Saturday, March 2, 2013

Bright (and windy) Beginnings 5K

A few weeks ago, my coach suggested that everyone on the team run the Bright Beginnings 5K that took place this morning. He was so keen on us doing it that he labeled it as the day's workout and there would be no scheduled long run. I wouldn't have opted to run a 5K two weeks out from a marathon because I think it's too short to be a good predictor of marathon fitness. However, I thought it would be fun to run a race with so many teammates and I'd get a good workout in. Plus if my coach is recommending it, there must be something to it!

I was in Chicago this week for work and I flew home last night. My flight was supposed to get in at 7:35pm but it was delayed by an hour. And the delay was while we were on the plane, waiting to take off so it's not like I go to walk around or even use my iPad for entertainment. By the time I got home, it was around 9:00. Considering that I'm normally in bed by 9:00, this wasn't exactly ideal, but I still ended up with a decent night's sleep.

I woke up feeling pretty good and ready to race. Usually during the days before any race and I very focused on the race. However, this time I was completely chill about it. I honestly just saw it as a hard workout with my teammates and I didn't get nervous or anxious. I was looking forward to the race, but I didn't have my normal "excitement" that I typically get when I race.

Greg is unfortunately injured so he played cheerleader/spectator again. He drove and dropped me off near the start line since we were running a bit behind schedule. I can't emphasize enough how much I appreciate all his support. He was feeling tired and cold this morning but he still drove me to the race, dropped me off, parked kinda far away and came back to stand in the cold, windy weather to watch me race.

It was about 35 degrees, partly sunny and breezy. Being familiar with this course in West Potomac Park, I knew that it was flat, but could get windier than other areas in the city being so close to the water.

I warmed up for about a mile and a half with some teammates and was ready to go.

The race started about 10 minutes late because people were still picking up their bib numbers. We were all freezing cold at the start line, ready to get going, but the wait seemed to go on forever. We danced in place and stayed close to each other, trying to stay warm. There were about six runners on my team who were in my "group"-- running approximately the same pace as me. Two of these women ran the epic Love Rox half marathon with me two weekends ago. My plan was to try and stick with them and work as a team.

In terms of a time goal, I thought I was in shape to set a PR, and that I could probably run an average pace of around 6:50.

Mile 1
Mile 1, Photo by Cheryl Young
The race started and I felt great for about 2-3 minutes. And then the realization hit that this pace probably wasn't sustainable so I backed off and let my teammates get ahead of me. Never have I felt so crappy so early on in a 5K. At first I thought it was because I was pulled out too fast, but then once I backed off, I still felt sluggish. My coach was at the first mile marker calling of splits. It's always a great pick-me-up to see my coach in a race. I ran the first mile in 6:47, which was a little faster than my goal, but I knew there was a tailwind helping me out.

Mile 2
There's still two more miles of this? Oh my God, that seems like forever. I just didn't have "it" at this race. My sports psychologist refers to "it" as kinesthetic feel. He says that some days you have it and some days you don't. Performance is dynamic and some days you are in your groove, and on other days, you just can't find it. Well, I didn't have any kinesthetic feel. I typically have a mantra that goes through my head that keeps the rhythm steady and I feel energized. This morning, no mantra came to me and I just felt really "off". There was no rhythm to my running, I felt clumsy and tired, and I just wasn't really on. The turnaround was a rude awakening, because the nice tailwind was gone and I was running straight into a headwind. I hit the second mile in 6:53.

Mile 3
Mile 3, Photo by Cheryl Yong
The headwind during the last mile felt like it was pretty strong, but in reality it may have been like 10-15 mph.   Unfortunately I had lost sight of my teammates so there was no hope of running as a group to battle the wind.  I was just miserable during this mile. I used every mental trick I knew of to keep running strong, but I felt like I was running in place. I pushed as hard as I could and I gave everything I had- but it just wasn't there. The wind was coming directly at me, my face was freezing, I felt exhausted and I'm pretty sure my form was falling apart. Based on the two mile splits, I knew that all I had to do was run a 7:00 pace or faster and I would PR. I really wanted that PR but there was just nothing that could get me to go any faster. I ran a disappointing 7:20 which is slower than some of my half marathon miles from two weekends ago. I've run 6-mile tempo runs with faster miles in them. I think this speaks volumes to how crappy I was feeling during that last mile.

Final Kick
I almost always have a very strong final kick. Even in my crappiest races, I can almost always manage to find something left at the end. But not this time. I ran toward the finish line, looking at the clock and wanting to get under 22:00- so I pushed and pushed, but could only muster a 6:48 pace. In my past THREE half marathons, the last 0.1 was faster than this.

Final time was 21:47, average pace of 7:01.

I am not beating myself up over this and nor am I upset. In fact, I cannot believe I ran a 21:47 (just 18 seconds slower than my PR) feeling so crappy. And because I had nothing left to give in that final kick, I know I left it all out there and tried my best.

My key takeaways are:
Mile 3, Photo by Cheryl Young
  • I gave it all I had despite feeling crappy. My lack of final kick is evidence of that.
  • I didn't have "my groove" this morning (possibly because of my Chicago trip, or possibly for no particular reason at all)
  • I ran a significant positive split, but that had a lot to do with the tailwind on the way out and the headwind coming back in.
  • I enjoyed running a race that so many of my teammates were participating in
  • Fitness-wise, I think I am definitely in my best shape ever. I don't think I could have ever previously run as fast while feeling so blah.
  • I'm not upset or beating myself up-- in fact just the opposite-- which shows I've grown mentally.
  • I didn't compare myself to my teammates. It would have been nice to run with them, but I accepted early on that it wasn't going to happen and I stayed focused on doing my personal best.
  • I broke 22:00 for the second time ever.
My coach suggested I run 10-12 miles tomorrow, and I hope I'm not too sore! My primary focus for the next two weeks will be staying healthy from both an injury and illness perspective. I don't want to turn into a germ-phobe, but I do want to be mindful about washing my hands, taking vitamins and keeping a good distance between myself and co-workers who are sick. Thankfully I will not be getting on any more planes during the next two weeks. I plan to stretch and foam roll a lot, and if my legs are feeling too sore tomorrow, I won't sweat cutting the run short.

I'm glad to have another solid race under my belt this year!

Capital Area Runners post-race


  1. Congrats on your race!! It was so good to see you, you looked GREAT!! :)

    I hope Greg feels better soon. Stupid Sciatic..

    1. Thanks, Dash! And thank you for the fantastic photos!

  2. "I can't believe I ran Sub 22 feeling so crapp"... that's because YOU are IN SHAPE!

    I like how you used the adjective "clumsy" to describe how you felt while trying to run hard. I tried to explain that feeling to the boyfriend the other day and just didn't get it. I think it has something to do with trying to increase turnover rate while tired. Who knows.

    Keep rocking on, Elizabeth. You are doing GREAT!

    Ps. How anyone races in 30*, I will never know. It feels MISERABLE to me!

    1. Thank you! Ironically, a few posts ago, I remarked how I saw someone who looked clumsy in a 10K and I was so relieved that I didn't feel that way. But now I know how it feels. But you are right when you are so extremely tired and trying to give 100%, things just get clumsy!

      I prefer the low 30's to the low 60's! I just melt in anything above 60.

  3. Congrats on a great race! Really awesome that you celebrate your wins :-)

  4. You are AMAZING!!

    You were in Chicago? Girl, you need to let me know and I'll meet up with you. Seriously.