Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Takin' It To The Limit (One More Time) - 5K RR

From 6/10

I got up at 5:20 and was headed toward Anaheim (with my faithful DW by my side) before 6. Time for another 5K. It was cloudy and misting with no wind. Perfect conditions. I took a leisurely 1.5 mile warmup. Felt OK. Not great and energized, but not feeling sluggish and awful like it seems like I often do before a race.

Here is the course map. We start at the green dot, head South for a mile, and make 3 right turns to go around the rectangle, finishing with two lefts and a sprint to the checkered flag. Perfectly flat.
I ran this race 4 years ago and set my over-35 PR of 20:06. Today's goal was to beat that, and get under 20:00 for the first time in 20 years. My goal strategy was to get out about 6:30 or under, stay under 6:30 for mile 2, and then try to hang on and finish strong. 19:59 is 6:26 pace.

I had 6-7 friends there from my track group, Club Ed, including coach Ed himself. He is a little faster than me, but I beat him once (when he was out of shape) and it is always a goal to try and catch him.
At the start, Ed was just ahead of me with some of the other speedier guys from my group. As we took off I found myself right on his butt, and had to tell myself not to pass him. To use him as a pacer. To relax and stay in control. First Garmin check after 100 yards showed 6:11 pace. Yep, ease up. Don't go crazy. I was running hard but stayed in check and the pace dropped.

After 1/4 mile or so, Ed started to pull away a little. I maintained effort, as I was still seeing a lap pace of 6:20 and it was too early to push. He got about ten yards ahead, but I was focused on him and stayed about ten yards back through the first mile. I saw pace was in the high 6:20's. I felt pretty good. It was fast, but I felt comfortable that I could hold it.

After the first corner I checked G and it showed 1.13 miles! Somehow I missed the first mile marker (not marked) and didn't feel the buzz on my wrist. So I didn't know my split. I assumed it was about 6:28 because that's what I saw last time I checked. And that's what I had for mile 2 lap pace. That gave me a little boost of confidence. Hey, maybe I actually can run sub 6:30 the whole way! Never mind the sandbagging excuses. It looked like I would have a good shot today so I better go get it!

I focused a little harder and pushed. Passed a few people, and I noticed that Ed was starting to come back to me! Alright. New goal. Focus on Ed and try to catch him. Just get to mile two at 6:25 pace and let mile 3 take care of itself. I was definitely feeling the pain. I couldn't think that there was still more than 1.5 miles to go. I just stayed in the moment and treated it like a two mile race.

Pace dropped to 6:25, and then I saw a 6:23. Alright! This hurts, but I can keep it up for now. Saw the mile 2 marker this time on the road and G showed 1.99 miles. OK! Mile 2 was 6:24. And Ed was right in front of me. I went by strong and left him behind. Now I had no one personal to focus on ahead of me. But there were other runners to catch. I gradually reeled a few in. But the pain was getting to be intolerable.

About mile 2.2 my arms and legs both started to tie up. Lactic acid was building and I could feel my form faltering. I was hurting bad, but my lap pace still showed 6:23. Just need to hang on and get to the finish and the suffering would stop!

But damn, still a long way to go. Made the last right turn and just focused on getting to the next street. I could see my lap pace slipping to 6:27, 6:29...I was slowing but that was the best my body could do. In the last half mile I started to audibly groan or grunt every few breaths. The grimace was on, the head was bobbing. Why do I do this to myself! But I focused on the glory of a 19:59 and knew I had a shot if I could just hold on...

Left and left and there was the balloon arch, a tantalizing 300 or so yards away. I tried to go a little faster to see if there was anything left. Not much. Half way there I heard someone coming up on me, glanced left, and saw coach Ed! I dug deep and found a little bit more and kicked hard and held him off.

Did I mention that coach is 64?

With just a few seconds to go I spotted the finish clock. And it already showed a 20:0x. What?! Dang! I pushed through the finish anyway and checked my watch. 20:12. Official time was actually 20:10.
My new favorite race face.
It took a few minutes for the pain to stop. It was a bit disappointing, but I actually felt pretty good about the race. I gave it 100% and didn't leave anything on the course, and that's all you can ask, right? And I got a new season best and only 4 seconds off my AGPR from 4 years ago. So in 4 years I haven't got any slower, and at my age, that's good. And I beat Ed!

Plus I still think I could have run faster if I hadn't done that 16 miler last Saturday. Plenty of time left in the summer to try again.

Race rehash: I added trendlines to the pace chart below to show the different parts of the race.The spikes are just GPS glitches.
First 0.3 miles: A too fast start and easing off to get to race pace.
0.3 - 1.0: Steady but still slowing from 6:30-6:40. My lap pace showed faster due to the fast start, and I didn't get my 1 mile split which was 6:34, so I thought I was in better shape than I was.
1.0 - 1.2: Renewed competitiveness made me pick it up.
1.2 - 2.3: Steady hammering at about 6:25 pace
2.3 - 3.0: Body starts to run out of fuel and pace slows. Mile 3 was 6:31
3.0 - 3.1: Sprint! 6:09 pace for the last 0.12. That's actually slower than normal. I was dead.

In two weeks there is another race. You can bet I'll be coming back, running back, coming back for more....So put me on a highway and show me a (finish) sign, and I'll take it to the limit, one more time.

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