I'm not beating myself up about it, though, because seriously - 21:38????!!!! I never dreamed I could run that fast!!! And seeing as how I'm in the middle of marathon training, I think holding back that 2% was probably a wise choice. Make no mistake about it - 2% held back or not, I ran hard.
This is a very competitive race, and I didn't really expect to place in my age group, but I waited around to see results posted, just in case. I didn't place, but I did come in 5th in my age group (initially thought I was 4th, but when the results were posted online later in the day, I was actually 5th). For a race with this kind of serious competition, I was thrilled with that placement!
So now the focus shifts back to marathon training. 10 weeks to go!
But you can be sure that once I have Gansett behind me, and I take a few well-deserved weeks off, I will be back at the track, getting myself ready to move up to a level where I truly feel like I'm competing, not just trying to beat my own times.
I've said before, and I'll say it again - I love the challenge of the longer distances, and there's no feeling that can quite compare to finishing a marathon and knowing that you just ran 26.2 miles. But I think running a 5K in under 21 minutes will be pretty darn close : )
The final numbers -
5th in 40 - 49 age group
14th female overall
71 of 365 overall