Typically, August and September are months where, because of cooler weather, my mileage starts to creep up in anticipation of a fall goal race - like a Marathon or Half Marathon. However, this year has been anything but typical and, as a result, over these past two months I’ve just been trying to get my head above water – training wise.
Late this August, I decided to test my current fitness level by running a 5k race. Of course I knew it was going to be a bloodbath because, as stated in a previous posting, I’ve got a lot of work to do on my speed. And, just how much work I had to do became very evident, very quickly. The 5k I chose was one of the last races in the Mine Falls Summer Trail Race Series and despite my high placing (fourth) it turned out to be a personal worst 5k time for me.
My hope was to try and run even splits (right around 6:30 per mile) and run just at (or below) 20 minutes for the full effort. Unfortunately, the excitement of running my first race in 4 months got the better of me and I blasted through the first mile in 6:18. Whoops! The next mile was predictably slower (6:37) and the last mile was a down-right pedestrian at 7:00. A 43-second final .1 capped off an all-time worst 5k of 20:38 (6:38 pace). Yuck!
Two days later, I worked at trying to lower that 5k time (and raise expectations) by hitting the Nashua High South Track with my running pals from the Gate City Striders. It was kind of like a reunion, of sorts, since I hadn’t done a full track workout with them since late October - of last year. The first week’s workout was a 400/800/1200/1600/1200/800/400 ladder. And, while it certainly hurt, it felt great to get the legs moving again. The following week was 8x800 and the week after that was a 5m tempo run which I did at an average pace of 6:35/mile - or, about 3 seconds per mile faster that the 3.1 I had done 2 weeks earlier!
It was at this point that I decided I was ready for another little speed test so I headed out to Salem, NH (my old hometown) for a low-key5k. Unfortunately, this was a first-year race and there was no course map available prior to registration. If there had been, I probably wouldn’t have signed up (despite the great cause it benefited) because this 5k featured about 300+ feet of elevation gain (and subsequent loss) over the short 3.1 mile course. No way I was going to be running even splits here!
The first kilometer (no mile markers – just k’s) I ran very easy at 3:49. But, found myself in first place anyway. The next k was almost all up and I hit that split in 4:08. There were two guys nipping at my heels, but they ‘allowed” me to lead that k as well. Next was a downhill portion and we all went through the 3rd k in 3:47. More uphill in kilometer 4 (4:03) and still with two in tow. Just past the 4k mark one of the “followers” jumped to the front with the other close behind. I tried to go with them, but my lungs (and heart) were exploding in my chest and they got away. I closed the last k in 3:44 for a finishing time of 19:33 (6:19 pace) but lost by nearly 30 seconds. No kick!
Fortunately, the guys that beat me were much, much younger and I scooped up a $25 gift certificate to Sports Authority for my 40+ age group win. Sweet! It was enough to cover my entry fee and I got a nice T-shirt (no sponsors) and a meal catered by Margarita’s to boot! The nice thing (other than finishing third this time) was that I lowered my time from 3 weeks ago by over a minute on a much, much tougher course. Of course, it’s still two minutes slower than my 5k PR. But, at this point, I’ll take what I can get!