Monday, June 13, 2011

Right on Track

I shared a few weeks back about my goal of racing a road 5k for the first time in a very long time.  I knew I needed a little break from racing ultras and thought returning to some faster track work would be fun and good for my overall fitness while giving the body a break from the really long stuff.  But just because I'm not racing ultras, doesn't mean I can't jump in one for fun.  So what if the trail 50k falls only 6 days before my first attempt at a fast 5k in 18 months?

Last summer when I first moved to Cincinnati, I spent a few weeks living out of a hotel by myself.  I had already started working, but Stef hadn't moved up yet, and we hadn't closed on our house.  I happened upon an small, easy, trail 50k in the area and decided to hop in it since I had nothing better to do.  I enjoyed myself so much last year, I decided to return to Another Dam 50k again this year and use it as an aided long run.

I went in really focused on running relaxed and making sure that I didn't get caught up in the race and go harder than I intended.  I am so competitive that it's really hard for me to "turn it off" and just run relaxed when there are other people on the course.  So I have to do things like make of game out of it for myself with rules like: No leading the race on the first loop (out of 4 total).  I also set conservative time goals each loop and instead of trying to blast the time, I see how close I can get to hitting the split without going over.  The no leading rule didn't go so well.  It's a small race with only 120 starters, but last year I had company for two whole loops.  This year, I was slower than 7:30 pace at 3 miles and taking the lead.  I knew I wanted be around 7 min pace for the whole thing, so I just focused on running comfortable.  I was alone for the rest of the race.  My splits game was more successful.  I held the pace in check for the most part and cruised the whole day.  The course was in great condition this year and that allowed me to shave four minutes off my course record from last year when the trail was a muddy, slippery mess.  I distinctly remember how my legs felt after last years race and I felt much, much better this year so I knew I'd done a good job of resisting the temptation to race.  It was just a good, fun run, with a great group of runners and volunteers.

But, I've really been working on my speed over the last few weeks and was ready for a 5k to test out my wheels.  Even though it was held only 6 days after AD50k, the Jet Power 5k, run at my place of work, was a perfect opportunity to have a little dress rehearsal 5k race.  I would say that it was a small 5k, but it had over 400 entrants.  It was a pancake flat, single loop course that circled the plant.  The race started just before a summer thunderstorm hit with temps in the low 80s and the requisite high humidity.  To make matters worse, the course headed due south for 1.25 miles straight into the gusty winds that were preceding the rain.  Myself and a regular training partner, Eric Bair, separated from the rest of the field early and were aiming for Eric's goal of a 5:08 first mile.  He led for most of the first half mile, then I took over and we split 5:07.  If not for the wind, it would have been faster than that though.  I made a conscious effort to push the pace slightly during the second mile, knowing we would be turning back north and running with the wind.  I split a 5 flat for the 2nd mile and had opened a 10 second lead on Eric.  I continued to push hard the last mile, trying to remember how to race a 5k and make it hurt a little, but I definitely did not feel smooth.  I was having to force the issue.  I crossed the finish line in 15:34, splitting 5:26 for the last 3.1, so the last mile must have been sub-5. 

Overall, I was pleased with my finish.  It was on the fast end of what I thought I was ready to run and the conditions really weren't all that great...but they weren't terrible either.  I definitely felt rusty and hope that helped my legs remember what its like to run fast again.  Unfortunately, it just occurred to me that I only have 2 more weeks until my "goal" 5k, the Hyde Park Blast.  That really only leaves me one, maybe two, more hard track workouts before I have to coast it in.  It would be fun to spend a few months really getting back into 5k shape, but I have to keep my focus on the big goal in September.  While my training will return to more typical 100k stuff after the Blast, I'm still planning to run a 5k/10k double for the GE track team at corporate track nationals in July.  It's a little too close to the World 100k to be a major focus race, but I should be able to help the team and spend a fun weekend in California as well.

So that's the plan.  I'm having fun and feeling good.  I'll check back in and let you know how the Blast turned out in a couple weeks.

P.S.  Still got in 80 miles last week coming off the 50k and in a week that included a 5k race.  Solid.

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