“It doesn’t get easier, you just go faster” Greg Lemond
Last Saturday was my annual test of fitness.
The Jingle Bell 5k.
I’ve been running it for the past 4 years. The route is always the same and conditions really don’t vary too terribly much so I can use it as a good indicator of where my VO2max is hovering. This allows me to gauge my running paces for training so I don’t overwork the recovery days or underwork the harder ones.
It’s one of maybe three straight 5ks I run all year (outside of sprint triathlons). I hate them. Plain and simple, no away around it.
The 5k is a fast and it hurts. I’m not a huge fan of fast pain. I prefer mine to creep up slowly and tap me on the shoulder….usually after 30-60 multisport miles.
However, I DO love testing myself and seeing how I’ve progressed year over year. I’m also I data junkie (contain your shock!) so this gives me some new numbers to look at and a more accurate way to write and evaluate training plans.
All that being said, most coaches and runners will agree, when the 5k is run at threshold pace, it ends up being one of THE most painful distance tackled.
Saturday, I must’ve done something right.
At about 9am, just under 200 folks lined up to take part in the annual 3.1 mile jaunt.
The course is a flat, fast, and not overly crowded so it is easy to get the work done.
Although on this day, Mother Nature decided to throw a few curveballs and hit us with increased temps (68F), elevated humidity (80%), and yes…she was blowing like the mother she is…winds were out of the southwest at 16-18mph.
At first I was irritated with the temperature and humidity, but as we warmed up I quickly realized the wind was going to be more of a factor. I’ve been running in 15- 20mph+ winds for the past 2 weeks so this “breeze” was nothing new, but not exactly how I wanted to race.
Seeing how I couldn’t change things, I got the bitching out of my system and set my intentions.
AquaDoc and I found some friends to chat with as we waited for the start and for the 1st time in four years…..the race actually began ON TIME!
My original plan was to just keep up with my husband. I felt if I did that then I’d hit my goal of breaking 26 minutes and I would certainly be working to to my maximum potential. Well that plan was ditched the moment the horn blared to signal start. That man blew out like race horse and there was no way in HELL I was going to catch him.
On to plan B: keep husband’s red shirt in sight.
Situations like this one, is why it’s always important to have multiple plans!
1/2 mile 7:14/avg I could still see the red shirt and although I knew deep down I was going too fast, but I didn’t FEEL like it YET! Ahh, lactic acid is soo sneaky that way!
1 mile 7:44/avg I still felt “ok”, but at this point I started to question if I could do this another 2 miles. I blew past the aid station, knowing I could get some water on the way back if I needed it. There was this woman running next to me and she refused to commit to pass or fall behind. This kind of shit messes with my mind and I was trying desperately to ignore her, but she refused to go away.
1.5 mile 7:55/avg At first I was shocked to hold under an 8 min/mi for this long, so I consider THAT in and of itself a huge success. However, I was now in dire straights. My entire body was burning. I could not only FEEL the lactic acid, but I could taste it. You know, that familiar metallic flavor that rises up when you get to “that point”. My husband tried to hi-five me as we passed at the loop, but I couldn’t expend one extra ounce of energy to give it back to him. Apparently he wasn’t working near as hard to reach his goal as I was to make mine. My new running partner was still there and then the wind picked up.
2.0 miles/8:15 This is where I started cutting deals with myself. “Just maintain an 8:30 pace” and it’s done. I told myself the bulk of the work was over and even gave the ok for an aid station stop. Hey, I’d earned it right? Well my ‘id” may have thought so, but my “ego” certainly didn’t agree. There would be no stopping on this day. Then there was this woman. Part of the reason I was so annoyed was because she didn’t “look” like she should be challenging me. Ahh, we all know looks are deceiving in this arena, but it still plays with my mind. Finally I had to have a brief internal chat with myself. I said, “Self, I guarantee she’s not running on legs that have cranked out 85 miles this week, 30 of those miles yesterday. Let her go. Run your race. This is about a whole lot more than these 3 miles.” So I got comfortable in my pace, maintained my form in the headwind, and concentrated on finishing in under 26 minutes. She ran ahead and I was ok with that.
3.0 miles/8:44 I was really beginning to think I may die. All of those news reports of marathoners having MIs recently had me thinking that perhaps I’d be the next one on NBC Nightly News. Then I came back to reality. I had lost sight of my husband’s red shirt a few minutes prior so I knew he had finished, but I couldn’t find the freaking clock. There were droves of elves standing in front of it blocking the view. I had my Garmin, but I NEEDED to see the official time and these asshats were blocking my view. Finally I saw the seconds ticking off :15, :16, :17…but what were the minutes?
.1 mile/8:06 That was the longest .10 mile I have ever run in my life! Definitely the longest since the last 5k in the spring!! As I inched closer I finally saw the FULL time 25:20 and knew I had what I needed. I crossed the finish line and found the closest trash can. I stood there for a minute, prepared for the worst, but it was nothing more than dry heaves and coughing.
Official Time: 25:30
My 5k time improved by 1:32 and my estimated VO2max has improved by 2 points since April. I’ll take it.
You have to love all out effort….it just hurts so good!
I found my husband to check and see how his race went. He is finally recovered from his sports hernia, which has been a 6 month pain in the ass (more accurately a pain in his groin) for him. He finished just over 24 minutes and this puts him back to almost where he was before he got injured in July. He really wants to break into that 22 range. I don’t think it will be long now!
We both ended up taking 2nd in the 40-44 AG which is always an added bonus.
In 2 weeks we’re doing it again, this time a 10k test.
Have I mentioned how I don’t really like to hurt?
Below are a few pictures (literally, 3) from the day. I’m in the process of playing with our new MacBook so y’all are lucky enough to view my 1st ever slide show.
I hope everyone is having a great holiday running season!
Run Happy, My Friends!