Thursday, June 19, 2014

President's Cup 5k, Millburn, NJ. 6/16

I didn't intend to attempt to pace anyone.  Besides, it isn't really pacing if you are also running as fast as you can.  All I know is I really wanted Rich to break 20.

I wasn't sure what my race would be like. I don't set goals for summer racing.  The heat and I don't get along.  I am not a 5k runner.  5k's are ridiculously hard and there is nothing I can do about that.  I have broken 20 twice. Came very close a few other times. (20:00, 20:03, and others)… but my asthma, my massive amount of slow twitch muscle fibers, and things like that Nutella sandwich on Brown Sugar Cinnamon Swirl bread I had for dinner tend to hold me back from seeing 19:xx on the clock easily or often.

My last 5k was two weeks ago and it was a 20:20. I figured my time should be around there again.  But Rich wanted to break 20.  I like Rich.  He is a nice guy and I hoped he could do it. I told him we can go for it together.  I rarely every run side-by-side with others or plan to do so from the start.  I hope to be able to pull him through 2 miles at a pace that would allow him to break 20 even if I couldn't.

I knew the course and knew it can be a fast course:  Two uneven loops. First loop is just over a mile, with a downhill start.  Turn left and run around a block to some up hills.  Continue left and head back down hill past the starting line.  Run back down the first half of that fist loop (just the downhill part). But on the second loop we turn Right and head out to a school (which is just slightly inclined out).  Turn at the school and head back (slightly declined back). Finish off the second half of the first loop at the end, by running up and over the hills on tired legs.  End with a downhill-to-level finish.

The weather was not as bad as it has been in the past.  I believe it was just under 80 degrees and the thunderstorms that usually hit us were behind schedule this year.  The humidity did not seem horrid.  I asked Rich what he wanted his first mile to be and he 6:20. Ok, I can do that.

We get up towards the front of more than 1200 runners.  It is a tightly packed start.  As we take off running, a guy behind me, apparently an expert twister player, manages to hook the front my shin with his foot? Twice?  Twice, I stumble and manage to not fall down. He was polite. He apologized. I still don't understand what exactly happened there, but I am just glad I didn't fall on my face and get trampled.

The pack goes out FAST.  This is a Men's Championship Race. There are incredibly fast runners there.   This is a downhill start and people are taking advantage of that.  Karl flies by Rich and I.  I call out to him that he has been racing awesome.  I pick up the pace briefly, out of habit of trying to run with Karl, but then I look at the pace. Whoa.

Rich asked "How fast?"

"World Record Pace!  Did you want to break 6 for Mile 1?  I think we can slow down and just let people go", I reply.

Rich agrees and we settle down.  The hill is in Mile 1 and it is not terrible but there are two hills back to back.  I joked that we had plenty of time to burn off since we started so fast. M1 - 6:18

This is pretty good. We get over the hills well. I am hoping we can keep the average pace under 6:26 and maybe have something to kick with. I am watching our average pace.  Mile 2 is tough.  At this point Rich shares his concern that the pace may still be a little fast. With over half the race left, including those same hills, I knew we had a lot of time left to manage. My asthma was already an issue, but at this point I still felt strong but tired.  I knew that going out to a school is slightly, minorly, inclined on the way out, which means we get a slight decline back to use if we can. I suggested we settle down, regroup, and then at mile 2 be prepared to fight for a strong finish.  Our average pace was still 6:22 at this point, so we could not slow much and still make it.  I feel myself pulling away, just a little.  I don't want Rich to let me go ahead because I think both our races will be better and a lot more fun if we pull each other in Mile 3. This is truly the only point in the race I made a conscious decision to slow my pace just slightly in order to stay with Rich.  M2-6:39

We made it to Mile 2 just a bit slower than I had hoped we would. But I knew we still had a shot at breaking 20 if we could really pick up the pace on the way out of the school.  But this was the point in the race where my legs were getting heavy and my asthma was causing me to suffer.  Unfortunately, even though we both knew we needed to pick it up, neither of us did so.

As we ran past Rick, he called out "Only One K to go!"  We were coming upon on those two hills and I felt like that kilometer was going to be the longest kilometer of my life.  We held our 2 mile pace in the last mile rather than find another gear. Bummer. It was clear now that I was fading a little and he was pulling ahead.  I think as soon we saw that hill, we both knew sub-20 was not happening today.  We hit the top of the hill and I encouraged him to kick!  I believe I heard an "LOL" at my suggestion ;).  But Rich has a strong finish and I knew this.  M3-6:42

After the crest of the hill, the finish mostly is downhill.  Rich had pulled away.  With half a tenth to go,  I tried to close that gap back up.  It was close but I could not catch him.  I finish a second behind. I can honestly admit that once I knew we were not breaking 20, I lost some of my desire to kick as hard as possible, especially since my place amongst ladies was secure.  Last .1 0:45

I would like to say we learned a lesson about pacing and that maybe if we didn't let ourselves get pulled out so fast in the first half of Mile 1, things would have gone differently… but I don't believe that at all.  I think the fast start is a product of it being a declined start and using it is not necessarily a bad thing.  Aiming for a 6:18-6:20 Mile 1 is reasonable goal when trying to average 6:26 overall.  Maintaining a more evenly paced mile 1 will likely be helpful but I think the sub-20 was lost at 1.5 miles into and confirmed by the start of Mile 3.

The real hinge for us both lies in our ability to find a way to stay focused, as well as tolerant and accepting of the suffering that happens in Mile 2.  It seems Mile 2 is where sub-20 (or PRs for others) happens or it doesn't.  If we can get to Mile 2 under 13 and remain confident during the first half of mile 3, we can break 20.  If we get to Mile 2 over 13, unless that mile is downhill to the finish, it will be a fight. The final mile can and will be fueled by the sense of being almost done with just tenths of go. Kicks will be dug up for that last mile.  But Mile 2 has this ominous sense of "Omg, if it hurts this bad now and it is only 1.5 miles into this thing, then how am I going to finish strong?"  The mile between M1 and Mile 2 can be dominated by self-preservation and a desire to save something for the end… and that is what needs to be ignored to a degree.  The worse that happens is we come through Mile 2 in 12:55… and then fall apart, fading in M3, and not break 20. I think I would rather lose my shot at breaking 20 in Mile 3 than in Mile 2.  So next time, I plan to run a strong 2 mile split and see how bad Mile 3 beats me down.

Time: 20:25
Gender Place: 11
AG:  1

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