I know, I know. What’s a guy who just last month ran 101 miles in 20 hours doing running a local 5K? Well, it’s because I need the speed work. Truly. In the last 6+ months I have been focusing on getting my mileage up to consistently over 100 miles per week. That involves day after day of 10-15 mile runs at a comfortable pace, usually around 7:30-7:40ish. I have never liked speedwork (usually defined as something like half mile repeats) even when I was racing 5Ks in my younger days. And now that I am an ultramarathoner, I really hate them. But, if I want to be competitive, no matter what the distance, sometimes I need to get my leg turnover going. I should do tempo runs as part of my training, but I just don’t like them. So I needed to register for a short race (5K for me is considered short) to force me to run fast. I am mentally weak when it comes to races, but I do get ‘up’ for them, so I decided to sign up for this one.
Jackson has a good choice of local shorter races (about 1/month), but amazingly I am usually out of town (doing marathons) or busy on those race weekends so when I can do them, I try to. I have been doing runs with a former student/ JCC cross country runner, Joel, and it was he who convinced me to enter the race. Sure, what the heck I said, I need the speedwork. I found him at the race and a few other former cross country runners and we did a ~2mile warmup, I did my stretching, etc. Ya know, what real runners do. This race has one wrinkle, the start time. Most road races are on the weekend starting at 7-9 am. This race is held every year on a Friday night at 7 pm. Pre-race preparation is always weird because it is so different with the night start. I did my best.
My bride-to-be Misty was in town for the weekend and she joined me, her doing the 5K walk. This was the 4th event we have done together, and it reminds me each time of one of the many reasons why I love her as much as I do, she supports my running addiction with her own passion for fitness. We are planning on doing another joint event the day after our wedding, officially starting our honeymoon. That says a lot, I think.
The race started and I ran with Joel for the first mile, coming in at exactly 6 min. I felt pretty good, but knew I could not hold that pace for much longer. Mile 2 was at about 6:10, and mile 3 a little slower. I ended up beating Joel, which made me feel good since he is a one of the better CC runners at JCC. After I finished, I grabbed a sub sandwich (from Southside Super Deli, yum!) and hid it (I thought they would run out quickly) and then did a cool down going backwards on the course to catch Misty. Once I found her, I walked with her the rest of the way. We grabbed her a sandwich and headed home after another good race.
What was really great about this race is that it shook off a lot of rust. It had been literally months since I ran at 6 min pace and it had a noticeable effect starting the next day. Instead of doing my 10-12 mile runs at 7:40 pace, I was doing them at 7:10 and feeling great. My speediness only lasted about a week, but it was enough to convince me that I need to do more of these, just for the workout.
One last point. No matter what I seem to do, I finish in the top ~5% of every race I enter, no matter what the distance. From 5K’s to 24 hour ultramarathons and every distance in between. I don’t seem to be really awesome in any of them, just pretty darn good at all. Considering I just got back into this sport for health reasons and not for competitive reasons, I am pretty happy with that fact.