Following last weekend's major struggle through a windy half marathon and still trying to get back in shape after spending so long in a boot, I really just wanted a solid effort and to see some improvement over the 5k I ran a few weeks ago. I didn't have a particular time goal in mind, for once in my running life. My plan was to keep it comfortably hard and see what happened. I really had no idea what that would mean in terms of finishing time or place.
The start was really crowded because they started the 5k and 10k at the same time AND they invited everyone running as a couple (they had a special award for "fastest couple") to start in the front. A few girls went out HARD, but I settled into a comfortable pace, took the lead around the half-mile mark and hit the first mile in 5:53. Okay, good. I can hold this.
At that point, I think there were about 6 men in front of me and I made it my goal to start picking them off. Of course, I had no idea how many of them were running the 5k and how many were actually in the 10k and I wouldn't know that until the finish line when the 10k runners passed the finish line and headed out for Lap #2 of the 5k course.
Most of my workouts lately have been fartleks where the longest segment of "hard" running has been 3 minutes, so I'm a little out of practice when it comes to focusing for a 5k. In the second mile, I just tried to stay engaged and keep pushing through the little inclines and a hairpin turn that threatened to throw off my rhythm. Mile 2 - 5:54, still leading the women and about 4 men in front of me.
Still feeling surprisingly comfortable and pretty solidly locked into that pace, I just held steady until 2.5 miles. Because I haven't been doing hard efforts longer than 3:00, I was nervous to push the pace too much because I didn't want the finish to be ugly. I was chomping at the bit, my legs ready to go, but there was some fear and anxiety there. At 2.5 miles, I felt reasonably certain that I could push harder for one last kilometer, so I started to move. Mile 3 - 5:48 (the fastest mile I've run since September), and only 2 men ahead of me.
I saw the first man peel off to the left as we approached the finish - a 10k runner. I could see the 1st place 5k man. So. Freaking. Close. I tried to catch him, but there just wasn't enough space. He crossed the line about 8 seconds before me, but I'm still happy to have won the women's race in 18:17. More importantly, I felt strong and I felt like I could have gone faster if I had been able to push aside the fear about blowing up.
But, now I know where I'm at and I think I'm in a place where the real training can start. Let's do this!