It seems like the summer came and went while I was still blinking. Well, technically it is still summer but we are already in August and the time is flying by! I guess running-wise summer was dedicated to speed training and mastering the 5K, a race I have managed to avoid for nearly a decade.
I started training with my coach in early February after running a balls-out (see race post here) 1:26 half at Surf City. At that point she was living in Vegas and our training was more virtual — phone, emails and text messages. She knew my only goal was to run sub-3 (2:59:59) and after several discussions and a few workouts under my belt, we decided we would get me through LA Marathon (only 6 weeks away) and then focus on that goal. Before long I found myself injured the week of the marathon by either freak massage accident or some other weird and unexplained anomaly. My training went on hold for 8 weeks before we started training again, this time she had moved to Los Angeles to train with our group and we started at a much slower and easier rate to ensure my injury stayed away!
As soon as we had established a base and felt safe that I had recovered, my coach met me at the track to see what I could do. I dreaded this day and I was not surprised that this track workout would kick my butt. It was tough, at least for me: 1600 (5:48), 1200 (5:48p), 800 (5:24p) and 400 (:78s). Coach ran directly in front of me and I just had to shadow her and not pay attention to my watch. The first 1600 felt great and I was excited upon hearing my split the next two were torturous because my coach got out ahead of me, really far, and since I was instructed to not look at my watch, I had assumed that I was hitting the wall only to find out that I was on pace and she had just darted ahead. After the 1200, I just hunched over and I swear to this day that my eyes wanted to roll and stick to the back of my head. By then I knew the hard part was over and I just had to get in the last shorter repeats.
As dreadful as that day was, it was also a new chapter in my running “life” or whatever you want to call it because I discovered that I always had the potential to run faster but never really challenged myself in a way to see how fast I could go because I was a marathon runner — marathoners don’t have speed right? In my own training programs (Hal Higdon modified), I did nearly every run at my marathon pace 7:30 and during track my mile splits were mid 6:00’s and I thought that was borderline too fast. (Just writing that last line makes me cringe to think of all the mistakes I was making trying to train myself.) It was also great for my coach to see this so she could give me workouts that would help me improve and reach more realistic goals, one of which would be breaking 18:00 during the summer since we had some time before marathon training would begin.
Soon enough our small group of 4-5 runners were meeting every week for track and long runs. I found these run to be invaluable because we were able to push together (or me rather, me chase) and of course bond. Everything seems a little easier with very inspiring and motivating people around you.
We started training in early May and I ran one 5K per month from June to August running a 19:11 (Magic Shoe ), 16:59 (Every Child Matters – short course and very disappointing), 18:32 (Northgate Downtown Anaheim), 18:04 (City of Cypress) and finally 18:18 (Pride of the Valley).
I was devastated when I caught a severe cold just a few days before Pride of the Valley because this was the last 5K coach was going to let me run this year and also because this is a FAST PR course — I should have no problem breaking 18:00! As I always say, you can never predict what will happen in a marathon but now I firmly believe that rings true for most competitions with so many factors leading up to the race and of course during. I crossed that last 5K finish line a little disappointed at first but then I realized I was so happy to say that I am really an 18-something minute 5K runner — sick or not! My day got so much better that evening when I received a few text messages from coach: You still ran well. If you weren’t sick you would have gotten a PR no doubt, to be able to do what you did today, I am proud of you. You and I will run a 5K together so you can go under 18. I was so excited — one more chance! Hooray, there is still hope! :D