2016 ARK 5K Classic
At the beginning of this year, after looking over the race prospects and making some preliminary plans, I decided that I would try to run a race each month; I really enjoy racing (well, as much as one can enjoy the highs and lows of any experience like this) and I thought it would be a good way to stay motivated and have some fun. In addition, races are a great tool for assessing progress, fitness, and building self-confidence in the gains that are made after consistent training.
The 35th annual 2016 ARK (an acronym for the Arkansas Running Klub) 5K Classic was slated to be run on a new course this year; in recent years, the course has been a little hilly (it's tough to find/build a race course around here without them!) and the new course promised to be "flat and fast." I've learned not to count my chickens, but I was feeling rather optimistic based on the course certification map.
The last time I participated in a 5K was in March 2015; I finished in 27:00. My all-time fastest 5K finish is in 24:30 on a local course that many of us do not count as PR-eligible; it is net downhill! After some consideration by my coach, he offered up a race strategy that would put me square in that neighborhood and I was ready to take it on.
My confidence was definitely buoyed by the fact that our first pre-fall cool front arrived late Friday; instead of high 70s and dew points of mid-70s, I awoke to a temperature of just 63 degrees and a dew point of 58. A dew point of 58 degrees? What planet is this?
Because I spend most of my time running more than 3.1 miles, and running races of much lengthier distances, I always have to make some mental adjustments for these shorter races; my mind has been conditioned not to go out too fast, to build up some steam and then survive those last few miles, trying to give everything I have left. It's tough to get through all of that when I'm only allowing myself 25 minutes to work with!
The plan was to run a pretty even first couple of miles, somewhere in the 7:50-7:55 range, and then see what I had left in the last mile and a tenth. As usual, at about a third of a mile in I looked at my Garmin and got a little scared by the pace it registered (7:20), backed way off (probably too far off), and ended up finishing the first mile in 7:56.
Shortly after beginning the second mile, we made a pretty sharp turn and I must not have picked up my rhythm again as quickly as I would have liked; either that, or my Garmin just got kind of pooped out for a little bit. I looked down and my average pace said something like 8:20 but my effort felt the same as it had during the sub-8 pace; I tried to kick up a little and then realized it was just my Garmin...ugh. Mile 2 came in at 7:52.
And then there's the end which, in any race, is always kind of a crap shoot, right? I've really just quit worrying about this at all and I just do as much as I think I can do without falling flat on my face/puking before I hit the finish line; I completed mile 3 in 7:46, plus whatever was left over to the finish (a little under a minute). Official time of 24:34 and a (sort of) new PR; it was also good enough for second place in my age group!
The event was really great; the Arkansas Running Klub had everything very well organized and it was nice to spend time with some of my Hot Legs Running Club teammates (woo hoo!). Along with an amazing guy named Jacob Wells (you can read more about him here, if you're not already familiar with his story), this gal, my friend Mindy, is the reason I returned to track workouts and began thinking about possibilities for future goals in the fall of 2013, after my little "camp" experience.
I joked with several runners that I felt like I'd wasted an amazing weather day on such a short run (why can't it be 68 degrees for my 12-miler this Saturday?!!), but it was truly a wonderful way to start the holiday weekend and I'm thankful to have been able to participate.
And, now, it's time to get serious. I have two half marathons coming up this fall - one in November and another in December - and one of them (at least) is going to be a PR performance, my big goal for 2016. So, when you see/hear/read me say anything about a tough workout, please go ahead and give me a swift kick in the behind to remind me that the work is what will get me there come race day! We didn't sweat and suffer through summer for nothing, right?