Accidental PR

Since my son was born in June, my training regime hasn't been training so much as exercising.  The lack of regular sleep makes it really difficult to get in planned sessions, especially of any significant length, so I take what I can get when I can get it.  Having a treadmill and bike trainer make that about 1000% easier, but still not perfect.

I've done the Giant Acorn triathlon that past few years but decided to defer this year's entry to next year.  I would have completed it, but I'm pretty confident I would have broken my streak of consistent year-over-year improvements since I started tracking my results.  One race that I did not defer is my local community's Jingle Dash 5k/10k race (where the 10k course is just doing the 5k course twice).  I posted about my 2016 and 2017 results.  I went into this race with zero confidence that I would do well.  I didn't want to be disappointed so I set no expectations for myself.  As I mentioned, I wasn't training, I was exercising, and further, I had reduced my cardio even further as I recently started a strength-training program.  I was still gunning for sub-40 10k and set my watch with that as a target pace.

The race this year was interesting.  The woman who planned all of the community race events is no longer doing the planning and has turned the reigns over.  This is why the community triathlon was cancelled.  It was apparent that a new person was doing the organizing, because while all of the big pieces were there and as expected (packet pickup, post-race snacks, etc.), some things were just off.  For example, they sent out an email with the race-day specifics and said that the fun-run would start at 8am and the 5k/10k would start by 8:30.  However, the race started at 8:20, with what had to be half of the people at the start line at that time.  I was in my warm-up clothes when they announced the last call for lining up for the race, fully expecting that I had another 10 minutes to warm up.  I de-robed as quickly as possible and worked my way to the start of the corral.  I didn't even get my garmin up and running in time to capture the entire race.

I've never ever had a race start early before, and technically, the email said the race would start "by" 8:30, so it could have started anytime between 8 and 8:30, but seriously, why give a specific time if you're not going to start at that time.  Just say that the 5k/10k will start immediately after the fun run and make no mention of 8:30 at all.  People are fine waiting around a couple of minutes after the expected start time, but nobody is happy being late to a race they thought they were on time for.

This race starts downhill, and since it's a community race, there are a lot of inexperienced runners, so the beginning is very fast with a lot of people going out way too hard.  I'm just as guilty of this as anybody else, coming out of the gate at a sub-6 minute mile.  It took about four minutes until I settled into my actual pace.  There were two runners in front of me at that point, but I passed them both at about a mile (not coincidentally, when the course started going up hill).  From that point on, there was nobody in front of me.  In year's past, there was always a 5k runner ahead of me, but that wasn't the case this year.  It was honestly a little hard to stay in a race mindset when it looked like I was just out on a training run.  I kept my effort up, though.  My max heart rate is around 184 and I averaged 170 (92% of max) for the race.

To say that I am familiar with the course is an understatement.  This was my 85th time running it.  And it's a good thing that I was familiar with it because one of the turns was unmarked and unmanned.  It was near the end of the race and I just hoped that either the people I had passed two miles earlier were either close enough to see me make the turn or were themselves familiar with the course.

As I was coming down the home stretch I had a fake dilemma (you know, the things you think about to keep your mind occupied while you're running) as to whether I should go over the timing mat to get a split.  There was actually no direction this year, but I had known from years past that the 10k racers avoid the timing mat on the first lap, so there is no split.  Nobody on the course gave direction as I was coming down the chute, and while I knew that I would not go over the timing mat, I wondered what the ramifications would be if I did - would I get a split, or would they just think that I ran the 5k and throw out the 10k time?  Really, I wanted to know if it worked out right, could I win both the 5k and 10k?  Obviously not, but I was the first one to go by the finish line for the 5k, even if I didn't cross the finish line.

Of course, it's super depressing doing a two-loop course because even though you're at the end, you're literally only half way done.  My watch said 18:48 as a finished my first lap, but that wasn't a real time since I didn't start my watch at the beginning of the race.  However, I knew that I was at a sub-40 minute pace, but I didn't think I'd be able to keep it up, what with my lack of recent training.  But, I knew that the first part of the course was the fastest, so I should take advantage of it and keep up the pace.

As soon as I started the second lap, I felt like I was in a world of my own.  Leading for nearly the entire race was odd, but for the second lap, the police that were around the course all packed it in, so it really did feel like a training run at that point.  Apparently the police didn't get the memo that the 10k was two laps and they were just packing it in as the last place 5k runner passed by.  So there's another issue with the race directing.

Because the race started early, The Wife and the kids didn't get to the spot they wanted to spectate from in time to see me, but they did manage to make it to their backup spot and see me on my second lap.  I didn't see her parking, but I did see her scrambling to get The Girl out of the car to give me a high-five.  That was a nice little treat with two miles left in the race.  Then with no police out and no other runners nearby, The Wife was able to drive with me a bit, which was actually a pretty big distraction, but the best possible distraction, especially since it was nice having something take my mind of the largest hill of the course I was ascending at the time.

She eventually sped off so she could see me cross the finish line.  I noticed that the unmarked turn was still unmarked and unmanned, but people had obviously figured it out because I was passing 5k runners left and right.  It's interesting to think that to lap somebody, I have to be going more than twice as fast as them.  I calculated it out in my head as I was running and based on how far I had run and where I passed people, I calculated their paces and some were at about 15 min/mile, which seems like a really brisk walk and not a race, but everybody has their own goals.

As I was coming down the home stretch, the volunteers seemed to come alive, which makes sense since so many 5k runners were finishing the race.  Several volunteers tried to point me outside of the finishing chute (i.e., to a third lap).  I politely declined that invitation and instead crossed the finish line at 38:39, but much to the confusion of the people handing out medals, I kept on going.  As I mentioned, I had started my watch late, so I had 1/20th of a mile I had to go to get 10k on my watch.  I got the distance right, but apparently the timing was off, as my watch said 38:47 vs the 38:39 chip time.

This was my first time breaking 39 minutes, all in a race where I had no expectations to even break 40 minutes.  I was obviously happy with my time, but a little disgruntled as well.  I had trouble understanding how I set a PR without doing specific training.  What's the point of doing a training plan if I'm not going to set a PR at the end of it?  I guess I'll just chalk it up to good whether (~37° and no wind).  Though it certainly motivates me to get signed up for another marathon.


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