Thursday, November 22, 2007

2007 Sprint Thanksgiving Day 5K

Here's my usual preparation for a race of any distance: Three days to go: run 2 miles, easy, throw in a couple of 10 second striders. Two days to go: Do nothing and rest. One day to go: Do nothing and rest more. Maybe eat some pasta for a meal or two. Warm up on race day: Sit down by the edge of the starting line and rest the legs, expending no energy whatsoever. Only move when the gun goes off. The day or two after the race? Yeah, you guessed it. Rest and recover. (You can stop laughing now.)

So, imagine my eyes popping when my schedule says to run 4 miles the day before the "race," plus striders, and run about 2 miles just minutes before the race, followed by striders. And, wow, a cool down of another two miles after the race. But, since the concept was really race = tempo run today (not a target race), I thought, "Ok, it's just not a race, it's really just a tempo run in the middle of some slower miles." I get it, let's see how it goes.

The day began at 20 degrees F, 15 mph wind, leading to a 13 degree wind chill. At exactly 8:29 AM, I set out, bundled with a throw away jacket and began my warm up. I was only still (as in not running) from exactly 8:58 to 9:00 AM, during which the national anthem was sung. I carefully tucked in at the back of the 7 minute milers, just in front of the 8 minute sign. I figured I'd go out around 8:30 or so, but whatever felt pretty easy, and pick it up from there.

I never even heard the gun go off I was so far back (well over 5,000 participants), and we began walking slowly, I had barely broken into a jog a minute later as I punched my Garmin and crossed the starting line. Scrunched tightly and moving very slowly with nowhere to go at about a 12 minute per mile pace, I wondered if everyone around me really misjudged their running skills that badly, or if it were that crowded, or both. It took me well over a half mile from the starting line just to finally see my pace drop to 10:05 per mile. I finished out the first mile in 8:45, more comfortably than I should have for a 5K, thinking uh-oh, I should not feel fantastic at mile 1 with only 2.1 to go.

It was only as I entered mile 2 that I could even move by choice at all, and began to work hard to pass people and get some open space. Only by about 1.65 miles did I even glance down at my watch to think, hmmm ok, I feel a little bit uncomfortable at this pace and I'm more than half way done. Still gaining speed, I crossed mile 2 in 8:14. I considered that I had a little more than a mile to go, and still had so much to give. By 2.13 miles complete, I remembered I should now be focusing on racing those around me. I looked left, right, ahead, and kicked it up a notch, and focused only on position and passing. I finished mile 3 in 7:30 and kicked it for the last tenth. I was amazed I had a kick left (and a strong one at that), and I sprinted for the finish, punching my Garmin as I crossed for a total of 3.13 miles in 25:32.

Officially, it was a 5K PR for me. I actually ran faster for the nite flight back in the summer, but the distance was off there by a quarter mile (long), so my official time was slightly longer. But, it was a terribly exhilarating and exciting race today because I have never felt so powerful as a race went on. In my last mile, as I began pouring it out, I had no issues passing anyone I saw. And, psychologically, that felt incredible. When I crossed the finish, I was out of breath, but barely fatigued, and easily slipped into my 2 mile cool down, finished my day feeling refreshed and energized--never tired. And here, now many hours later, I have no whisper of even racing at all. I could run 10 miles right now--my legs were not even tapped.

Now, I really need to see a 24 in front of my official time in a 5K. Mabye on December 8. I think I have it in me. But what a fun day today!