Saturday, March 6, 2010

Five Confidence-Boosting Miles

This morning I ran the Van Metre 5-Mile Run for Children's Hospital in Ashburn, VA. I had run this race back in 2007, but the course was mis-measured that year and was actually 5.2 miles so I didn't get an accurate time. My pace for the first 4 miles had been a 7:48, so I had some idea of how I performed. The purpose of the race today was to be a "tune-up" for the Shamrock marathon in two weeks. Pfitzinger recommends an 8K-10K tune-up two weeks out and that has usually worked well for me in the past.

I had no idea what to shoot for this morning. Based on my half marathon time from early December, I should have been able to run a 7:30 pace. However, I am in much better shape now, but I also can't run the shorter races as fast as McMillan predicts. I figured I would be happy with anything in the 7:35-7:45 range. My fiance, Greg, wanted to run a 7:30 pace so we started together.

The weather was sunny, windy, and about 35 degrees. The wind was a factor in certain parts of the race, but I have run in much worse. The course was rolling hills, except for there was a significant hill at the end of the first mile.

Mile 1: 7:39
This was the slowest mile of the race. Mainly because I wasn't sure what I was capable of and also because there was a big hill at the end of the mile. I think I had been averaging about 7:25 until that hill showed up. Greg was behind me until we got to the hill and he was able to take it faster than me.

Mile 2: 7:29
At the top of the hill, it took me awhile to recover. I think I was going at a pace of 8:30 for at least the first quarter mile. I caught up with Greg, who was also recovering, but then he sped ahead.

Mile 3: 7:29
Gently rolling hills.

Mile 4: 7:31
More rolling hills, trying to hang in there! I knew at this point that I would meet my approximate goal, so I just wanted to hang on.

Mile 5: 7:15
I was shocked at my ability to pull this off. The mile started off downhill and I just hammered on it. I was averaging a 7:05 pace for the first half mile and feeling awesome. Then there was a slight uphill to the finish. I tried to catch Greg, but he stayed about 10 seconds ahead of me for the entire race.

Time: 37:10
Average pace: 7:26

This race was HUGE for me in many respects.

1. I have never run a race at this pace. Ever. Not another 5-miler, not an 8K, not a 4-miler, not even a 5K! In fact, if I look at the last three miles, I beat my 5K PR. Part of me wishes this was a 5K or a 10K so I could have set a major PR in a more standard distance. So, my 5K PR will remain at a pace of 7:31, but I know I am capable of faster.

2. The running equivalent calculators, like McMillan and others, indicate that an "equivalent" marathon performance would fall below 3:40. For most people, this wouldn't necessarily mean much. But because I am stronger at longer distances, I believe I can run even faster than what these calculators predict. The reason why is because of reason 3. . . .

3. My heart rate stayed in my Lactate Threshold (LT) zone. This is tempo pace. I have a very hard time pushing past that threshold in shorter races. Greg's heart rate was far above his LT zone-- as it should be for a race of this distance. But I couldn't push any harder. It's very difficult for me to push beyond my LT zone, but I can stay it in for a long time. I definitely felt like I could have gone a few more miles at this pace. But I didn't feel like I could speed up. When it comes to a marathon, I will be running just under my LT zone. Now that I now that my true LT zone equates to about a 7:26 pace, running a marathon at the BQ pace of 8:23 should definitely be doable.

No age group awards today-- there were quite a few strong runners out there. But now my confidence has been sufficiently boosted for the marathon in two weeks. I just need to make sure that I don't get sick between now and then and hope for decent weather (not wanting to have rainy hypothermia again)!

Shamrock, here I come!!!!!!


  1. Congrats!!!!!! Way to set a great goal and meet it! Enjoy your taper and get read to ShamROCK! haha.

  2. Congrats - sounds like an awesome performance!

  3. Great Race Report and glad it went well and you rocked it!