Thursday, April 22, 2010

Penn Relays 5k

16:44: Not a total disaster, but certainly not what I was hoping for! Will update more later...

Update: Well, later is now. Here we go.

AM: 3 miles
PM: 2 mile w/u + strides
Target: 5k race @16:30 or faster
Actual: 16:44
20 min. c/d (2.5 miles)
Total: 7.5-8 miles

After a leisurely morning on the Harrisburg waterfront, we arrived in Philly just after 2pm. This would afford us a full five hours to lounge around our Chinatown hotel before departing for the track in the evening. Normally this amount of down time would drift by in a painfully slow manner. Not so today, because I had a very special treat: Jilane came to watch me run!! For those of you who don't know, Jilane is the "J" of the original "Team MJ" for which I started this blog. Coincidentally (or not...?), today marks the exact two year anniversary of the first night she and I met. I also haven't seen her since the Peaches' wedding extravaganza in October. So, needless to say, I was absolutely stoked that she was making a special trip to watch me run and stay for a slumber party. She arrived around 4 and kept me occupied until go time.

Once we got to the track, I only had a few minutes to spectate before starting my pre-race prep. After checking in and securing my number, I set off for a few miles on the streets around Penn. My 10k warmup at Stanford, run in the darkness of the campus trails, was pensive and very solitary. Tonight, surrounded by the rush of freeway traffic below and the steady pulse of the city, could not have been more different. I felt nervous, antsy, ready to get the race started. I finished up my warmup inside the stadium--unlike most meets, the infield was free for the taking--and cinched up my spikes a few minutes before go time.

We toed the starting line just after 9:15. There were nearly 40 girls in my race, and the officials spread us out into three waterfalls. I was in the middle waterfall and, worst of all, was the girl farthest to the outside of the track. In hindsight, I know this meant I should've made a beeline for the rail (and for the front of the pack) if I wanted good positioning. In actuality, I blew it.

The gun went off and I was immediately lost in a sea of elbows and ponytails. During the first lap I found myself quite literally jockeying for position but always settling for a second-rate spot. I should've fought harder, moved more decisively, and asserted myself. I didn't. I'm pretty sure I was almost in second-to-last place at this point, and for no good reason. The first lap was 83 seconds--slower than my 10k pace and almost 5 seconds slower than the pace I was hoping to maintain tonight. The second lap wasn't much better, and I spent the majority of it in lane 3 trying to go around people. I think I split the 800 around 2:44, but honestly I had no idea at the time. I would spend the entire rest of the race simply trying to catch up. I didn't see a single split of the night--not a mile split, not a 3k split, nothing--which should tell you how busy I was trying to fight my way up to where I thought I belonged. I never settled in, never got comfortable, and never felt like I was running my race. That, as I'm sure you well know, is a very frustrating feeling.

Honestly, the rest of the race is a blur. I tried to kick things in the last few laps--looking at Simmons' splits afterward, I think I split 2:35 for the final 800--but honestly I just wanted to be done at that point. I crossed the finish line in 16:44, a full 15 seconds slower than I expected to run. Granted, the time was a PR by 10 seconds. It also earned me an automatic qualifying spot for Nationals. But to only run 10 seconds faster than I did two months ago indoors, knowing how much fitter I am now, was a huge disappointment.

There's not much more to say about the race without dwelling on the negative. Instead, I'll focus on a few positives: It was awesome to have both Jilane and Ozzie there to cheer me on. Oz, thanks for postponing your beer drinking for at least 15 more minutes to come watch me. Jilane and I also cooled down with Neely Spence (D2 indoor 5k champ who ran 16:13 tonight for fourth place), and it was fun to get to know her a little bit better. Thanks to Cornell coach and LetsRun founder Robert Johnson for tracking me down afterward and giving me the opportunity to catch up with an old friend. And lastly, a big shout-out to my teammates Holly and Jess for running 36:33 and 37:14 respectively in the 10k. Huge PRs and provisional qualifying marks for both of them. Putting all this in perspective, the race itself was just a slight hiccup in the way of what turned out to be a very successful night.


Jilane said...

"Oz, thanks for postponing your beer drinking for at least 15 more minutes to come watch me."

FYI he'd already started on vodka redbulls before your gun. Just so we're all on the same page here.