two little runners ~Kristen
The Carlsbad 5000 is advertised as the fastest 5K course in the world. And only a 20 minute drive from my house, sign me up! There are multiple heats that begin at 7:00 a.m. and run throughout the morning until the elite races at 12:45 p.m. I ran in the 30-39 women’s heat, which kicked off at 9:23 a.m.
I’ve run quite a few 5Ks in the last year, and my best time was 19:53, which I set almost a year ago in the first 5K I ever ran. And I never came close to it again in 2012. So it was on. I was gunning for a PR.
So . . . I needed a rational pacing strategy, as I have crashed and burned in all of my 5Ks by starting out too fast. That first speedy mile always feels fantastic, running up front with the fast girls . . . and then suddenly it turns wretched for the next 14 minutes.
I wanted to change my ways and run a 5K by the books: as close to even splits as possible. I sensed that I could pull off about a 19:30, based on my current fitness. I needed to hit 6:17 for three miles in a row.
I warmed up by running slow for about 1.5 miles. And then I did a half dozen or so strides to really get my muscles firing. I was nice and warm at the start line. (Later I saw the elites doing basically the same warm up.)
Mile 1 – I lined up near the front and went out fast in the first quarter mile so that I could avoid crowd issues. I couldn’t waste any time weaving in and out of traffic. The lactic acid started to build up in my arms, so I slowed to settle into race pace by 0.25. And the lactic acid cleared. I clocked an even 6:17.
Mile 2 – By mile 2 there was a pretty big gap between me and a clump of runners in front of me. I focused on closing the gap one girl at a time. I saw that some of them had poor running form, and that gave me confidence that I could pass them if I kept steady. And I did, finishing mile 2 in 6:20.
Mile 3 – I decided not to look at my watch for this mile. I figured there is no upside to checking in on pace for the remainder of the race. If I was slower than my target pace, I would feel defeated because by this point in a 5K, I always feel terrible. In my mind I am thinking, “You can just stop. No one is stopping you from stopping.” On the other hand, if I was running faster than target pace, I might get spooked and slow down. So I ran blind. I chose to speed up each time I felt tired. Each time my brain told me to stop. Each time I felt lactic acid building. I crossed mile 3 at 6:17.
0.1 – After the last turn of the course, there is only 0.1 to go, and it is downhill. I ran as fast as I could. When the finish line clock came into my view, it said 19:16, and I ran faster to try to finish in less than 14 seconds, but just missed it. I ran a 5:18 pace for the last 0.1.
My official time was 19:36 (6:19 average pace) for a new PR! And a perfectly even half split. So my experience coincides with the books: you can’t run a 5K PR if you have a positive split (i.e., crash and burn pacing). You need evens or a negative (i.e., rational pacing).
I finished 11th of 297 in F30-34 (first place in this division was 17:11).
I decided to stick around for the elite race, so I had 3 hours to kill. I ran 5 miles easy, which felt terrible, so I stopped. Then checked out some restaurants, cafes, and shops in downtown Carlsbad. Much more enjoyable!
For the elite race, I positioned myself on the course so that I could see the runners pass by 3 times. In both the men’s and the women’s race, the runners were still in one group at 0.25. By mile 2 in both races, a leader pack had separated from the field. And by 2.75, a few runners in the lead pack had fallen back.
Dejen Gebremeskel of Ethiopia, the 2012 5K Olympic silver medalist, won the men’s race in 13:21. Geleta Burka, also of Ethiopia, won the women’s race in 15:26, edging out the second and third place women who both clocked in at 15:28.
two little runners ~Kristen