My preparation for this race was not optimal.
It involved abnormally large quantities of beer (which for me is anything more than two drinks) and not much sleep.
Yesterday, I also (for some reason) felt it was a good idea to swim (which I haven't done in a week and a half), do a hard 30-minute spinning session, and take two different group classes--a yoga and a Pilates. Do not ask me why I thought this made sense. I was feeling fat and lazy and trying to overcompensate for it all. And besides (I told myself, when the sensible part of my brain tried to politely suggest that I am an idiot) swimming, spinning, yoga, and Pilates are all different things! They're not running! I'll be fine.
Clearwater is my home town, by the way. I spent my middle school and high school years in a district that routinely took top honors at the state cross country meet. I, of course, wasn't a part of that; the only sport I ever played in high school was football (my coaches asked if I had asthma, because I ran so slow and breathed so hard). So even though this was my first year at this race, I expected a fairly significant field of young, fast runners.
It's been a while since I've run a straight-up 5k; in fact, I can't remember the last time I've done one (have I ever done one?). The last mile I did was the Jingle Bell Run last year, and I did 7:49 there. So I was hoping to set PRs for both races, but obviously wasn't taking that goal too seriously, or I would have behaved differently yesterday.
The 1 mile started at 7:00 a.m. I was not feeling my best. I wasn't hung over, but my stomach was rumbling and squishing and generally making me uncomfortable. And I knew that I hadn't prepared adequately to run my best. Late nights, booze, and hard training do not make for fast legs. Add to that the fact that I haven't really been training (as a runner), and a PR does not look likely.
At the gun, I tried to go out fast but not too fast, and immediately wished I were somewhere else. The first thoughts in my mind were "I don't want to do a 5k later; I don't even want to do this." Fortunately, a mile is not very far. And each stretch we ran was only a couple blocks; having the run so broken up was helpful. I remember coming around the last turn onto the main road through town. I checked my watch, and it was just ticking over 6:00. I thought, "Holy cow! I could still come in under 7:00, I bet!" But I felt like I was running through Jell-o, and the last three blocks were longer than they looked. I crossed the line in 7:27, feeling awful, but happy with my new PR. I also got first place in my age group! A new trophy for the shrine!
During the mile, I felt generally miserable, and really didn't want to run the 5k. If it had been just me, I would have DNSed it and gone home. But my dad was running (just) the 5k, and there was no way I was going to bail on him. At about that point, I did decide to scrap the PR plans, and just run at my dad's pace, try to help him do really well.
We settled into a comfortable pace, although every time I looked at my heart rate monitor, I was surprised by the numbers that I saw. 166? Really? At a 10-minute-mile pace? About halfway through the 5k, I realized that the humidity was probably taking its toll on our bodies, jacking my heart rate way up and making me regret wearing a shirt.
The last mile or so, my dad really started slowing down. The 5k course ends with a long (for Kansas) uphill, a similar downhill, and then one more block to the finish. We toiled up that hill, and at the top I said, "Hey Dad, you see that guy with his shorts bunched up between his fat little thighs? Well do you think you can catch him?" And with that, I took off down the hill, trying to get my pop to use his momentum to carry him past the fat dude. We did catch the fat guy, but had nothing left for a kick. I think that was another effect of the humidity.
We finished the 5k in 30:20. Afterwards, I sort of regretted not running as hard as I could. But on this day, in these conditions, I guess it was understandable (if not exactly commendable). I don't know what I might have done had I actually tried. But there will be other 5ks, there will be other PRs, there will be other opportunities to break 24:00. I can wait.
Even with the new PR, this race didn't feel particularly successful. My legs were dead in a way I haven't felt in a while--maybe since after my last half marathon. It's not so much that they hurt. And they were working well; my form was fine--probably better than usual. But my legs just didn't have the power and force I wanted to demand from them today. And the humidity was palpable. Only 65% or so, with a heat index around 80*. But it felt much worse than that, and I know that made a difference.
Still, 7:27 is the best I've ever run, and I'm starting to see that sub-7:00 performance within reach. On a good day, with proper training and preparation, I think I could run sub-7:00 . . . well, not exactly easily, but without going beyond the red-lining zone. And I'm sure I'll have that opportunity soon.