I wanted to run at least one of the Crystal City 5k races and it turned out that last Friday was really the only week I could make it there. I tried to recruit various people to join me (friends, coworkers, family) but they all ended up being unable to make it. I saw that the weather forecast was for rain, so I was a bit hesitant to commit myself to running. I decided I would just bring all of my running stuff to work with me and make the call at some point in the afternoon. Of course, once I brought everything with me, I decided I wanted to run regardless of the weather, so I signed up in the morning and hoped for the best.
At one point in time, weather.com was showing rain at 5pm, no rain at 6pm and rain again at 7pm. Unfortunately, that did not turn out to be the case. It was pretty much raining from the time I left work at 5:30 until I got home after the race.
I was pretty sure that a PR was within reach. My PR was from the beginning of January, but I've really seen my times (and average paces) drop since then. In fact, both my four mile and 10k PRs from February and March had an average pace faster than my 5k PR. I also knew the course was flat, which never hurts. The only thing I wasn't totally sure about was my legs. I feel fully recovered from the National Half Marathon, but I haven't done any speedwork at the track and have only managed two tempo runs (one of which I had to cut short). I figured I'd just go for it and see what happened.
I managed an extremely brief warmup and came up to the start area after most people were already gathered. I made the mistake of positioning myself towards the middle of the pack. I figured I should probably try to move closer to the front, but didn't want to push through people. As a result, I spent the majority of the first mile weaving around people and trying to squeeze through small gaps.
I think that my Garmin got thrown off by the tall buildings because it was consistently telling me during the first mile that I was running at below a 6:30 pace. As much as I'd like to think I've really improved, that is a bit extreme! It also beeped about a tenth before the first mile marker, showing I'd run the first mile in 6:50. This is a bit suspicious since my mile PR is 6:59 and all of the extra distance I picked up in the race (.11) was in the first mile. I did do a fair amount of weaving, but I think my Garmin was just confused. When I actually passed by the mile 1 marker, my watch read 7:20. That seems much more realistic.
Even a 7:20 was probably still a bit too fast for me to start a 5k. Going into the race, I'd been hoping for anything under 8. My pace dropped off, but then stayed consistent for miles 2 and 3, with a 7:39 and 7:40. The course had opened up at this point, so I just focused on holding my pace and keeping up with the runners around me. Once I came to the final stretch, I tried to kick it to the finish and not get passed by too many people (there were at least two or three that went flying by me). According to my Garmin I ran the last .1 (actually .21 on the watch) at a 6:59 pace.
I'm still processing what this means. I just ran a 5k with an average pace of 7:35! At this time last year, I never would have imagined that I could have run a 5k with an average pace below 8:30, let alone below 8:00! Had you told me I would run this time (or any of the times I have run recently), I probably would have laughed at you.
Somehow, I managed to start this blog right at a time when I started seeing drastic improvement, so perhaps how shocking all of this is for me isn't totally apparent. Obviously, I am thrilled, but I'm not really sure where this speed has come from or what exactly it is that has helped me breakthrough to the next level. Hopefully I can figure it out, because I'd love to keep this up.