Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Good, The Bad, The Happy, The Sad

Ran the Illini Mentor Program 5K race this morning on the Quad at the University of Illinois. Three big loops and lots of turns on sidewalks to complete the course, but not too bad. Reasonable weather too (50 degrees, sunny, little wind). This was my first 5K race in 7 years. Crazy. I wanted to break 20 minutes; I finished in 4th place overall in a time of 20:28. I think I was one of only two people over the age of 22. Again, crazy. I can't compete with college students. But I held my ground the best I could. I beat all the women and everyone over the age of 22. Still, I have mixed feelings about the race outcome. Here's the good, the bad, the happy, and the sad.

THE GOOD. I actually got the heck out of bed, registered, and ran this race. That's good. Even last night I had second thoughts. Why run a short race when I'm an ultra runner? What if I injure myself? What good can come of a 5K race? Am I in shape enough to push it? Why disappoint myself? How will this prepare me for a 50 miler? Lots of questions. I needed some answers. So I woke up and raced. That was good.

THE BAD. I was ill prepared for this race. Hadn't run a 5K in a long time. Forgot what it felt like to run hard. So, I ran what I knew. I ran tempo pace. It was a lactate threshold run for me (80-85% heart rate reserve). Heck, it was actually done at 81% HRR. That's a basic moderate tempo run. I didn't run 5K race pace...or half-marathon race pace. It was limbo land. Fast, but not fast enough. That's bad. I should have pushed harder...or held back a little and made it a half-marathon test run. Now I'm left wondering. Could I have run sub-20 minutes? I didn't even get to test out my maximum heart rate. My sprint to the finish didn't drive my HR very high. I took it too easy. That was bad.

THE HAPPY. Even though I didn't push it, I ran pretty well. With an 81% HRR effort, I ran 6:32 pace. That's a great lactate threshold pace (my actual LT is probably around 80% so a little slower than 6:32). Much faster than I would have predicted. That makes me happy. That LT pace predicts some nice future races. McMillan Running claims that a 6:32 LT pace would predict a 1:28 half-marathon and a 3:06 marathon (and a 19:00 5K race done at real race effort). Freaking awesome! Even my actual 5K race finish of 20:28 predicts a 1:35 half-marathon and 3:20 marathon. Not too bad. I'm happy.

THE SAD. I didn't put in a race effort so I don't know what I could have run. This is really sad. I took the easy path and played it safe. I ran what was comfortable. I know what a tempo run feels like and this was a basic tempo effort. Maybe just a tad bit faster. 81% heart rate reserve? Really? Is that all I had? Sad. Very sad. I'm not happy. I'm not proud. I'm sad. Maybe next time I'll push the pace, push my heart and lungs, and know what I am capable of racing. I'm confident I could run 20:00. I'm cautiously optimistic I could run 19:30.

A big thank you to the Illini Mentor Program for putting on this fun race. They do great mentoring in the community and it's fantastic to see college students helping local youth. I hope it was a productive fund-raiser. I'll be back again next year to run this IMP 5K race. Hopefully I'll be better prepared and I can pull a top 3 finish against these college kids.

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