I like local races. They’re small, collegial, laid-back. Just like the bigger races, they draw all sorts of people, but it’s so much easier to see, meet, and eavesdrop on 150 of them compared to when 1,000 people — much less 10,000 — show up.
Take last Sunday’s 5K race in Holliston, just one town over from where I live. (Yes, Sunday. The day after I ran a 5-mile trail race. I know.) There’s the 22-year-old local cross-country hero who you just know is going to win the whole thing. (And he did, in 17:21.) On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the gray-bearded guy telling anyone who will listen that he’s racing in the same racing flats that he’s been wearing since 1975. In the nebulous middle, there’s the guy with the 80s mustache and the too-short running singlet. When I toed the line, I was right next to some high school girls who were trying to decide whether they were going to run six or ten minute pace. After the race, the winning woman (age 19 — 21:06) and the second place finisher (48, mom of several — 21:07) cooled down together. Throw into that mix dads with running strollers and couples out for a fast run/walk. And me. And lots of other people like me: people who like running but aren’t eccentric or fast enough to really be worthy of much notice.
This was the company that I found myself in on Sunday morning at 9:00 when I set out to run my second race in two days. I could definitely tell that I had run a race the day before, but I felt good. (For the record, this was my first time running road races on back-to-back days.) I wasn’t sure what kind of time I was going to get. I had a difficult training week with some trouble hitting my tempo run splits, and I was slower than expected on an easy run earlier in the week. Plus, I’d just done another race.
I had no expectations, though I had my hopes. After all, here were my goals for 2011 that I set down in January:
- Run a half-marathon (with a stretch goal of 1:45) — Done
- Do a sprint triathlon — Done
- Run a 5K in 24:00
- Bicycle in Provence and feel good
- Get a food+insulin plan that will help me exercise how I want
I was positive that I could go under 24:00, and I felt confident about breaking 23:00. My big question on Sunday morning as I was pinning my number to my bright orange running shirt was whether I could beat 22:00.
The first mile felt good, but I knew the 6:23 was too fast. I always go out too fast. My first mile split during a tempo run: too fast. My first interval during speedwork: too fast. My warm-up mile during a long run: too fast. So I forced myself to slow down slightly, which was difficult, as a couple people passed me right afterward. It was the right decision, though; by the end of the second mile (in 7:00) I was thinking hard about the perseverance lessons from Saturday that I was still trying to incorporate into my running psyche. “Just keep going! Only 8 minutes — tops! — until I’m done. Last big uphill right here. Just a couple more minutes. Let’s go try to catch that guy up there. Etc.”
Coming around the corner into the finishing strait, I saw a time in the low 21s on the clock, and I knew I had to give everything I could to break 22:00. Although I didn’t catch the 12-year-old kid who beat me by five seconds, I did manage 21:48. Woo hoo!
No race yesterday. (I’m not a complete masochist.) And I’m going to do my best to make this an actual recovery week by running short distances, trying to run my recommended training paces instead of my typical too-fast pace, getting plenty of sleep, and not overdoing it on the bike. Slow running is hard for me, so we’ll see, but I’m positive it’s what I need to do if I want to have a good race at the end of the month, when I run the BAA 10K in Boston.