Thursday, November 27, 2008

Blood From a Turnip

"Setting a PR in the 5K is like squeezing blood from a turnip," one of my wise runner friends once told me. Back in June 2007, I squeezed two seconds out of it, down to 23:30. I hadn't squeezed anything since. . . until today!

I ran the 20th annual Virginia Run Turkey Trot 5K in Centreville, VA. This is a large 5K with about 3,000 participants. This is my third consecutive year running this course, and my course record was 23:32 from 2006. Last year's race was a disaster.

I was really hoping for and expecting a PR today. By how much, I had no idea. All of my training is targeted towards a January 18th marathon, which means that the bulk of my speedwork is only just beginning. Up until now, most everything has been focused on endurance and lactate threshold. A 5K is mainly a test of your VO2 Max, and I haven't been doing that kind training.

The weather was sunny with no wind, and the temperature was a frigid 33 degrees. I wore tights, and actually put my skirt over my tights for the first time ever. It was surprisingly comfortable. I wore my lightweight Mizuno Elixirs which are simply awesome for short races and speedwork. The course was rolling hills, with two longer/steeper hills (but that weren't terrible).

My strategy for this race was to not go out too fast (I ruin almost all my short races this way) and to not look at my watch. I wanted to wear a watch so I would know my time immediately, but I didn't want to look at it. I lined up toward the front, but not the very front. I didn't want to go out too fast so I made sure I was back some. The people around me were talking about running a pace of 8:30, and I was hoping for about 7:30, but I didn't move. The race started and it was really crowded. I didn't want to expend energy weaving through too many people, and I didn't want to go out too fast, so I just tried to stay relax and go with it.

I came to the first mile marker and hit the split button. I wanted to record my splits but not look at them. Well, I "accidentally" saw that I ran a 7:54. Not good. (I would later learn that this was more like a 7:50 because I started my watch too soon). I told myself not to worry and that I could easily run the rest of the race at a pace of 7:20. And that's exactly what I did.

I gave myself a bit of a push and I told myself to just maintain that faster pace. I passed a bunch of people at this point, weaving through them left and right, but I was determined to run at my pace and not let the crowd stop me from getting a PR. I zoned out. I focused on the music in my iPod. There were two long hills. I told myself that I had been training on hills so not to be intimidated.

All of a sudden, I noticed that I was turning back onto the main "drag" that meant that the race was almost over. I didn't even see the second mile marker. I looked at my watch and it read 19:04. Where did all that time go!? It just went by soooo fast because I was so focused, or perhaps I was zoned. Whatever I was doing, it worked.

Someone on the Runner's World forums said that you are supposed to feel like you are on the verge of vommiting during a 5K. So, I reminded myself that the pain I was feeling was normal and good, and that I could survive just a few more minutes of it. I told myself that I could NOT slow down and that I would sprint to the finish. I was grunting loudly. Every 15 seconds or so, I would let out this loud grunt that was totally incontrollable and really embarassing!

As I approached the finish line, I looked at the clock, which read 23:35. I knew I had a PR so I just did this sprint, and passed a few runners in the last 50 meters or so.

My official time was 23:22, with an average pace of 7:31.
This is a 5K PR by 8 seconds, and a course PR by 10 seconds.

I placed 5 of 136 women aged 30-34, beating 96.3% of them.
I placed 56 of 1421 total women, beating 96.1% of them.

After the race, I ran another 5 miles at a pace of about 8:50. Including the warmup and the race, I ran 9.1 miles today.

I'm very pleased with my performance, especially since this is the ONLY 5K where I have ever run negative splits. Maybe the crowd at the beginning was a blessing in disguise.

Time for Turkey! Happy Thanksgiving to all my blog readers.


  1. Woohoo Greenlee!! Way to leave it all on the course. I must say, you were a brave, controlled one to be lined up behind 8:30ers, it certainly worked for keeping you "honest" at the start, speedwise.

    And I love how you zoned out and time disappeared, what a great by-product when you're killing yourself. :)

    Great job!!

  2. Thanks, Flo! I lined up based on where I thought I would place, and I think my "spot" was technically a good estimate, but other people were too far forward! :-)

    I swear, when I looked down at my watch, I was like "what just happened?".

  3. Nice job Elizabeth! I have done the grunting thing too before, it is uncontrollable. LOL!

    Another PR in the books. So speedy.

    I am really not a huge fan of 5Ks yet I continue to torture myself with them. I love how quick they are, I must say...

    Hope you had a great thanksgiving. xoxoxo.

  4. WTG Elizabeth...and yeah, going out as hard as you can from the start usually backfires (just ask this gal ;) ). Way to run in control with a little restraint!