Friday, November 28, 2008

Speedwork? I don't need no stinkin speedwork!

It's been a long time since I set my 5K PR. About thirteen months, to be exact. It was at the Halloween 5K in Rapid City in Oct. of 07. I ran a 19:45 that day to break 20 minutes for the first time ever. It was a joyous occassion, but over the past year plus, I've gotten then sense that that PR was ripe for the picking. I first started to think so in April, when I ran the second half of the Kevin Whirlwind 10K in 19:05 on my way to my first sub-40 10K. The problem is, I didn't have many opportunities to improve on my 5K PR between last October and now. I ran exactly two 5Ks in that time: one just a week after the Colorado Marathon in May and the Halloween 5K last month. The first was never intended to be a PR effort coming to soon after a marathon on a hilly course. The second was where I was planning on making my move, but Mother Nature conspired against me with 45-50 mph winds. The result was that 19:45 remained as my official 5K PR. Until yesterday.

I could probably run 5Ks faster if I actually trained for 5Ks, but the fact that I'm almost always preparing for a marathon, be it basebuilding or actual training, kind of puts a damper on that. So, I just squeeze them into my running schedule and hope for the best. Looking back at my running log for the year, I haven't done a speed workout since July 1st. Since then, I've run a few races, but all of my training runs have been at a relatively slow and easy pace (8:15-9:00 miles). In order to set a 5K PR, I would have to run under 6:30 miles. Would my body know how to go that fast after having not done it for over four months?? I've heard a lot of stories about how runners make great improvements in their race times after a period of slow, high mileage running. I've been doing just that, long slow miles, since July. My previous three weeks of training were 93, 96 and 102 miles, with no mile faster than 7:20 in that stretch. I was curious to see if this was really going to work, or if I was just going to suffer (well, being a 5K, I expected to suffer either way, but I was hoping not to do it needlessly).

Mother Nature cooperated yesterday. Earlier in the week, forecasts had called for winds of up to 20 mph on Thanksgiving morning, but those winds never materialized and it was dead calm at race time. It was cold, in the low 20s, although even by the end of the race it had warmed up quickly and it would eventually reach 50 in the afternoon. In any case, I was comfortable in shorts, a long sleeve pullover, a beanie and gloves.

The Turkey Trot in Rapid City is a huge event, the biggest race of the year for the Black Hills Runners Club, in fact. Why? Because they give out pies afterwards. There are no official times or places or age groud awards or anything like that. Just a post race raffle for over 300 apple, blueberry, cherry and pumpkin pies. Word is that there were 880 people signed up for the event yesterday. A vast majority of these were walkers or joggers who may or may not have even run the entire course. That's a lot of people on a bike path, which made things interesting during the race. I made sure to line up right near the front, knowing full well that I needed to get in open space as quickly as possible. It worked well, and after some jostling I was able to fall into my goal pace (at least 6:17 miles, which would equate to a 19:30 race) and then some. I quickly located a couple of local runners who I know run a slightly faster pace than I usually do and I followed them for a majority of the race. We hit the halfway turnaround in 9:30, on pace for a 19:00 race and, while that is a huge PR in and of itself, I knew that I would ultimately be frustrated if I came that close and didn't break 19 minutes. Fortunately, there seemed to be a slight downhill on the return stretch and although I ran a good chunk of the second half on the grass because there were just too many people on the bike path, I managed to negative split the race, running the second half in 9:13, good for a final time of 18:43, a PR by 1:02.

I knew that PR was stale, but didn't really think it was that stale. It's pretty amazing what you can do with no speedwork whatsoever. Maybe it was the was my first race ever wearing Asics Speedstars and they lived up to their name.

The crappy part of the day? I didn't win a pie for the first time in three years of running this race. But don't fear, I managed to stuff myself with enough Thanksgiving food afterwards to make up for it.


johnmaas said...

Congrats on the nice 5K PR!
I agree that you don't need to do speedwork to be fast.
I'm amazed by all the miles you have been running.
Is there a 100 miler planned for 2009?
I think you're ready.
Stay healthy,

jen said...

Hey, I missed this post but CONGRATS on the 5k pr! That's a ridiculously fast pace. You rock.

eggsintomatoes said...

What? No Pie? We won about 4 pies last year -- but this year we had to visit the in-laws in Gillette and I didn't get to run.:-(