Well, my first race of the year is over and done with! I had been looking forward to this one both nervously and excitedly. It has been 7 months since my last 5 mile race, and this would be my first 5 mile race since the marathon. So I had a lot of expectations but a lot of unknowns as well. I spent January training pretty hard (as seen on Strava) and now I would find out just how much I’ve improved because of it. Big thanks to my coach, Luke for the training plans, support, discussions and advice.
So! On to the race! It was being held mid-afternoon so I had plenty of time in the morning for my usual routine. Breakfast of porridge, getting the gear ready, packing my post-race bag; it was nice not to be rushed. I met Michael of @myptdotie fame and we headed off to the races, arriving with plenty of time for me to pick up my number, wander around and get in that pre-race atmosphere I so love.
I have to say I also love the kids races at Raheny 5! It’s really inspiring to watch! I particularly loved the kid in the second race, who came dead last but was high fiving people and blowing kisses at the crowd. I want to be like him when I grow up!
I bumped into some friends in the baggage queue which was a nice distraction to have someone to chat with. Time passed and before I knew it I was lining up for the race.
Mile 1 12.33
My first mistake was pretty evident right from the start. I again found myself running a race completely alone. This was not intentional! I’m just so paranoid about people giving out about slow runners in front of them that I always start at the back. This time around, I could have safely started a few meters forward and stuck with a pack of people who were running at my pace (which had been my coach’s plan for me). I had this pack in sight for a good 3 miles of the race and really only lost them in the park.
Anyway, I digress. Despite running alone I had a race to run and a time to beat! It was tough going from the start though. I found it hard to hit my target pace (12.10-12.20) but I was still expending an effort so I didn’t worry too much to begin with. I also knew that the first mile-ish of any run is tough for me so I thought it would even out.
Mile 2 12.47
I was wrong. Mile 2 was still really tough going and I slowed down more than I wanted. I tried hard to up the speed but I just wasn’t getting it. Towards the end of the mile I started to give out to myself for running so badly. I was really disappointed with myself, and I was only two miles in!
The weather didn’t help, but on the day I completely discounted the wind and blamed only myself for how badly I thought I was doing. I remember at one point I was catching up to the ambulance and thought I could run behind it to keep out of the wind, but it was driving far to slow for that so I had to pass it and carry on without the wind break.
At the end of mile two I had written off a PB, convinced I had already failed.
Mile 3 12.45
Probably the most boring mile, although reaching the half way point perked me up a bit. I hadn’t gotten to the point where running was getting easier and knew that it wasn’t going to by this stage. But I wasn’t going to stop and walk. I would keep going and by golly I would pass a few people before I got to the finish! (I managed to pass about 6 people between this point and the end).
Mile 4 13.02
Toughest mile of the day. And that’s saying a lot considering how much I was already struggling! I had studied the map beforehand (this was a new route from last year) and was convinced that the in and out stretch of the park was a short one. I found out too late that I was dead wrong. This drag into the park went on…and on…and on. I couldn’t see the turnaround point, all I could see were other runners who had already turned and were headed back out of the park.
I was even wondering if maybe people had run too far and those behind just followed on and so we had all made a mistake! The wind and gloomy skies didn’t help and I was really feeling the pace in my legs and lungs.
The turnaround point was the most beautiful sight. Soon after that I hit the 4 mile marker. Only one mile to go. I was envious of people I saw who had already finished; I envied them the carbs in their goody bags! :D
Mile 5 12.47
This mile tested my mental strength far more than my physical strength. I wanted to walk, I really did. But I couldn’t. There was no way I was going to drop to a walk. Not after all the training I had done, not after all the hard work I had put in since the marathon. It would have all gone to waste and I wasn’t going to let that happen. I also did not want to report back to my coach and say ‘I couldn’t do it, I had to walk’. No way were those words going to come out of my mouth. No flippin’ way.
So I grit my teeth, held on to my pace and made it out of the park in one piece. From there I knew where I was in relation to the finish line, so I kept at it. Telling myself it was almost over and that to be in this state was actually a good thing.
I rounded the corner…and another corner…and another one and finally saw the finish line. I had thought I was running a terrible race and kissed my PB goodbye long ago but when I saw the clock I realised I was going to PB after all. I managed to put on some speed, not quite a full on sprint, but speedier than I had been, and crossed the line. Utterly spent and utterly relieved.
I moved off to the side and worked on catching my breath. I couldn’t breathe in without coughing so I just hung on to a barrier and coughed and wheezed my way back to normality. Big thanks to a nearby runner who gave me water! Nectar of the gods! I recovered fairly quickly, was able to get my goody bag and replace that runner’s water.
Loved the goody bag but unfortunately, and as usual, I had to give it all away – Raheny 5 has one of the best goody bags I’ve ever seen but its stuffed full of things I don’t eat/drink like chocolate, caffeine and fizzy drinks. Oh well. The Hula Hoops were good. :P
I need to mention, one thing that really helped me get through this race was the cheering marshalls. They stuck it out to the very end to cheer on us last-finishers (I was 8th last). Raheny 5 race volunteers rock, they really do!
Meeting up with some running friends for flapjacks and post-race chat was awesome. Those flapjacks were amazing and really hit the spot! Especially as I had given away my goody bag but was really hungry! Talking to my friends helped me realize that my race was a thing to celebrate. I had PB’d on a day where PB’s were hard to come by, where the wind affected everyone, not just me.
So, in hindsight and after a few days of reflection, I realise I ran a better race than I thought. Just because I didn’t hit the paces I wanted to, doesn’t mean I was a failure. I really pushed myself, as evidenced by the state I was in after the race, and while I’m not looking for excuses, the wind had to have been a factor on the day.
Oh, my time was 1:04:33 which is a 2 minute PB from my last 5 mile race and just under 4 minute PB from the same race last year. It’s also nearly 10 minutes faster than the first 5 mile race I ever ran.
So overall I’m happy now with how I did, even though I was disappointed on the day. It took a recap with my coach, celebrating with friends and a stern talking to with myself so take the positives from the race. I think I need to learn to not be so hard on myself!
In my next post I’ll be reviewing and reflecting on last year’s training, a post that’s a bit overdue given it’s February already but one that I feel is important for me to write. If you have any questions about my running and 2015, send me a tweet or post in the comments below.