Monday, March 26, 2012

Crack! Breaking through the mythical barrier at Scope It Out 5k

What can be done in 20 minutes?  You can cook one of Rachel Ray's dinners.  Maybe you can dust and vacuum (at least, that's how I do it).  You can't even watch a sitcom in 20 minutes.  But for the emerging runner, breaking 20 minutes in the 5k is a big achievement.  And until recently, the 20 minute barrier was a magical, mythical barrier that has stood more of a point of awe - it was not an attainable goal.  But last fall, I ran 20:23 for the 5k and 41:25 for the 10k, and wondered if perhaps breaking 20 minutes was actually a reasonable goal now.
Going into 2012, Sarah and I had lined up a number of races in preparation for this 5k (Scope it Out), which was to be my goal 5k of the spring season:
Love the Run You're With 5k: cold and windy: 20:40 - good effort in hard conditions
Four Courts Four Miler: super hilly and because of an oops on my part, ran in training shoes, not flats: 27:02
RNR Half Marathon: 1:34:03 - tempo run
I was really nervous going into this 5k.  1) I had such a lofty time goal in mind and I was worried how hard it was going to feel.  2)  I was worried that the back to back races (this was my third race in 3 weeks) was going to take its toll and hit me during this race.
But Sarah had structured the workouts in-between to be such that they weren't too hard or taxing, but would leave me fresh and ready.  And on my part, I was doing my best to rest and relax.  I even got a massage on Saturday (which I haven't gotten one in almost a year), and it felt terrific.  I was relaxed and loose, and good to go!
Look for the pink and blue in the middle...
I know many people enjoyed the warm temperatures this week, but I was very relieved that things had cooled down this weekend.  When I got to the race (at Freedom Plaza in downtown DC), it was 50 and cool and sprinkling just a little.  After sweating it out all this week, this felt like heaven!  I did my warm up and ran a good chunk of the course, so I had a good idea what the first and last mile would look like - pretty flat and straight.  I got myself into a good position at the starting line in the 2nd row.  If you look carefully for the pink hat and blue top, you can see me at the start.  All systems were a go: I had remembered everything and taken care of everything this time.  And after the long pause, there was that famous G word - GO!
Sarah said to just go out as hard as I can and try to bank some time.  I got through the first mile in 6:15, and felt really solid, and I had now 10 extra seconds in the bank.  There were a couple of women who were ahead of me, and I wasn't planning on making a move until later in the race, but I realized that they were slowing down, so I passed them decisively.  Then, another woman passed me, but I passed her right back.  We then hit mile 2 in 12:40, which meant that I had slowed to 6:26.  Now, that was goal race pace and I did have 10 seconds "in the bank," but I did not want to finish in 20:01, so the final 1.1 was all about pushing hard.  The woman in pink passed me again, and I thought I was letting her go.  Yes, I was out there to race, but I was racing against the clock more than anything else.  Start at about 15:00, I kept looking at my watch - I was definitely feeling tired, but was so fired up about PR-ing and breaking 20 minutes that nothing, even fatigue, was going to slow me down.  The woman reappeared in front of me, only a few steps ahead, as was another woman with about 800 meters to go. I could tell that one of them was breathing heavily, and I just went for it at the 3 mile mark - 19:02.  I knew at that point I had almost a minute to play with and had enough of a kick to pass these two, and I just went for it.  I had the biggest smile on my face and they announced my name as I came in, "Here comes Vanessa ___, one of our top female finishers!"
19:39 (6:20)
5th woman/1454
Oh my gosh, I broke through 20 minutes with room to spare!  I had my hands on my face in disbelief and joy, and I knew that I would remember it forever: the first time I cracked 20 minutes in the 5k.  And that may sounds overdramatic, but it's true.  This was a huge mental and physical barrier, and standing on the other side of it felt absolutely tremendous.  I am very happy and excited for what this means for my running future.  I even broke out the champagne to celebrate - it was a big moment to remember.

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