Disclaimer: This was supposed to be a “Throwback Thursday” post, but apparently that wasn’t meant to be. Flashback Friday to the rescue!
It’s crazy to think that a year (well, 3 days short of a year) has gone by since my infamous Plymouth Race… a race that frankly sucked, but that resulted in an outlier of a PR – roughly 3 minutes faster than my previous PR – one that I have been unable to get close to since. But, much like Ahab, I will keep trying until I succeed!
[Confession: It probably makes me a horrible former English major, but I have never read Moby Dick. I should remedy that someday.]
Before the Plymouth race (full recap here, for anyone interested), my PR was 33:44, and I had achieved that PR a mere 2 weeks before Plymouth. I remember being ridiculously excited to achieve my first sub-11:00 mile during the AFA Veterans Fun Run, and even more excited that each subsequent mile was faster – 10:49, 10:28, 10:10. Boo yeah! Colin and I were well chuffed.
At that point in my running life, my 5K PRs were all relatively close together – no “major” leaps in pace: 35:08, 34:25, 33:44. The odd thing about them was that they almost all occurred in a row… 35:08 was at the Jerry Garcia River Run in late July, then I came within 7 seconds of matching that PR at the Canal Diggers Road Race, then PR’d with 34:25 at The Dam Race in October, and my next “real” race (not counting the virtual Halloween run I did) was the AFA run and 33:44 PR. Cool, right?
Cool, except that Colin and I got a bit cocky. We were basically PR machines at that point, and we may have let it go to our heads. The worst part about our cockiness is that we weren’t really training… we were just going out there and running races, with only one or two 2-ish-mile mid-week runs in between. So it all seemed so easy.
Then came Plymouth. It was frikkin’ cold that day – temperature in the teens (F) but with an ocean windchill that brought the feels-like temp down to single digits. And that ocean wind was strong. I broke out the big guns kit-wise: fleece-lined pants, knee-length wool socks, fleece-lined base-layer shirt, tech t-shirt, running jacket with the hood pulled up, gloves, and my swag from the race – a nice wicking hat. And I was still freezing.
Thankfully the restaurant at the start/finish line let everyone hang out inside where it was nice and toasty (and where there were real bathrooms!), but it felt like it took FOREVER for the race to start once we were lined up. Then our first mile was directly into that cold ocean wind. My face was completely numb, my fingers all turned white despite my gloves… it was good times.
When the starting gun went, Colin took off like a bat out of hell. I mean, straight-up sprinting and dodging around everyone, since we had started at the back. (I assumed it was because of the cold and he just wanted to run fast to warm up, but he recently said he thinks he started fast because of the sprints we did for warmups, which we usually don’t do.) I chased after him, desperately trying to keep up while simultaneously trying not running over anyone, and we made it about a mile before my body finally warmed up enough to realize what it was doing and started protesting. My chest tightened, I was fighting to catch my breath, I had horrible side stitches, and my right foot ached like crazy (I didn’t know it at the time, but my shoes had essentially given up the ghost). I was miserable, and was only able to run – much more slowly – little bits and pieces of the next 2 miles.
I remember walking at one point and feeling so disappointed that I couldn’t continue my PR streak because of all the walking I was doing. I didn’t have Simon at the time, and hadn’t brought my phone to use MapMyRun because it was far too cold for that nonsense, and Colin hadn’t brought a phone either for the same reason. So I had no idea how I was doing for time. But I felt wicked slow.
Imagine my surprise, then, as I rounded the last corner and saw 30:whatever on the finish line clock. Holy schnikes! That made me pick up the pace! I finished with an absurd 30:49, with an average pace (according to the race results) of 9:55. What fresh hell?! I had manged to keep the streak going, but had somehow PR’d way out of my league, if you will, and that 30:49 is still my seemingly unreachable Moby Dick of a PR. The closest I’ve gotten is 33:08, at the Shamrocks on the Rocks 5K back in March, and I only just registered my fastest mile on Simon as 9:50 during a recent speed workout. How did I average 9:55?!
That first mile must have been uber fast. Given how much I had to walk for the rest of the race, I’m extremely curious about how fast that mile was. Of course that had to be the one race neither Colin nor I were using a GPS tracker thingie! Colin and I did try to replicate the first-fast-mile tactic at our next race, but it didn’t go quite so well. For me, my dead shoes made my feet hurt SO bad that I practically limped the course, not to mention I got separated from Colin and our pacer, Shauna, after about 30 seconds because the course was so packed. I finished in 33:31. Colin managed a 31:something but felt dizzy during the run and nearly fainted at the finish line. Thankfully (for me, because I hate blazing out fast and then wanting to keel over!) we haven’t tried this tactic again… though I think Colin would nearly always be game to give it another go.
But the question remains: when will I catch my Moby Dick? Part of me really wants to go out guns blazing during a race to see what I can do, but most of me wants to a) enjoy the race, and b) not faint or puke or do anything else unseemly. I’m trying to stick with Steve’s speed workout tactic of getting used to running my average race pace and then slowly work at getting faster, but that “PR Machine” era has made *actually* working at getting faster more frustrating than it probably should be. One day I’ll get there. One day.
What do you prefer – going out fast and then possibly having to slow down, or starting slow and either trying to stay steady or negative split?
Do you have any “Moby Dick” PRs that haunt you?
Have you read Moby Dick? Is it worth reading?