Friday, February 5, 2010

New Balance Invitational 5k Recap

AM: 3 miles
PM: 2 mile w/u + strides
5k @ 16:54.67
Link to results
2 mile c/d
Total: 7 miles

Okay, so now that I'm finally back in Charlotte and have had a few hours to recover from my crazy weekend in NYC, I can share my official race recap from Friday's 5k. First of all, let me just state the obvious by saying that this went better than expected. And I'm applying that as a blanket statement, because I'm pretty sure every single person who knows me (including myself) had no idea things would play out this well. Given the relatively short amount of training time I've had leading up to this, both in terms of overall weekly mileage and workout volume, I wasn't expecting to run much faster than I did at this meet last year. And, to be honest, I would've been okay with that. I truly was just viewing this race as an opportunity to compete and gain experience for the rest of the season, with relatively few expectations. So, needless to say, a 33-second PR came as a pleasant surprise.

Anyhow, back to the beginning. I arrived at the Armory via subway about an hour before my race. Upon checking in I was told that the meet was running about 15 minutes ahead of schedule, which more or less threw me into a panic. Hence, I rushed through my warmup, hurriedly put on my number and uniform, and booked it back to the holding area--only to find out that, in my 30-minute absence, somehow the meet had gone from running early to running 15 minutes late. Awesome. I suppose the 29 heats of the 200 were to blame. At any rate, I went from a shortage of time to an excess, which proved to be equally frustrating. Lots of standing around, stretching and sporadic strides ensued. Finally, around 2:25pm, the race was ready to go.

I toed the line with 13 other girls, none of whom I knew personally but several I'd heard of. In particular, D2 star Neely Spence (whose father and coach at Shippensburg is the legendary Steve Spence) was easily recognizable; I knew enough to understand that she and I would practically be running two different races and that I shouldn't be concerned with her. Mainly my plan was to latch onto someone who was running approximately my pace and stick with them as long as possible. In a 25-lap race, it's critical to maintain contact with at least one other person. Running in no man's land is both physically and mentally exhausting and often proves futile, and I wanted to avoid that scenario if at all possible.

From the gun, the pace was quick. I wasn't sure how quick, as I was solely focused on falling in with the group, and had no real idea of pace until we approached the first mile marker. At this point in the race we were all more or less strung out in a long line, with Spence and Texas A&M's Christina Munoz near the front. I was sitting near the back of the pack, but this didn't trouble me. I knew many of the girls would come back, and I also knew we were cruising along at a much faster pace than I'd ever maintained before. Sure enough, I came through the mile at 5:22. In case there are women and children reading this, I won't be specific about the thought that went through my head, but suffice it to say I thought I was toast. This was much faster than I'd (perhaps naively) planned for, but due to the adrenaline and the crowds and the whole atmosphere I wasn't feeling much of anything in my legs or the rest of my body. In a situation like this, that's best case scenario.

The middle part of the race is pretty much a blur. Every time I came around the first turn, I could hear Simon yelling that I was on 17-flat pace, and I fought the urge to yell back that there was no way in hell I was running that fast. For the next few kilometers I planted myself squarely behind Mary Dell, a teammate of Spence's from Ship. She was running like a metronome and reeling in those who were falling off the pace, and I knew that under no circumstances could I let her gap me. 3k came and went in 10:05--yup, that's almost 20 seconds faster than I ran the open 3k two weekends ago--and at that point I first entertained the idea of breaking 17 minutes and attaining the automatic qualifying time for Nationals. The pace lagged slightly for the next kilometer--in looking at my splits post-race, I threw in a few 82-second laps as opposed to the 80s and 81s I'd been maintaining throughout--and with 1k to go I knew I'd have to find another gear and go around Dell to crack the 17-minute barrier. So, caution to the wind, that's what I did.

Meanwhile, in the actual race for the lead, Spence had broken away from the pack around 3k and was now blazing her way to a sub-5 minute last mile. As I was approaching two laps to go, she passed me to begin her bell lap. At that point I remember thinking that my mom would be able to see me on the live internet feed, as they usually follow the leaders and this was the one point in the race when I was sharing a frame with her. Hi, Mom! Spence would go on to finish in 16:13, the exact same time Tanya ran at UW last weekend, while Munoz finished second in 16:37. As for myself, I crossed the line to begin my own bell lap and spied 16:18 on the clock. I knew at that moment that if I could just run sub-40 for the last lap, I would break 17 and punch my ticket to Nationals. Thirty-six seconds later, that goal became a reality. I crossed the line in 16:54, utterly exhausted and in disbelief about what had just transpired.

To say I've been on an emotional high since the race would be an understatement. More than anything, it's given me a confidence and excitement for racing that I've never really had before. I know I still have a long way to go, but I'm encouraged by how far I've come in such a short amount of time. Five weeks remain until Nationals, and I know I can gain a ton of fitness between now and then. I mean, five weeks ago I was just getting my groove back when we were vacationing in California. There is still much work to be done, but this race was the best start to the season that I could've imagined.


mainers said...

awesome job Megan- nice race recap