It has been almost a year since my last 5k. I truly love a longer distance race like a half or full marathon so much more, but since participating in the S3 (explosive training) program at my gym, I decided to see if all the hard work paid off. When I first signed up for this training a couple of months ago, I noticed my long distances were suffering because my legs were so fatigued due to the excessive hamstring and glutes conditioning exercises. The trainers insisted my sprints and quick runs would improve, and that I would find a new way to utilize my legs when I get to the point that I am "breathing blood" in a race. Apparently my "quick twitch" muscles will get more active and "propel" me better toward the finish line. And eventually the long distances came back to me better than ever.
Now I am not your typical runner, I am of a bigger build...only been running consistently for about two years....I do a lot of weight training and other disciplines (I am doing a triathlon in June). I overpronate and my gait isn't as efficient as I would like. But despite these setbacks, I love to run and I won't allow the negative to invade my "zen" when I am on the road with the wind at my back. I will concede that the suicide sprints in S3 replaced my intervals, the relays were my "repeats", and the sledding we do on the field and in the gym replaced my "fastest paced" short runs. To make a long story short, I am not fast. I will never be fast, but I had it in my mind that if I could get to a place where I could maintain the sidestitch and the panic for 3.1 miles, then I certainly can wipe 15 minutes off my marathon times. This is logic to me. Please don't laugh:).
My best 5k in a race was 27:50, my best 5K on the treadmill was 26:and change. I wanted a 26:15 this weekend. I chose a local 5K that was on the small side, and the route is actually on the streets I run every week. I looked at the previous year's results, and I came to the conclusion I could have a slim chance of obtaining third place if I really put myself into this thing. I went to bed early the night before, and I set my alarm for well over an hour before my husband and I would have to leave for the race. I wanted to make sure I didn't have any GI issues, and I need to fuel up and hydrate so food and water wouldn't be scapegoats for me later when I wanted to rationalize my poor performance. My husband and I ran 2 and a half miles to the race site (which, in retrospect, supports my theory that I always do better in a race...no matter the distance...with a short warm-up run) and we took our places at the start.
I purposely downloaded the fastest songs on my iPod whether I liked them or not, and put a key song at the end of the playlist. The key song would be my warning that I wasn't going to achieve my goal. I had all the music timed out perfectly (comes back to bite me in the butt, but I digress). I would not wear my Garmin, I would not look at times, and in fact, I was going to try to avoid visualizing the mile markers (yeah, right).
The race starts and I take off like a wild woman, elbowing my way through the slower folks (although I am the one usually being elbowed). My husband disappears from my view, because he is on his way to a PR. "You are too fast," I tell myself. This is where my brain gets multiple personality disorder--"Slow Down" "NO! I can't!" "Yes, you can--just ask your legs, they will agree with me." "No, my legs feel just fine." "Are you sure"? "We HATE this song, fast forward to the next song." "No, I don't even want to waste the energy lifting up my arm and pushing the button." "This gum sucks, spit it out." "NO! I am not stopping for water, I need this gum." And it continued like this until mile 2.5, where my husband warned me not to look at the finish (I am running parallel to it and I have to cross a huge field and then one lap around a track to reach it). What do I do? I look at it. The finish line is so far away, that the brilliance from the sun would take a gazillion light years just to cast a small shadow on it.
It is at this point I knew I was going too fast, but I couldn't slow down. I had a big cramp in my side and sweat was pouring into my eyes. I remembered one of the S3 trainers saying to pull strength from the hamstrings and glutes. He said runners have overdeveloped quadriceps and that could be an undoing in a situation such as a 5K. So I focused on swinging my pelvis more and pulling from my behind. It worked. I am on the field headed for a hill that I had to climb to get to the actual track. A lady I passed before caught me in the lane next to mine. She looked to be about my age--I thought I was kissing third place good-bye. I was concentrating so hard on keeping it together for the race, I didn't really notice anyone else. My husband was on the side waving at me, but at this point I couldn't muster up the energy to even acknowledge his presence.
Then I saw it. I saw the time clock. I couldn't believe my eyes. I thought it was a mistake. 25:00? Me???? I was yards away and I had to have it. I just fight back my urge to vomit and I lengthen my stride. I am getting closer. I am there. I hear the "beep" crossing the mat, and my husband yelling, "25:32". Really? Did I really just do that? I am heaving, hands on knees...the lady who passed me up comes over and says, "Thanks for giving me that final push." I tell her, "Good race". I get some water and cheer on the other runners coming in. My husband wants to stay for the results, so we wait. We talk to other runners, I get a banana. I congratulate a 12-year-old girl who beat me by 20 seconds. My husband goes to look for the results, and this woman comes up to me and engages me in conversation. He returns with a big grin on his face. He is holding one finger up. I scream, "YOU GOT FIRST PLACE???"...."No," he says, "You do; I got third." I said, "No way!" He insists it is true.
The closest I have ever come to placing in a race was maybe 6th or 7th. I never expected first. BUT, in fairness, it was a small race...and my age division was just very kind to me that fair Saturday morning. I am COVETING my new 5k time. I don't feel that slow anymore. I received a gold medal and news that I beat the second place winner by just three seconds.
I had the best run home. I am shooting for 24 next time.