Well this morning was another opportunity to test my racing skills and get in the mix with some ladies of similar abilities. I managed to meet some of my goals today, but others were not met. Overall I am pleased with my effort, slightly disappointed with the resulting time, but glad I sucked it up and ran the race. (Previously in the week I was heavily leaning towards skipping this one and either running a road 5k or focusing on training, but coach insisted this was important as it would help me mentally and help to develop speed.)
As predicted once the race started there was a small pack that took off around 17 minute pace and then a second pack of us around 5:34 at the mile. I did my best to settle in with this group as the effort felt right and I also told myself to relax and be patient and not to make any moves. This lasted for a few laps, and then I decided we had to pick it up a bit as the girl leading the pack was not holding the pace. I moved to the front of my little pack and pulled for a few laps until another gal traded leads with me for a few laps before the 2 mile. Around the 2 mile a CRC runner I know (PB) decided to up the ante and took the lead of our group, unfortunately I just couldn't find that gear to go with them and I lost my pack. We started lapping other runners at this point. I never heard the 2 mile split, but I had heard shouts of 17:30ish finish pace, and I was doing my best to run by feel and really wasn't aware of what the splits my coach calling out meant for my finish time. I knew I wasn't keeping up with the two gals in front of me, but I felt like I was running hard. I was confident I was working harder than I had at Akron. The last two laps I really tried to dig in and make sure I felt like I was giving everything I had. My legs were getting the same feeling they do at the end of a really hard track workout so I was confident I was really racing my hardest. Finished the last lap and looked up at the board to see 17:50.22. Not at all what I was expecting given the effort, and given how I felt about my race.
In retrospect perhaps I should have sat back longer and tried harder not to pull the pack I was in, maybe I worked harder than I should of in the second mile causing the fall off in the third mile, but I am not sure it would have made a difference. I think once I lost contact I was just working at the same effort but unfortunately losing a few seconds each lap without someone to gear off of. It is also possible I didn't work hard enough to find that next gear as I am aware that PB has run much faster 5ks than me and perhaps I limited myself knowing that she has better speed than me and knowing she was capable of running under 17:20, perhaps when she made that move I should have pretended she was someone else I can keep up with and tried harder to force the pace.
I'm a little conflicted with the result since I feel like I really ran a better race than Akron, but the result was the same. Perhaps that just means that my current 5k fitness really is 17:50ish, and that is all the speed I have. But perhaps it means I need to take a different approach in the 5k next time to get a better result. The 5 ladies ahead of me all have better speed than me and have all run better short races than me. I was super stoked to come in 6th place given the field. I just wish I could have upped the ante a bit that third mile and come a little closer to 17:35.
I have to remember that I only do 2 or 3 5ks a year and that now that I am getting faster it is not going to be as easy to improve my times in these short races without doing any real specific speed training. A 17:50 rut/plateau really isn't such a bad place to be after all :) It is just tough as running these races makes me want to work harder to improve these times and see if I can be faster, but they aren't really my goal right now. So I feel like each race that I don't improve is a "missed opportunity."
To end on some positive notes. No more 5ks for awhile and no more indoor racing, woohoo! My training buddy smoked the track today running another PR in 17:09 and coming in 2nd! I now have run three 5ks under 18:00 solidifying my faith in my current speed and knowing that these aren't some fluke. I came in 6th in a solid field of female runners from Ohio. I'm really happy with the effort I put in this morning. Added bonus I got to cheer for one of my trail running friends as he ran his first indoor 5k, and catch up with some of my ultra buddies who I miss dearly.