Friday, September 26, 2014

Lessons Learned: Part One

I am not winning.

Eighteen minutes and thirteen seconds on September 6th, 2014. That is the fastest I could get myself to cover a five kilometer distance after a summer of fairly focused "speed" training. A mere seven seconds faster than my debut 5K road race back in early June coming off a winter and spring of marathon training, and a personal best effort at the Boston Marathon. Not a shameful PB for the 5K distance, but not the sub-18 minute performance I was after, or even a marked improvement over the distance after nearly three months of training.  

However, getting faster over five kilometers was only part of the goal of my Summer of Speed training. I also wanted to improve my 10K time, which I've done by fifty seconds (pictured above with two races still to come), and crush my half-marathon personal best (coming in November) set last February in the midst of training for Boston. In addition, I wanted to shorten and speed things up this summer simply to add some spice, fun, and variety to my training. 

So...since my 5K racing season has come to a close, but there's still racing left to come, it's a good time to ponder, look back, and reflect on...

Lessons Learned So Far...

1. Racing a 5K at or near redline really hurts. Like a whole body pain that makes you want to whimper and cry like a wounded puppy. 

2. That pain is either one I just haven't grown accustomed to, or one I just don't agree with because I hate it after about twelve minutes (on the roads). At this point, I'm programmed to suffer better over long distances.

3. With the aforementioned in mind, the mental component to racing a 5K is paramount to achieving your best result. If you lose your focus for even a portion of the race, which is easy to do when in oxygen debt, you're not achieving your best result.

4. There's no room for self-doubt. The race is too short.

5. Pacing is key. A couple seconds per kilometer too fast and you're in the pain cave too soon. A couple seconds per kilometer too slow during the middle of the race, and you're not making it up at the end. 

6. I think the best approach is a hard-even-hard tactic. Just under goal pace for the first km, at goal pace from 2-4km, and as hard as you can for the last kilometer.

7. Probably best to have a mantra, or a way to get yourself to think positively and/or distract from the pain because it's coming. I didn't have one, or at least one I remembered to access.

8. Racing people is way more fun than racing the clock (as is the case in most races). Motivation is key and when my whole body hurts I'm more motivated by place than I am by time.

9. My shorter distance speed (400m, 800m, and 1000m) didn't translate proportionately to my 5K time.

10. I need to continue to work on top end endurance, however marathon training when done properly has a pretty significant effect (physically) on one's 5K ability.

11. I like training for a 5K race more than I like racing them, but the opposite is true for marathons.

12. I like a course that undulates. My best race of the 5K season from a physical and mental standpoint came last weekend at Falling Leaves on the University of Guelph cross-country course, in which I ran in complete control the entire time while moving up throughout the race, and I set an 18 second PB. I actually enjoyed it, which leads me to my next two points.

13. I think what's holding me back from performing my best at this point is mental and not physical, however ultimately, I'm not that fast.

14. That said, I have enjoyed switching things up this summer and it has been glorious not to have to worry about fitting three hour long runs into the schedule, but I'd still rather run an ultramarathon through the mountains than chase a 5K PB any day of the week.