Thursday, November 24, 2011

My First Sub-7:00 Race

The title of this blog says it all. Well, most of it (otherwise I wouldn't need to blog). I was fairly confident in my ability to run a sub-7:00 average pace this morning in my 5K, but I if I did, it would be by the skin of my teeth. Maybe one of those annoying things when your Garmin says you rain a 6:59 average pace, but the official pace is 7:01.

This morning, my husband Greg and I ran the Virginia Run Turkey Trot 5K. This was my 6th consecutive year running this race.

My main goal for this race was to run sub-22:00, but I thought that if I was having a really good day, I could run around 21:45, for a sub-7:00 pace. I had just ran my fastest 5K ever as the second half of a 10K race, so I was fairly certain I could PR at the very least. I actually couldn't really imagine a sub-7:00 average, but the McMillan Calculator indicated that it was possible based on my recent 8K and 10K races. However, those two races were flat and this course has a huge hill in the second mile and a lot of other rollers.

Other goals were to not look at my Garmin after the first mile and to push as hard as I could during the last mile.

The weather was 40 degrees and sunny, which usually means short sleeves and shorts for me. However, I had just purchased new CWX capri tights that felt awesome to run in, so I figured I would give those a try. Yesterday was ridiculously windy, so I chose long sleeves, a decision I would later regret. If it were any other race distance I would have certainly gone with short sleeves, but I figured, "how hot can you really get in 22 minutes?"

Greg and I parked, warmed up for 2.4 miles and then lined up. This race is notorious for slower runners and kids starting at the very front. As I was walking towards the start line, I saw a 12-year-old girl wearing the race t-shirt at the very front. Not one row back-- but at the absolute front. I later saw her walking halfway through the first mile. Every year I lose time in the first mile because of weaving and being blocked by slower runners, so I lined up in the 3rd row back. Next to me were two teenage sisters who looked to be about 12 and 15, both wearing the race-shirt. I figured that if they were going to be that close, so could I.

I was actually warm standing at the start line after having warmed up. I really wished I had gone with short sleeves but it was too late now. I rolled up my sleeves and kept them like that the whole race.

Greg and I were next to each other, and he said he was going to try and keep me in his sight the entire time. He hasn't been training very much lately so he didn't have high expectations for this race.

Mile 1: 7:00
Because of the course profile, you really have to run this race strategically. The first mile is rolling hills, with what seems to be a net downhill. So you have to go out faster than your goal pace, but not too much faster. You also need to do this while weaving around slower runners, who I inevitably found myself behind. (I'm not just talking about people running in the 8:00's, but people who were doing a very slow jog.) I was also entertained by people bonking in the first mile (mainly teenagers) because they completely ran out of breath by going out too fast. Anyway, I was planning for this mile to be around 6:55, but wasn't too discouraged when I logged a 7:00.

Mile 2: 7:05
I didn't look at my Garmin at all this mile, but I did look at it to see my split. I was sooo tempted to look at it during the long hill, but I forced myself to focus on nailing that hill. I imagined I was at a hill workout with my coach telling me to lean forward and pump the arms. I pictured him in my mind watching me and my form, and I wanted to make sure I was doing it correctly. Instead of looking at the Garmin and thinking about how this hill was slowing my pace as I have in years past, I focused on my form and using my arms and I was at the top before I even knew it!

Mile 3: 6:42
I did sneak a quick glance at the Garmin once during this mile and that reminded me exactly why I wasn't supposed to be doing that. This pace was extremely fast. I told myself to ignore that pace and keep putting out a strong effort. Just run! With about 0.3 miles left to go my stomach started to hurt. It was a good hurt though, like I was about to vomit. I think you're supposed to feel this way at the end of a 5K, otherwise you aren't pushing hard enough.

Last 0.1: (6:08 pace)
I kept my eyes on the finish line, got energized by the people cheering me in and gunned it.

Official time: 21:29 with an average pace of  6:56.

This is a PR by 49 seconds, which is very significant for a 5K. I still cannot believe I ran it that fast. And with hills. This is a course PR by 1:04 from my race last year in 22:33.

I placed 15 out of 1983 women
I placed 4 out of 369 women ages 30-39

I am just thrilled with how I raced this. I guess being a little slower than expected in the first mile really paid off in the last mile.

Greg finished shortly after me in 21:44. Not a PR for him, but considering his very light training over the past two months, it's fantastic.

Here is a fun Turkey Trot history grid:

Date  Mile 1 Mile 2 Mile 3 Finish Time 
 2008   Unknown Unknown  Unknown   23:22
 2009    7:25 7:44 7:37   23:40
 2010  7:19 7:19 7:07   22:33
 2011  7:00 7:05 6:42   21:29

The irony of all of this is that my fall training has been the lowest mileage of nearly all of my training cycles. My weekly mileage has been in the mid 30's for the most part, with some weeks in the 40's when I was training for Milwaukee Lakefront.

I can't pinpoint exactly what has caused this sudden speediness and massive PRs in the 8K, 10K, and 5K, but I'm guessing it's a combination of my core strengthening (which I do religiously), my swimming and my pool intervals. (I get my HR up higher in pool intervals than on a track). Of course, my coach has been encouraging these types of activities and the actual track workouts have contributed as well. But that is a topic for another blog post.

Right now, I am going to enjoy Thanksgiving with my family and be super excited about my massive PR!!!!


  1. Wow, congrats!!! So happy for you!

    I get annoyed with the slow runners and walkers too. :D Well, I don't consider myself THAT slow but the walkers are SLOW.

  2. CONGRATS!! You have been tearing it up lately!! Happy thanksgiving :)

  3. 5Ks are gut-busting! Well done on beating your time.

  4. Awesome! You nailed it! Good to see you kicking ass in your last few races of the year.
    Hope your Thanksgiving was great too!

  5. Holy cow! That is a massive PR for a 5K! Way to go. I love that you majorly negative split that race. So many more great things are coming your way....

  6. Super congratulations!!!!

  7. what a breakthrough! keep rocking and rolling, my friend!

  8. Congrats on the huge PR! Sub 7:00 average is super impressive!

  9. FANTASTIC! And negative splits, no less! Congrats on a fantastic, beautifully executed, SPEEDY race!