Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Race Report: Crystal City Twilighter 5k

Saturday night was my second attempt at the 5k in three weeks. I hoped it would be a repeat of two years ago: disappointed by a less than stellar Firecracker 5K, I came back for revenge and—bolstered by the presence of my teammates—set a PR on the darkening Crystal City streets.

Given how slow my 5k PR is compared to my longer distance PRs, it shouldn’t be difficult to break. I’m not in prime shape now, but my PR was set at this same midsummer, off-peak race. I wasn’t in prime shape then either, so I couldn’t use that as an excuse. Coach had said a 5:55 first mile would feel comfortable. I wasn’t quite confident that comfortable would be the appropriate adjective, but it sounded reasonable and was PR pace, so I was game.

Warming up with the GRC ladies.

I hit the one mile marker at exactly 5:55, and it did feel comfortable. Running a second mile at 5:55 would certainly not be as easy (or comfortable), but I felt good and I had teammates both at my side and just ahead to gage off of. As we hit the turn-around, I felt like I could be slowing, but I seemed to be improving, or at least maintaining, my place in the field. I figured I was running close to 6:00 mile pace, which would still be good enough for a PR. But as I passed the two mile marker, I realized I had slowed much more than that. Crap, crap, crap. I had to get it back in the last mile. I couldn’t pull a Classic Teal and give up. And it didn’t seem like I was. The effort felt different than the Firecracker race; I didn’t feel like I was unraveling, it felt like a PR effort. Maybe I hadn’t reclaimed 5:55 pace, but I was churning along, not throwing in the towel. K caught up to me, and having her there gave me a needed push.

I didn’t have a great sense of where the finish line was (the course was new), but I thought I could identify one of the intersections close enough to start pushing. The problem was I was mistaken, started picking it up, and realized too late we had not yet passed the aforementioned intersection. Oh well, at least I tricked myself into running faster for longer. Like last time, I struggled to see the finish line in the dark until we were pretty close. I kicked as best as possible, but had no clue what the time was; the clock was blinking nonsensical numbers. I didn’t know how I’d done until I had walked away, caught my breath, and finally peaked at my watch.

18:56. What? Five seconds slower than my PR. I was pissed. The effort felt like I earned a better time than that. I knew that I had slowed in the second mile but it didn’t dawn on me that instead of making up for it, I had actually continued to slip.

This morning I looked up the official results, which shows me six seconds slower than my watch time. (It also shows equivalent gun and chip times, even though I started a couple seconds back.) I thought I finished closer to K, but apparently not. Officially I didn’t even break 19 minutes. This just keeps getting worse and worse. 

Officially or not, my time was slower than 2012 when I had just joined the team. Have I not improved in two years? (Actually—although I currently feel like wallowing in this recent failure—the reality is I have improved at every distance except the 5k. Sadly, the only other distance where my improvement was almost negligible was the marathon, which, of course, is the one that matters most to me.)

The truth is I don’t really care about 5ks. I care about what this means for my other races and bigger goals. To hit my September goal, I need to run the same pace as Saturday for 13.1 miles—i.e. ten miles further. To hit my October goal, I need to run faster for longer (10 miles). To hit my December goal, I need the confidence gained from nailing the other two. I know it is the beginning of the season and real training hasn’t begun, but is the real training enough to give me an extra 10 miles at that pace? Enough to get me to go ten miles at a pace I can currently (maybe) hold for only two?

Let’s hope so.

Dream big (even when results tell you otherwise),


  1. Thanks Teal! You show us how to Dream Big especially (and most importantly!) when the results tell us otherwise.

  2. Loved this, Teal. Because I can totally relate. My 5K pace is MAYBE 10-15 seconds faster than my half marathon pace. I just suck at 5Ks. And I have the exact same trouble when I race them - they feel like a PR effort but when I look at my watch I'm always dismayed at how slow I am actually going. But I love your attitude and I try to take that approach as well - it's not the 5K that matters, it's the bigger goals. You will build on this fitness and go get those goals in the coming months. And with the bulk of your training still to come, you should definitely look at this as a great thing - you were so close to your PR! To be that close to it at the beginning of a season is huge. Can't wait to hear how it goes as your training ramps up.

  3. Thanks for taking us along with you through the race, even when it wasn't one of your best.
    Love the photo -- that group looks they can really go even when just warming up!