Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Breaking 20 minutes in 5 K (Vibha Dream Mile; Hellyer County Park, San Jose – June 2, 2013)

Back in November 2012, when I ran Turkey Trot 5 K, I was pleasantly surprised by 21:25 result, as this was the first time I broke 7 minutes pace for this distance. Most of my training is at 8:40 pace and even intervals were at 7:15 pace, at the time. After that race, I started focusing on bringing the weekly mileage up to 50 miles.
Needless to say with over 80% of mileage at 8:40 pace, and few races and intervals at over 7:15 min pace, for another 2 months, helped somehow in making me race faster for distances between 5 K and HM. So on race day, there would always be a surprise for me in store. In Feb end, this good string of runs ended, when I got a thigh strain, and could not run under 8 min pace. I blamed it on uneven wearing off of my shoes from outside due to supination. This means that I had to monitor my shoes wear and tear, and most likely switch them every 6-12 weeks.
However, I could still keep running EZ pace of 9 min/mile. This kept going for another 6 weeks, where I could not do a single fast run, but kept the weekly mileage around 40 miles. Thigh strain was still there somewhat, so I decided to test it with a small club race; and was again surprised to finish 2.75 miles (April 13), somewhat hilly, at 6:26 pace. Somehow all these weekly slow mileage were still making me faster than before.
With few more club races after that, I went with Jim and ran Saratoga-The Great Race (April 28) of 4 miles, at 6:38 pace; not as fast as the earlier club races indicated, but enough to count them towards turnaround in training. All this time, while increasing my slow mileage to over 50, I did not have many long runs of over 12 miles. The absence of long runs showed its impact when I decided to run, last minute, in Avenue of Vines Half Marathon (May 19). Based on my paces on last few races, I thought I should be able to break my PR of 1:35:00 on flat course; I could not. However, I still had a good race, finished at 1:35:04; and I was able to run following day without any problems.
Now more or less recovered from strain, and changed my shoe to somewhat low to ground, flexible, no support and very light (compare to earlier); I had to ask myself about what were the goals (and there were many) which I should focus on. My club races were small and fun, and were giving me lot of encouragement; I thought it would be great to run 5 K under 20 minutes.  I was never training for 5 K, idea was to build a good base of mileage and string of months behind me and then run a good Marathon where I was not crying for last 6 -10 miles. Based on couple of Runner’s World articles and chatting with friends, it seemed that breaking 20 minutes for 5 K is an admirable goal.
So I talked to Jim, my running guide. He told me that it was too soft a goal for me to train for. He definitely had more faith in me than I did in myself! On further pressing he just told me to go out and run couple of 5 K races, without worrying about changing training. Well, I had recovered for almost a month now, and 5 K was shorter distance, where it was harder to get hurt if one went all out. However, I still want to have string of 4-6 weeks of good interval training before officially running the race, somewhere in July.
Well that was the plan at least, till I got an email saying that there was 5 K run on coming weekend, June 2, in Hellyer County Park on Coyote Creek trail. I had done few runs on this trail earlier and it was very near; hard opportunity to pass. Downside was that I just had one good long run, and if I count my HM from earlier week, there were only two good weeks of training, where I had long runs and some interval training. I decided not to run this one, and wait till July. When Jim came to know about it, and since 10 K and HM were offered too, besides he ran on this trail 100 of times, he could not let it pass. I did not want to sacrifice a good long run for small 5 K race, so it was dilemma. 5 K start time was 50 minutes after HM start time. I thought, I might do some long warm up and race couple of miles with Jim, this way I could do over 12 miles and not miss on long run. So I finally registered.
With 6.5 miles of warm up before the race (generally I do around 3 miles of warm up); couple of miles running with Jim during start of his HM race; it was not ideal preparation for 5 K; or at least that I was saying to myself; that I would get some fast miles and long run on this day; and should not worry too much about breaking 20 minutes. There was some chaos at start of the race when announcer said that runners who expected to finish the race between 30-35 minutes, should come forward. I tried to correct them that this was 5 K and not 10 K; however, they kept repeating it. It made sense after race finished, as there were a lot of walkers in the race.
I looked around me and asked who was thinking of breaking 20, there were 3 runners who volunteered. I asked them to lead the pack, which they gracefully accepted.  After the chaos at start, I tried to keep behind these 3 runners, and soon after first mile, I passed two of them, was pacing at 6:15. As expected, I could not keep up that pace throughout, but effort was more or less consistent. I had to keep asking lot of walkers who were walking and covering the whole trail, to stay on their right. The leader had disappeared from sight after 2 miles, and I was able to finish 2nd overall behind him, with 19:44 at 6:21 pace. I was first in my age category; needless to say that field did not have many great runners, and I enjoyed receiving two medals in the end; one for category and another overall 2nd. I went back to find Jim and ran another mile with him, as expected, he finished first in his category, just under 8 min pace for whole HM. This probably would be the only race where he and I finished first in our respective categories. We took couple of pictures to capture this rare moment.
Free South Indian food was provided after the race; we hung around for some more time. In the end, a very satisfying day, I did get over 13 miles for the day, broke 20 minutes and as a side bonus came first in my category.