Monday, June 20, 2011

That's a little better, at least

Following Wednesday night's debacle of a run, I toed the starting line for the NYRR Portugal Day 5 mile road race last Sunday with more than a bit of trepidation. If the 6:10 pace I managed to struggle through for 1.5 miles on Wednesday was all I had in the tank, then 5 miles on the roads of Central Park were quite likely to be rather embarrassing.

Jogging to the starting area, I felt awful. This actually encouraged me. Let me explain.

For decades I've had this experience over and over again: how I feel while warming up for a race is almost always in total inverse proportion to my race performance.

I have no explanation or even theory about this odd phenomenon. Seems rather unlikely, and definitely counter-intuitive ... but if I feel like crud during a warm up jog, I seem to race better than average. Go figure. But maybe you too can use this stranger-than-fiction to keep your mental attitude positive even when the first couple miles of a workout, warmup, or race feel horrible: It could actually be a good sign!

Back to the race. The crowded corrals at the start - a now-ubiquitous experience with NYRR races - actually didn't help at all (no surprise there). I find it just plain difficult to be forced to line up almost 20 minutes pre-start for a short road race. Standing in a crowd, literally feeling my diligent warmup and stretching routines fade away, is really frustrating. I can cope with this when it's a long race like a marathon, but for a five mile road race - where you need to get moving at the gun - that's close-to-impossible after standing still for so long.

Be that as it may, I did what I could.

First mile: Slow start as usual, and I saw many of my teammates up ahead as I managed a 6:09 for the first mile. Good enough. I figured I'd fade from there.
Second mile - 5:56. Oops! Too fast, darn. But not feeling awful. And I was passing people. Hmm.
Third mile - Back to 6:09. The legs don't lie. Again, I figured I'd start fading at this point.
Fourth mile - no idea. Where did they hide that mile marker? I recall that there was a hose spraying mist onto the road, and several tables with water cups, and as I navigated the crowds around that point, I glanced at my watch wondering where on earth the 4 mile mark could be. My split time read 5:59, and in retrospect I must have been past the mark already. Never saw it.
Final mile: did my best to run hard, but started feeling really HOT and my legs starting to seize up a little. I covered the last two miles in 11:59, so I'm figuring about 5:57 for mile 4 and 6:02 for the fifth mile, but those are just guesses.

Finished in 30:12, which was actually kind of satisfying. Searchable Results here.

The fact that I am currently doing zero speedwork shows in obvious ways (I'm a tortoise!), but I did not suffer a repeat of Wednesday night, when even one mile at 6:10 pace felt really difficult.

I'll take it, and I'll see if I can build on it.

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