Last weekend I raced my third 5K of 2017, and while my experience during the actual 3.1 miles kind of stunk, for some mysterious reason I find myself still wanting to wax poetic about it. Don’t get me wrong, the race itself was great. I appreciated the fact that it was a larger 5K and that I felt some nice camaraderie with my fellow hoofers. It was well organized, the location and course were both good. It was a well designed loop, and I appreciated not having to go out and back as a change-up to my last two races. The post-race atmosphere was also fun. My performance, however, was the lackluster piece. I finished in 20:59, which isn’t terrible, it’s just not an improvement over last month’s time, really.
In the course of these three 5K’s, I’ve learned so far that I am not racing them well, or at least not evenly. I have essentially run the same poorly executed race each time, and I can’t really say why. My workouts have improved (I think), and overall I’m feeling stronger. This has not yet translated to a successfully executed race though. All these race experiences have gone like this: first mile fast (6:20s), second mile probably where I should be (6:40), third mile feels like death and it takes everything I have not to blurt out profanity and/or just walk (7:07). The weather this past weekend was hot (upper 70’s), and it was a late start (10 a.m.), so there was that to factor in, but I don’t really think this was the issue as it was perfectly cool the last time I had this same experience.
I ran an errant 5K this past July that I’ve been telling myself went better than these, mostly because my overall time was slightly faster (20:50), but in reviewing my actual splits it was actually a similar race (6:39, 6:42, 7:01). Going out slower seems to have helped that last mile a smidge, but not much, so I suppose I have identified my problem. I’m having trouble with my stamina in these shorter, faster races. I probably should go out slower, but I’m finding these hard to gauge. I know they should be faster than I’m used to, and I swear that first mile never feels super fast or especially hard, though clearly it is for me in terms of my staying power for the remaining 2.1 miles I’m tasked with running.
The mental struggle during that last mile has been pretty heinous and has included lovely thoughts like “This is the last effing 5K I’m running EVER.” Yet, here I sit pondering how to run them more efficiently, so I guess the trauma was not as insurmountable as it seems in the moment. I had the pleasure of running my cool down with someone who out ran me, and as she was expressing her love of 5K’s as a great workout, I can’t say I exactly piped in with the same enthusiasm. 5K’s have proven to be quite the challenge for me, though I have decided to stay the course and see my speedy spring plans through. I am determined to run a better, faster 5K, which probably means running a more even race.
The most positive thing to come of this attempt to run a shorter race every month is realizing that I do like racing more often, and plan to keep this up even as I have my eye on longer fall races. The benefit in racing more often is becoming more comfortable racing, so I can focus on my performance in the race itself and not a general sense of nervousness about race logistics because I haven’t raced in 6 months. I used to think I needed the excitement of those bigger, less frequent events, but really it’s what happens after the gun goes off and I’m in the thick of things that matters most. That excitement is short lived, and while I look forward to the big events that I don’t do as regularly, I’m very glad to be getting the practice of the smaller, more regular events.
I did end up with third place overall female, so that was the icing on the cake, and I’m still proud of my effort even if it wasn’t quite where I wanted to be. I’m still trying, still chugging, still determined. Sometimes I feel like it’s just going to be one tiny mental or physical shift that finally makes a difference in these races, but I guess we’ll see in the next few months.