Well, they say you can't win 'em all. They also say improving at distance running requires patience. And this mysterious relentless paternal "they" also say that you get what you need--which in my case was another notch or two down in my ego.
It's not that the Snowman Stampede 5 mile race today felt hard the whole way. It just felt blah. And every time I looked at my pace on the Garmin it looked blah from that vantage point, too. This was despite perfect chilly temperatures that warmed up to the 40s as the morning wore on, despite warm cheerful sunshine, despite hanging out with Kathy and her friend Melissa (they were doing the 10-mile race that followed the five-miler, too, for 15 miles total as part of their ramp-up for the Big Sur Marathon in April) and despite a flat fast course that I'd had a great time on a year ago in my own showing in the 10-miler.
Part of the problem is that I have a cold. It's not the worst cold ever, and it's not like I can complain, having gone through my entire 16-week training program for the Houston Marathon last month with nary a sniffle. Way better to get a cold now than then, or than four weeks from now when I'm ramping up for a half-marathon. But the cold was there, and it's given me stinky sleep for two nights in a row.
The other part of the problem (as is almost always true) were overly high expectations. I hear all the time about people "using their marathon endurance" to go out and set a personal record in a shorter distance a few weeks after the big one. I wanted that to be me, despite my back, the cold and the poor sleep. I should have known better. On one level, I did know better. But I ignored that little voice of practicality and hoped for the big PR anyway.
All of that, though, just sounds like a bunch of lame excuses. Here's how the race went:
Mile One: My plan was to go out at 8:24 (right around my pace in the Bolder Boulder 10K last year) and then gradually speed up as each mile went on. I executed part one of this plan perfectly--the first mile was done in 8:23. After that, not such a good job.
Mile Two: My legs just didn't speed up. Every time I looked at the watch it was 8:30-plus. I had looked at the elevation profile and this was the part of the course that was supposed to be on a modest downhill. I started to get worried. The Garmin says I did this mile in 8:30, but it must have been slower given my final time.
Mile Three: I felt a little better after the turnaround and some water. I wondered if maybe I hadn't hydrated well enough. Oh well. Too late now. Garmin says I did 8:17, but again I think that was clocking too fast.
Mile Four: In this mile, I actually felt kind of good. I started to pass a few people. Garmin says 8:18. But it was too late for doing really well in this race and I already knew it.
Mile Five: I found a kick and passed a few more people, my nose running like the Platte River the course followed. My back was hurting, I was already disappointed in my time and I just wanted to be finished. The Garmin says I ran this mile in 8:03. I don't believe it was that fast.
The official race results? 42:10 net time, a pace of 8:26/mile--WORSE than my Bolder Boulder pace from last May. I was seventh of 50 in my age group. I know I should be happy to be in the top 10 but........
Since I know it's important find the good in these kinds of disappointments, here's what I can muster:
1) Except for mile one to mile two, my pace got faster as the race went on. It's a good thing when your last mile is the fastest.
2) I don't have another race until mid-April. Plenty of time to improve....and I will be well into physical therapy by then (yay dry needling! it starts on March 6), which hopefully will help my back and my ability to run fast.
3) I think I'll finally get some decent sleep tonight, cold or no.
4) I have four more races in the Spring of Speed. That's four more chances to do better than I did today.
Onward I go. I get knocked down but I get up again.