The wellness group at my employer puts on a fun run 5k twice a year, which is a cool way to get people out of the cubes and excited about exercising. Furthermore, Runner's Roost has a nice connection with us (and the broader community, for that matter), with some current and ex-engineers working at the Roost. Brad and Steve show up to provide great support with course mile marking and timing -- pretty sweet for a workplace fun run.
After the first few races of modestly sitting back and finishing in the top 3 or 4, I had a good string of running alone in first....until last time, when I inexplicably took a wrong turn and ran nearly 3.5 miles, even though I was all alone in the last mile. Whoops.
This time, Brad joked to me that he's certainly gotten lost on courses before, too. And it was very clearly and generously marked, so he said I shouldn't have a problem.
Normally by now, I'd be a month or so past a marathon, and I'd be doing some speedwork and sharpening. This time, I've slowly recovered from lots of LSD, on my feet and on the bike. With my hamstrings still a touch tight, I notice that I was a little wobbly when trying to put on any speed. I took it easy the last couple days, and the goal today (besides the correct route) was to run relaxed and smooth, and an even pace of 6-min miles, regardless of what was around me, until a possible last-minute kick.
We lined up at the start -- they had a Start and Finish banner! -- with a weather forecast that threatened rain, but actually delivered quite warm sunshine for a morning run. We took off, and I had a clear line to myself. Last year, someone pushed with me about 15 seconds faster than I wanted, and we both paid for it. Even splits!
Mile 1: 5:59...tick...6:00...bam! This is on the cheapest stopwatch I could find at Target.
Mile 2: A bit of a headwind and full sun, but kept charging. We cross near the Start, with some cheers of encouragement. Mile 2 in sight: 12:00...tick...12:01
Then, I heard a bit of chatter behind me. It is evident that someone isn't that far behind me. A cloud of negative thought enters my head in an instant, whispered from a cartoonesque shoulder devil: He's catching up. You're slowing down. You're going to throw up your oatmeal. You can slow down and just go for 19 minutes. This is all stupid and pointless anyway. I can't argue with the last point, but I can choose to ignore the rest.
I made it back off of the sidewalk/path and back onto the road, and decided I wasn't going out that easily. I opened up my stride and pushed, intermingling with some 1-mile walkers. I wasn't going to look back, and if anybody was going to catch me, they were going to have to work, and we'd both be better for it. I hit the last turn and cruised in: my watch said 18:40. Exactly my target pace.
The next guy -- I have to get his name, because I've met him before and am too shy to ask his name again (I need to see things written, then I remember them for life) -- ended up being 17 seconds back. I guess it felt closer than it was, but my push was in the right spot, as I gapped 6 of those seconds in the last mile.
Felt good and relaxed. Not a PR but not far off, and this is just the beginning of a phase when I'm going to add some intervals on the track this summer. Feeling good about that, and good about intuitive pacing. I'm glad I vanquished some self-doubt, but I need to work on this. I am fully aware that a huge component, maybe the largest, of the back half of a 100 is mental. Before I commit, I need some deep training to lean on and trust, and the ability to visualize the entirety of highs and lows.
Finally, it's clear that some competition nearby helps push me along (obvious), so I should hop in a local 5k one of these days when I'm ready to push my hardest at that distance. Digression: One year, we lived within running distance of the Carlsbad 5000, and it was awesome. It's a great course to run a PR, I wish I were better trained back then. The wave starts were great, and we ate breakfast at a favorite local restaurant, the Daily News Cafe, where we got to watch the elites run after we had finished our own.
Anyway, thanks to Runner's Roost, Zquila, Rustic Oven, Silver Mine Subs, and Panera for also providing some food and raffled gift certificates. Pretty fun to have a little mid-morning mid-week race!