First race of the season for me, first race in the series, first race in the USATF circuit…lots of firsts and I was anxious to get back at it. I had been back to training for a month and it had been going really well. So well that I had set high expectations for myself. It had been a year and a half since my last 5k PR (18:25) and I felt I could make a pretty big jump.
My “A” goal was 17:05, “B” goal was anything with 17 in front of it, and “C” was just a new PR. Because this was part of the USATF circuit, I knew the competition could be pretty tough but you never know who will show up and who won’t. Or at least I don’t – they pretty much know I’m going to be there because I advertise it. Haha! But I decided that the time goals were more important to me than the leaderboard. I would race whoever I could, but if I came in 5th or 6th and still got my time, I’d be okay with it.
The day before the race I got a massage, which is pretty typical for me, but it was with a therapist I hadn’t had for sports massage before. My legs felt really good after, but I had one nagging concern I couldn’t get out of my head. She did some assisted static stretching on my hamstrings and even though it felt good, I knew that kind of stretching before a race could reduce power output (depending on who you ask). There wasn’t much I could do about it at that point though, so I just had to wait and see come race time. At least it would be another opportunity to feel the science.
After arriving I got super nervous, way more than I should have been. It wasn’t really about the race against fellow competitors, but the race against myself. And for a 5k or 10k, if you screw up one mile, you don’t have time to recover. My legs felt good, but my hamstrings felt too limber.
We lined up at the starting line and I only saw two runners that I knew were fast enough to beat me. One of them I already knew was way faster than me and would probably easily take the win. The other had beat me at all three races last year to take the series, but based on more current race results I knew we were about the same fitness level.
Now counting on making top 3, I took off at the start taking the lead. The fastest female would overtake me before the halfway point, but she fell back a bit to, I assume, just see what kind of pace she needed to win. After the first mile she sailed past me. I didn’t look at my watch to see what my first split was, but I didn’t feel good. Like I had feared, I felt like I had to power in my hamstrings. My gut just didn’t feel good either. Not from food, but from a nervous, uneasiness. I wasn’t controlled and relaxed (this is why I think it’s important for me to race all these races). I knew I slowed, but I tried to stay steady the rest of the way. By the the turnaround point, I slid into 3rd. I tried to keep her close, but I started to feel worse. I gave up on trying to be close enough to put up a fight at the end. My splits were 5:43, 5:59, 6:03, and 37 seconds for the last .12. I PR-ed by 3 seconds.
I was bummed, but I reminded myself that my last 18:25 5k was on a crazy good how-did-I-even-pull-that-off kind of day. And this recent 18:22 was on a bad day. Most of the time, that’s how I shake off a bad race, or a rough training run. I think about where I was and how far I’ve come. I remember how excited I was when I broke 20 minutes for the first time. It doesn’t make the bad performance “okay,” but it makes me be grateful that I’ve progressed enough that I get to be bummed about this time that I would have killed for in the past.
Time – 18:22
22nd Overall of 381
3rd Female of 200
1st in Age Group of 12