So this weekend it was my birthday. 32 years young and feeling like wine...getting better with age! It just so happened that on the morning of my birthday there was a local, speedy road race: The Brian Kraft Memorial 5k. This race takes place around Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis, and it is a part of the MN Racing Series, so a lot of teams and athletes show up ready to roll.
Following a disappointing finish in Boston in April, I took an extended recovery period and have been slowly getting back into a training groove. My mileage has been a bit lower, but quality has been high. And now that the weather is nice (kind of), and my training crew is out of the Metrodome, we've been hopping on the track to do a little speed work.
And I must say, it has been feeling good. I've been doing most of my training sessions solo in the mornings before work (5am). The sun is coming up, the air is cool and calm, and the track is like my own little zen garden. I've been doing some 200m, 400m, and 800m work and my old track bones, while not what they used to be, have been digging the change of pace.
This weekend's 5k was one of only a few I've done since college. My previous PR was 17:45, and based on how I've been feeling in workouts, I thought 17:00 was possible and 16:30 would be amazing.
The field of competitors included Katie McGregor (who has been a USATF 10k and 25k champ), Team USA pros, and more than a handful of top amateurs. From the gun, I knew I had to go out fast. I had made the mistake in an 8k in March of pacing myself at the beginning of the race, and my MNRED teammates have NOT let me live that down!. These 5-10k races start and finish before you know it, so this go around, I went out hard and aggressively and was determined to mix it up with the big girls.
In the first mile, I saw only two women ahead of me: Katie McGregor and Jamie Cheever. Cheever was leading with Katie about 10 feet back and me sitting in Katie's back pocket. Just before the mile-marker I realized that I had more gas to give without feeling too stressed so I left Katie. At just about the same time, Cheever's shoe came untied and she had to pull out for a quick pit stop (that stinks!). I ran by Coach Ron and I'm pretty sure he yelled something like, "Easy....", as if I were pushing too hard, too soon. I chose to be my stubborn self and instead of backing down, I decided to keep driving the pace. I never once looked at my GPS watch for pace or distance, instead relying on feel, and I was feeling good.
I continued to push through the 2 mile mark, and had no idea where the other women were. For the time being I just knew I was running alone and still feeling good. I kept pushing and saw the 3 mile mark. A tenth of a mile to go and no sound of footsteps. I cranked up whatever kick I had left and cruised in just over the 16:00 mark. Official gun time 16:03; chip time 16:02. (Team USA's Jamie Cheever came in second - 16:38 and McGregor crossed in third - 16:41).
As a bonus, my race was not only good enough for the W, but also a MN age record, and the course record. With the likes of McGregor and Carrie Tollefson having run this same race, it feels pretty unreal that I accomplished what I did. However, I must say several of my very talented and smart runner friends/coaches have been telling me lately that if you train right and trust the training, on race day things will fall into place. Apparently they're right, because things fell into place this weekend.
This was only one race, but it was a good confidence booster going into this weekend's Dam to Dam 20k. The question mark will be my endurance. As I mentioned, I feel like my speed has been sharpened lately with the track workouts, but the mileage has been low. The field is stacked for D to D, so I'll have to be cautious about starting too aggressively. In the same breath, I'm super fired up to take on another race and see what I can do!