Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Brookhaven 5K: Fitness & optimism don't always = PR, & disappointed doesn't mean upset

For the first time in years, I was very excited to race a 5K!  The Brookhaven Run in Norman, Oklahoma seemed to be my best chance around for a fast one:  it was a flat course, it was very competitive, and I'd been running faster speed workouts this summer than I'd done since high school.  I thought this would be my chance to have a real 5K PR in the 17s (versus having run in the 17s only as part of a 10K, unofficially).  My main objective for the race was to run something starting with a 17, but my coach thought I was in shape to run under 17:30, which became my A goal.  I also wanted to get in there and compete in the competitive women's field.
Pushing it
My week leading up to the race was far from ideal; it was one of the most stressful work weeks I've ever had, and I lost a lot of sleep due to an event that occurred on Monday that snowballed into issues every subsequent day.  Travel to the race also wasn't ideal; we arrived at our hotel to find out they had no water and didn't know when it would be back on, so we found a different hotel.  My parents were joining us for the race and weekend get away, and their RV brakes went out when they parked at packet pick up.  With these snafus I didn't eat dinner the night before the race until about 9:00 p.m., after becoming quite hangry (advice: don't try to call to make sure you don't get charged for a reservation when extremely hungry!), and I also didn't eat enough at that point.  At times I'm pretty good at denying all problems and continuing to be optimistic about a race no matter what, so I chose blissful ignorance and decided I could still PR on Saturday morning..."because it's only a 5K."

When I woke up at 5:45 a.m. on Saturday to see the dew point of 70 degrees and temperature of 71 degrees, I continued to choose optimism.  Although historically I really suffer when the dew point is 70+, I decided that since it was "only a 5K", I'd be fine.

When we arrived at the race site, we found my parent's broken down RV in the finish chute (I am not kidding, but at least it was near the food and drinks instead of impeding the course).  I found the elite athlete check-in, and as I was getting my number I heard a man saying "This is Sarah Kiptoo, your overall female winner and soon-to-be Oklahoma state record holder" to one of the race organizers as an introduction.  That was a pretty bold statement, but I think it was pretty easy to assume she would win overall female, and there was a very nice financial incentive for anyone who broke the record, so I am sure that is why she came to the race (she is a professional who I believe trains in New Mexico).  I got a peak at the list of the elite female field, which was pretty intimidating, but I hoped it would pull me to a fast time!
With Albani & my mom pre-race
Despite suffocating in the humidity on my warm-up, I still told myself I'd be fine in the weather ("just a 5K").  I ran most of the course to warm up, did some drills and strides, and jumped in the elite corral.  The race did some detailed call-outs for some elite entrants.  In addition to Sarah Kiptoo, Brooks Beasts professional runner Hannah Fields was also in the field, plus about 5 others ladies with a lot of running credentials attached to their names.

At 8:00 a.m. (which seemed like mid-day to this 5:00 a.m. runner!), we were off!  The course was very crowded initially, and it was by far the thickest field I've ever run in during a 5K, which was mostly nice but resulted in more weaving than I'd have liked, particularly as some of the high school boys who went out very hard fell off.  The course had clocks at every 1K, and I knew to run 17:30 I would need to run 3:30 kilometers, or for 17:55 I would need 3:35.  I was solely focused on effort - at sustaining what felt maintainable for a 5K - but I knew I'd end up doing the math at every clock I saw so I wanted to be prepared.  I passed the first clock in around 3:36, which I figured was perfect to start.  I heard my watch beep so I knew when I hit the mile but didn't look at my split until after the race (it was 5:48).  My 2K was 7:12ish, so my pace was consistent.  I was hurting pretty bad at halfway, but I just kept thinking about how my coach said that it was supposed to hurt really bad from 1.5-2.5, and I kept pressing towards runners ahead of me, passing a couple of women and several men, all of whom were apparently slowing worse than me.
Final stretch
I thought my stride looked good at least!
I can't remember my 3K split, but I knew I was going to need a negative split to break 18 at that point.  My Garmin split for mile 2 was 5:48.  A man passed me around that time and I told myself to go with him, which helped me keep my turnover going to some degree.  The 4K came in 14:45, and then I knew my sub-18 had slipped away; I couldn't run the final K in 3:14 or under (I just don't have that kind of speed, nor did I have enough left in the tank).  I tried to press as hard as I could anyway, focusing on a woman in front of me and trying to catch her, but I had to hold back disappointment about not breaking 18.
Spoiler: that guy out-kicked me
I finished in 18:23 (official results are here), with a 5:15 pace final 0.15 (the course was certified but I couldn't run the tangents in the crowd - and for comparison, my Garmin read 26.20 in Grandma's Marathon!).  I was 6th overall female and I had ladies in my sights who I hadn't been close to before.  Our bib numbers were our rankings in the field, and later Albani asked me, "How did they know what order people were going to finish in??" since female bibs 1-2-3-4-5 finished in that order, and I think it was similar for the men.  I was happy about my placing and mostly happy with my race execution, but I was disappointed that my time was so far off what we thought I had in me, and that my 10K PR is still a faster pace than my official 5K PR.  I have also run pretty close to this 5K time for the final 5K in half marathons and during tempo runs.
Top 7 women
The upsides are that this is my fastest certified 5K ever (I have run 18:16-18:19 three times but none were certified courses), and this is faster than any 5K I ran in high school or college, at age 38!  My coach did a couple humidity calculators for me and said she thought the conditions added about 20 seconds/mile, or a minute to my race time, showing that I was in sub-17:30 shape (I also did the math on 5% from this humidity calculator).  Although I don't like anyone to miss their goals, I felt better that Sarah Kiptoo missed her goal by over a minute (she ran 16:31, trying for the 15:28 state record).  But, calculations and comparisons don't get you a PR or the confidence that comes with one.

My times in training tell me that my training is working, but I'd hoped to have a race to confirm it - but I am fortunate that I'll have a couple more tries before The Big One (Indy Monumental Marathon).  I also think back to October 2018 through March 2019 when I would have given almost anything to run a 5K like this, or to run a 5K at all.  I promised myself during my fall injury that I would never get so caught up in performances again, but that is admittedly easier said than done.  I want to be thankful - so I am aiming to continue with my sometimes blissfully ignorant optimism!

Plus you can't be upset if you did your best, and I did.  It took me about 25 years of running to learn that you can't bully yourself into performing or force anything on race days!
I would have been somewhat happier
if mile 3 had been 5:48.3, haha!
Any day I'm healthy enough to toe the line is one I'm thankful for, and I feel better about my training overall than I feel about this race.  I also trust that I'm where God wants me to be, so onto the next!


  1. I know exactly how that feels to have a good race but know you have better in you and to feel frustrated that your hard work didn't show (as much as it should have) on race day. This is still an awesome time! Better weather and that sub-18 will be there. I know an elite marathoner who's 5k PR is 18:something when her 10k is faster than that! 5ks suck. haha

    1. I know this has happened to everyone who has been running and racing very long. I got all excited for this 5K after my speed work improved so much this summer, but it then gave me the harsh reminder that 5Ks really do suck, haha!

    2. For me, even when I run a great time for me, it's pain most of the way! haha

    3. One reason I love longer races is that you feel comfortable for a lot of the way; in short stuff it's painful from the gun!

    4. So true! By the time you start hurting in a marathon, you've been out there so long, what's a little bit of pain.