I’m certain you all have been on the edges of your respective seats waiting to hear about how my recent 5K went. And, if so, I’m equally certain that you’re pretty dang tired of people asking why you’re not using the whole chair.
Let me pay off the suspense: despite the fact that I’ve been telling everyone who asked (and believing it) that I’d PR’d but by way less than I’d hoped, I realized as I was pulling pictures for this column that I actually hadn’t PR’d at all. Compare the time on the picture above (36:41) to the picture below from 2013 that ran with my last post (34:59).
This is both amusing and crushing by equal measures. Which is a lot like life itself sometimes. Especially in late August. When you live in a house with no air conditioning. And are weary of coming home from a long day of work only to find your house trashed and two children who aren’t back in school yet lounging around the place like all of the filth doesn’t even bother them. Because, of course, it doesn’t.
I might be working through some stuff this week. Sorry.
The plan going in to the 5K was to run the 3 miles at a 10:25 pace for a total time in the 32-33 minute window. That plan, however, met some resistance when the race gun went off at 3 on a blisteringly hot August afternoon. We all know how VoldeSun and I get along.
I made the most rookie mistake of rookie mistakes, which is I lined up at the front — given how small the race was, you couldn’t really not line up in the front — then went out way too fast. When I looked at Herr Garmin at the quarter mile mark, I was running a 9:25 mile and, while it’s great to know I can do that, it’s not a pace I can sustain for more than a half mile or so.
It turns out that that mistake was actually a light bulb moment when it comes to me and future races — but I’ll get to that in a minute.
So I slowed down; then slowed down some more. Then realized how freaking little shade there was. And did that thing where I really started to reconsider all of the life choices that lead me to think that this race was a good idea. At that point the running Gods saw fit to send me an angel in the disguise of a small child who was squirting passing runners with a hose. Any other day, it would have been rude to have a hose aimed at you without your consent (that’s what she said); on that day, it was perfection.
Coach Christine, when we were talking about this race before it actually occurred, asked if it was hilly. Even though the race itself was too small to have a topo map online, I felt secure in my guess that it would be. There are no flat races around here. Even our high school track shows up as a hill on my Garmin charts.
Yes, the race was hilly. As I would start to find a rhythm, I’d have to run up hills that never did seem to have a down. I swear to you that this out and back course was all uphill.
My main goal, once I realized that 10:25 was not going to happen in the heat of day, was to keep my pace near 11. Then when that felt way too hard, near 11:30. Then when even that felt impossible, near 12. Then I just wanted to finish the damn thing.
I crossed the finish at 36:42, which until I started writing this, I thought was a PR. But when I looked at my last post, I realized it totally isn’t.
Feh, I say.
I was pretty sore the next morning, mostly my in calves. Mostly, though, I felt just kind of wrung out and thirsty. So thirsty. I think I might have been a little dehydrated.
As for the light bulb moment - in debriefing with Coach, I finally realized the biggest thing that holds me back in races: the first time I step outside of my running comfort zone and push my pace, my brain goes from “this is OK” to “I’m going to die” in microseconds. Rather than simply run a little more slowly until I can regroup, I automatically walk. It’s not even a conscious decision. Once that happens, my brain starts to calculate how much further it is, coupled with how far I’ve come, added to “what makes you think you can do this anyway?” and I lose all faith. Regaining my gung-ho-ness is hard once I’ve started the whole doubt cycle.
Admitting you have a problem is your first step toward recovery, right? Hi. I’m Adrienne. I’m an easily panicked runner!
I came up with a partial solution while running seven miles a couple of mornings ago. The middle five (!) were at race pace. Ever quarter-mile or so, I’d remind myself to only run the mile I am currently in, rather than think about how many I’d run or how many were coming up. That laser-like focus helped immensely. I hit all of my paces for that run, which was, in a word, awesome.
I’d like to have another strategy or two in the pocket of my Saucony Bullet Capris, however. How do you keep “I can’t do that” at bay during races?