In an attempt to boost my confidence for my upcoming half marathon (Silver Strand), I raced the Girl Scouts New Day 5K on Sunday. Unfortunately, it was not just me versus a bunch of 11 year old girls, so the race did not have its intended effect. The field was stacked, for reals, as word on the street was that age group winners would receive a case of Girl Scout cookies – one box of every type! And every finisher got a box of thin mints. So even the 1 mile fun run was competitive, with the first place boy coming in at 6:08, and the first place girl at 6:27. Awesome! I don’t think I ever ran a 6:27 mile until I was 30, likely 31.
The race took place in Mission Bay Park, with the 5K course running along the east side of the park from De Anza Cove south to the Hilton and back. I’ve raced here before, and parking in the past has been a free-for-all. But the Girl Scouts were super organized with parking volunteers directing traffic into the lots and even helping late-comers find parking after the lots were full. I arrived extra early, as is my custom. So I had no difficulties.
The race director did a brilliant job with all logistics. No line to pick up bibs, and there were actually enough port-a-potties so that there was never an outrageous line. There were even port-a-sinks (stocked with soap and towels), a nice touch you don’t find at many races. The race started on time at 8:25 a.m., and the awards ceremony was underway by 9:25 a.m. Unheard of, no?
There was a swell health expo, which was centered around a chalkboard structure where the girls could write their goals – you know things like plant trees, finish this 5K, eat better, exercise more, be positive, be healthy, eat pizza and cake.
So onto the main event – a word to the wise for next year, the Girl Scouts crowd the start line, it is their race after all, so the first 200 meters of the race are spent dodging, weaving around, and hurdling over little girls. The course is flat and fast. Very few corners. As long as there is no wind, and the temperature is cool enough, I think just about anyone could PR here.
But I am beginning to realize that you can’t judge a race performance solely by finishing time. We runners tend to focus on this metric of performance. PR-ing is great, but time is just one factor we should use to measure our results.
Not to imply that I came close to PR-ing. Clock time was 20:36. No chip times, but according to my Garmin, I finished in 20:33 (average pace 6:37), 40 seconds slower than my 5K PR (set in June 2012).
And not to further imply that I had a great performance. I didn’t. I ran the first two miles well, clocking in at 6:27 and 6:33, respectively. But then I totally wimped out between 2.0-2.75. I let my brain trick me into slowing down – it is hot, it is muggy, you already ran 30 miles this week, you are jet lagged, etc. Several times I looked down at my watch, which read a 7:00 pace and I thought to myself: Darn! (PG version here because I was running with Girl Scouts.) I tried to pick up the pace, but my legs were not receiving the message to accelerate.
Then around 2.75 miles, a dude from the crowd yelled, “Go for it, KICK!” With that, I realized there was no good reason for me to slow down all this time. And I snapped out of it, finishing strong. My split for the 3rd mile was 6:52. But I ran the last 0.1 in 39 seconds, a 6:04 pace. Thanks dude!
Bottom line, I wish I had been tougher and busted out a third mile at 6:30. But at least I overcame my mental weakness in the last 0.35. I am trying to be positive here, but I was really disappointed in my performance. I am training harder than ever, but I am not running faster.
Oh wait, I am judging my performance solely by my time again. I gotta think broader. My journal says, "No one race, not even the Olympics is the end-all-be-all. Every performance is simply a snap shot in the moving picture of your running life."
How about this snap shot?
I won my age group and the coveted Girl Scout cookie price. If I measure my performance in cookies, it was an unqualified success!