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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Call Me Flash

     Writing about specific running results is super boring for everyone, even me.  But, in a time of cancelled events, I’m craving some results to let me know the sport is still alive.  Sure, there have been a few live events, but the whole COVID-19 era, like the steroid era in baseball, will forever have an asterisk by it.  We’ll look back and say “yeah, so and so is a major marathon winner, but that WAS during the Covid era.”

Enough of that nonsense, let’s talk about me.

The wind chill was 33 degrees, blustery wind out of the north with a fine mist in the air.  I don’t normally run after work, but given the conditions were worse at 5 AM morning, I made an exception.  Am I crazy?  Why not knock out five miles on the treadmill?

This was to be a Fitness Test, that’s why.  While I am not training for a specific race (thanks Covid), I still have a training plan that I keep reshuffling with the hope that live in-person racing will be back soon.  This test calls for a ten-minute warm-up, 30 minutes running as hard as possible at a sustained effort followed by a five-minute cooldown.

When the weather is nasty like this, I always choose a route that starts with the direction of the wind.  Running into the wind when your body is cold up is a good way to mess with your mind and quit before reaching the end of the block.  Downwind, I set off.

At the 10 minute mark I hit the gas.  At 52 it’s more of Press than a Hit, but I sped up.  Within five minutes, I’m worried that I have gone out too fast.  Bad feeling since this is a downhill segment.  My body settles into the pace.  What pace, I’m not sure, but my mile times are dropping and staying there.

I’m soaked on the outside by rain and on the inside by sweat, so remove my gloves and hat.  The last 7 minutes of the 30 minute push are uphill and I struggled.  Once I reached the mark, 40 minutes total, I eased to a walk to catch my breath and turned for the short 5 minute jog home.

My workouts upload to TrainingPeaks automatically from my watch, so the data is readily available.  While I was happy with the effort, I waited a day to dive into the numbers.  There was little chance I improved from the August Test, but not much slower either.  

The next morning, as I’m isolating the hard 30 minute effort, I notice a star and a plus sign next to the Records column.  It thrilled me to see that I ran my fasted mile of the year at 7:47.  In looking at the map, this ended up being the downhill segment I mentioned above.

The most shocking thing was just below the mile record was the 5k record.  At 8:10 per mile, it is my fastest 5k segment on record.  “On record” is limited to the past 10-ish years.  My training seldom had me going all out for over 10 minutes, so the “Record” effort is misleading.  I “could” have run faster in the past if I tried.  Regardless, it was an improved Fitness Test.  My time in the mountains and on the bike in late summer paid off.

I was curious what qualified as the second fastest 5k.  It turns out to be on my birthday in 2013.  What is also interesting to me is that this second fastest 5k came in the final 5k of the Cowtown Half Marathon.  I finished that race with an 8:15 pace for the last 3.1 miles.  After running ten miles first!  Yeah, I was probably faster back then.

Cowtown’s pace had me looking for more.  I finished the final 5k of the Dallas Half Marathon in 2016 at an 8:17 pace.  In my 30 years of running, I’ve always been good at pacing my races.  Starting out slow and then gauging how I feel in the second half of the race is part science and part experience.  A hard effort too early is a disaster.

There is something fun to me about running fast at the end when others are hobbling to their slowest miles of the day.  This helps lift me up another level and carries me to the end.  It also limits the suffering to the final 25 minutes in an almost two-hour effort.  Suffering sucks.

All this is silly.  Like I said before, nobody enjoys reading running results.  It is just that there is so much negativity consuming our world that I wanted to focus on something personally positive.  I am thriving in COVID-19’s wake!  But most important, I might just be faster than I was 7 years ago!

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace