Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Armed Forces Week 5K Race Report

Armed Forces Week brings an annual 5K to my workplace and I never noticed it before I started running. I used to sit in the traffic jam that is our parking lot wondering why am I seeing a stream of people prancing by my car and why I can't drive over them so I can get to work. Last year I sat enviously on the sidelines while I watch the winners, some of whom I knew quite well, finish strong in quite impressive times (like 17 minutes). I was on the sideline last year because I had just finished my first marathon 2 days earlier and didn't feel like I could run without pain (a good thing too). I promised myself I would get out there in 2010 and show some guys a thing or two about how seriously I am taking this running hobby.

So, this year the day finally came where I registered for this event and I put together a training plan to help me get it together so I could run well. I took my finish time from the Cherry Blossom 10-mile run and set my sights on a 21 minute or better finish time base on the results of the McMillan Running Calculator. I scraped a plan from the last 5 weeks Running Planet's 5K Program for Advanced Competitive runners and set out on at least 150 miles of training with twice weekly speedwork, the most significant about of speedwork I have ever done.

I had been really suffering from allergies in the week prior to the race and had been so busy and sick that I skipped the last 3 runs I had scheduled before the race. No excuses. I figured that I would be fresh, but I had to take an extra strength Benedryl and Tylenol before the race.

I signed up with a team of guys and gals that I work directly with. We called ourselves the Running Problems. Our senior management had a group of run/walkers called Problem Runners. There was one guy, Scott, that I decided to run with on our team. He had claimed that he will get sub-20 minutes in this race and I let you know he got close or surpassed that goal in this race.

When the gun sounded we took off. Scott and I were near the front. We barreled down the street and up the hill. I looked at my Garmin and yelled to Scott, "we are going too fast!" My watch showed us pacing at 5:20/mile. I planned on making the first mile 6:30, but Scott's response was, "we've gotta drop the riff raff," which I assume were the jokers who didn't know how to race and would eventually come back down to earth. We slowed too as we went through some uphill stretched and finished the first mile at 6:19. That was my fastest one mile since 1992 when I ran a 5:20 mile to show a very fast offensive lineman that he could not beat me in a race. I decided to settle back but Scott was pushing ahead. I surged a bit to try to stay with him, but was not comfortable and decided to let him go. I saw my goal second mile time slipping away as I did mile two in 7:10.

I was now past midway and had entered the "go zone" according to Greg McMillan's race planning newsletter topic that came to me very conveniently the day earlier. I was supposed to run out the first mile in a pace about 10% faster than my goal race pace (6:30). I was then supposed to settle back into a fast rhythm pace until midway and then begin to try and pick off people or have personal fartlek run. I stayed close to an older guy with a smooth stride, but wasn't interested in catching, much less passing people in front of me. I was beginning to hurt and was looking for a soft landing even though I knew there was none. I had 800 meters to go and I just could not fall apart that close. I was supposed to kick then. I had plenty of kick to close in what McMillan says is the "get time zone." I was explicitly told not to wait until I see the clock because you cannot make up that much time when you wait that long. But, as expected I got to watch the clock count up 20:56, 20:57, 20:58, ..., 21:06. I sprinted the last 400 meters using my long strides that look impressive, but do little to give the speed of a sprint.

I barely missed my goal, but I am now hungry for more. I liked the race. I liked that I saw so many friendly, familiar faces and I like the 5K distance. To me it will hurt more than the longer distances, but it feels anaerobic like you are lifting weights. Short controlled, movement that when you do it right you will get more strength and endurance. I will race more 5Ks this Summer. If I break 20 this year I am going to try for a BQ at the MCM.

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