I’ve run two more races in the Summer Sunstroke Stampede.
I’m attempting to run a 19:40 by keeping a steady 6:20 pace throughout these races. At least, that’s my plan but I’m not executing it very well. Partly because the first mile of the course is very fast and partly because my brain thinks it can run faster than my body is willing to let it.
I arrived just in time to register and get to the starting line. The regular front runners didn’t show up, but my rival from last season was there (last year my rival and I were in the same age group and took turns beating each other every week). When the gun went off I found myself all alone in the lead. My first thought was “could I win this race?” then I thought “Am I going to take a wrong turn?” followed by “have I already missed the first turn? Is everyone following me off the course?”
Then I looked at my watch and saw that I went out at a 5:30 pace and needed to pull waaay back if I wanted to keep to my plan. So I pulled back to 5:45 and my rival passed me with a Rogue Runner hot on his tail. I pulled back to 6:00 pace and a few more runners went by. I wasn’t too concerned. If I stuck to my plan I should find myself running a Texas PR and I would be happy to do just that.
I crossed the first mile in about 6:08, which was much too fast. The middle of the race is mostly a gentle inverse decline, so it wasn’t difficult to keep pulling back. I got my pace under control and hit the second mile at 6:18 pace. I started reeling in everyone that passed me in the first mile and I was on pace to run better than I had hoped! But 2 miles is a little too early to start counting my eggs.
The longest mile of a 5k is the third mile. I felt pretty good coming into this mile. I was in control and keeping on my pace. Usually by this time in a race I am stuck in no-mans-land. Far enough away from the pack in front of me that I won’t catch them, and far enough ahead of the pack behind me that they won’t catch me. That’s a tough place to be when you want to run a good time. This week I found myself at the back of a small, strung out pack of runners and I was able to pick up my pace and pick a few of them off. This helped me pull through in a Texas PR of 19:50!
I was pretty happy with my time, but I know I can do better. I need to run a more consistent race. I need to start slower so that I can finish stronger. In order to prepare to run a more consistent pace I decided to run a 4 x mile repeat track working that weekend. I would run each mile at 6:20 pace with a mile rest in between each one. I want to train my body to know what a 6:20 pace feels like, both when I am fresh and when I am exhausted. The workout went well, even though it rained the entire time. I was right around 6:20 pace for each mile and I was pretty tuckered out.
Started too fast again. 6:06 pace. It’s weird because I don’t feel like I’m running fast. When I go for a regular run, if I start at 7:00 pace it feels fast, but when race time comes I take off at 5:40 pace and it just feels natural (even though that’s a faster pace than my all-time 5k PR). I still have a lot of work to do with my first mile pacing.
Second mile I ran a 6:08. I changed my plan mid-race, which is never a good idea. I thought to my self “Self, maybe deep down you really are in 19 min shape,if you run a good 2nd mile then the third mile will come.”
Somewhere in the third mile I revisited my new plan, “Self, you’re an idiot.” I spend a good part of the third mile running over 7:00 pace. Last week I felt strong in the third mile, this week I felt helpless. I was running just to get to the finish. I was no longer concerned with my time, I wasn’t even convinced I would make it all the way to the finish line.
All the people that I picked off in week #2 stayed ahead of me this week as I, in the words of the race MC, “squeaked in under 20 minutes”. I still finished faster than any race from last year, so that’s not bad. I’m mostly disappointing in my inability to execute on my plan. Once I can start running a consistent 6:20 pace I will have something to work with. Right now, I feel like my performances are determined by luck-of-the-weather and who-else-shows-up. I’d rather be in control of my running destiny.
I’m going to do some more pace work this weekend. I’m thinking a ladder of some sort. I really want to work on my opening pace, so I’d like to get a bunch of work going from “0 to 6:20 pace”.