Well, this was it. The big test of my fitness and abilities since the marathon. The Donore Harriers Jingle Bells 5k Race. I’d been told so many times that running a marathon would mean an improvement in shorter race times. In the days leading up to this race I was feeling anxious, because I didn’t want to run it and discover that nothing had changed. I wasn’t chasing a PB for the sake of a PB, but I really did want to see that I had improved as a runner and that I’d be able to give it my all in a race and see a difference.
If nothing had changed, I would have been so dejected and disheartened. So I went into the race a little bit afraid, a lot nervous but also very determined.
My coach had given me a good strategy for the race…to run the first two miles at a pace of between 12:15-12:25 min/mile, then just let it all out and give it my best for the last mile (yes, I’m still training in miles!).
That was the strategy and I stuck to it; even in the midst of Storm Desmond and some pretty intense weather conditions!
The morning of:
Race prep was easy. Up at 8am for toast with peanut butter and banana. Got dressed and all my gear on (with one exception! More later!) and I was ready with time to spare.
I think my nerves, or my nervous thoughts at least, got the better of me and I made a few mistakes that I normally wouldn’t do. One of those mistakes was getting off the bus two stops early. I felt bad for the guy who followed me off the bus! He is new to Dublin and assumed I knew where I was going! Ah well, we got a lovely warm up in as we walked to the park and chatted about running!
The second thing I did, which I didn’t find out until I’d gotten to the start line (early, thankfully!) was forget to put my chip on my shoe! I couldn’t believe it when I realized! I jogged down to the clubhouse and luckily I was able to get a new number and chip. I walked back up to the start line still with 20 minutes to spare so it wasn’t a total disaster and I got an extra warm up in!
Hanging around the start I met a few running friends and said hello. Then I stuck my bag in the bag van and went to find a spot in the (chaotic!) start line.
While waiting for the start, my Garmin started acting up. Normally I’d be ok with that but today, without a start mat, I really needed the Garmin time! Oh yeah, about that…due to the weather being so windy the race organizers had decided it was too dangerous to place a starting mat. So all times would be based off gun time. We had a false start at first, and during the second real start, I hung back a little until I had the signal for my Garmin. Then, I hit ‘start’ and off I went!
Mile 1: 12.25
The first mile was a bit of a challenge with lots of people and kids to contend with. I tried not to weave and dodge but sometimes it couldn’t be helped. I really wanted to push for the pace my coach had set for me so I was happy when I got onto the next section of road and found a clear spot.
It was windy though! I was finally running fast enough to still be around people so I tried to tuck in behind some runners as experienced runners had suggested. This didn’t really work as the wind was changing direction all over the place. Oh well, I had managed to get to a good pace and was happy to be holding on to it. (To clarify, I am usually so slow that I often run races alone…this race was different!)
It wasn’t easy though. 1st mile and I was already hurting! But, hurting is good. I remembered on a running form I’m on, and what people had said about runners who are working hard, breathe hard and that hurt is a good thing. I knew I was working hard so that kept me going.
Mile 2: 12.21
More running with a cross wind, mostly running with a kids running club (very energetic kids they were!) around me and then a left hand turn onto the next section where the wind hit me right in the face. Honestly, some gusts were so strong they blew me backwards! I had to work harder to hold my pace, and I was a bit worried about getting to the end of the road…the end of mile 2 where I was supposed to pick up the pace! I had to up the effort level against the wind to keep the pace I was setting but even though it was hurting, I still felt capable of it, if that makes any sense.
Mile 3: 11:18
Toughest mile by far. I know the section of the course like the back of my hand so I didn’t have to worry about the route or anything. I was able to concentrate on just pure running. Towards the beginning of the mile I noticed my pace had dropped to 10:57 min/m which I felt was unsustainable considering I still had the bulk of a mile left to go so I slowed down a tad. I think it was the right decision in the end considering the state I was in at the finish.
From here, I started picking off people to pass and ended up passing all of them. That felt good!
The finish line was at the bottom of a hill, but running down the hill wasn’t the bonus it could have been, the wind against me nearly cancelled out the downhill effect! But, I still legged it to the finish, even though my body was hurting and I could feel my throat starting to close up as I was on the verge of having to hurl. No way was I stopping though, not this close to the finish! I’m not really used to approaching a finish line with other runners but luckily I didn’t have to dodge anyone and I ran straight through.
Stopped my Garmin at 37.07. Official gun time 38:06. Either way you look at it, it’s a PB. (I should add, I’m going more by my watch time because I’m not sure where the actual starting line was, and I had been moving so slowly after the gun went, trying to get my Garmin to connect. It does register 3.1 miles so I think it’s ok.)
Confession time: This was really the first time I’ve ever tried to actually race a 5k. Previous races I always held back a little, afraid of pushing myself and maybe not finishing or running so hard I hurl in front of everyone. Now that I’m aiming for faster times, I know that I can’t hold back like I used to. One thing I’ve learned during marathon training was that no matter how hard or how long or how exhausting the run, it’s not debilitating and I will recover. I can’t be afraid anymore; or rather, I can be afraid but I can’t let that fear hold me back.
Anyway, after the race I was very wobbly on my legs! I felt like a newborn deer trying to stay standing! Luckily I ran into (haha! More like wobbled!) a friend and he helped steady me while I got my bag and post-race rewards. Once I got my legs under control I ended up heading for the pub with friends. Nothing like a cold pint and a chat with friends after a race. A well deserved reward for having prepared for, and run this race so well.
All in all I think it was a good race, I was glad to have a strategy suited to my level, and I’m very glad for the PB. Giving credit where credit is due, thanks to my coach for the training plan and support thus far!