19 April 2014


Always the best tech shirts at this race:-)
This was my first short distance "race" event in quite some time, almost 2 years to be exact. I had run other short distance races since I started my recovery, but I had been taking it easy, not trying to push at all. My main goal was just to return to running, not to break any personal speed records. My recovery had been going well and my return to ultras had gone extremely well for me personally as well. I ran my first ultra since my return from my health woes in January of this year at what I would call a "leisurely pace". I managed to get a finish and I my endurance base and speed continued to gradually improve from there. A month later, I started to put more focus on my diet, which I had been neglecting for the most part. Just like most people, I had gained a few pounds every year since high school, but my running had kept that gain somewhat in check. So when I started to see some positive results in my training, I figured why not improving my diet as well, since it was about to be time for another annual check up with the doc.

As I had noticed in the past, just running isn't enough for a healthy body, the diet plays a major role as well. So when I started my "clean eating" routine in early February, the pounds started to come off. I continued to slowly increase my weekly mileage to an average of 50+ and I continued to feel great. In fact, I recovered so much faster than usual. I had replaced one meal a day with a 500 calorie vegetable/fruit smoothie after hearing about and finding a deal for a NutriBullet online. I have no financial interest (NFI) in the marketing of this product, but it has really helped me with eating better. In fact, I have a couple favorite smoothie recipes that I will try to share on this blog later.

Anyway, eating better had really improved my performance and recovery. I barely had sore muscles after my training runs anymore, it that wasn't due to taking it easy on any of my runs. In fact, I started to add short "tempo" runs into my training, nothing formal, just picking up the pace significantly on one of my weekly shorter runs. To my surprise, I was laying down some training run PRs...not just post injury, but actual overall PRs. Was I actually getting faster than I was before? I was hopeful, but the real test would be an actual race and I wasn't quite ready to find out. To be honest, I was afraid I'd fail. Training continued to go well and I was wondering when that progress would come to a screeching halt. So I kept putting off to actually "race" a shorter event. Until the Cookie Dash 5K came around.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw Regena's post about having run the course and how flat it was, "probably the flattest course in Huntsville" in her words. Hmm, a flat fast course? Maybe I should just give it a go? Even if I failed at my goal (sub 20 min finish or maybe even sub 19:42, which would be an all time PR), I could still use it as a gauge of where I currently was regarding short distance speed.

So I made up my mind and shortly after, I told my running buddies about it. Even though I am an overposter, I didn't post this personal goal, again thinking that I already put enough pressure on myself without the need for any added "pressure" of putting it out there on social media. The weekend before the Cookie Dash, I had a fantastic experience at the SweetH2O 50K on Saturday followed my running the Bridge Street Town Centre Half Marathon with my wife on Sunday, so I felt pretty good about myself come Cookie Dash race week. After all, it's "just" a 5K, right? That feeling of self confidence lasted until Tuesday. Then I started to wonder, how can I be sure I'm ready to push my goal pace in a 5K? Am I really fast enough to run sub 20? An actual PR? How can I know for sure? So I started googleing for some advice. Very quickly, I found McMillan's website offering a 2 part speed training session to gauge your 5K goal pace. Since I was already in the last week before the 5K, I had to skip the second target workout, but the first workout would be sufficient to see whether I should be ready to run PR pace for the 5K.

My family easter picture from the Cookie Dash finish area:-)
The workout called for 3 sets of 3x 400m (0.25 miles) intervals. The first set consisted of 3x 400m intervals at my 5K goal pace (6:15 min per mile pace) followed by 100m recovery jogs (8:00 min per mile pace). After the third interval, I would jog for 400m before starting the second set, which required the same workout at 6:12 min per mile pace per interval followed by 200m recovery jogs. I followed the second set of intervals with another 400m recovery jog before increasing my pace by another 3 seconds yet again to 6:09 min per mile pace. The recovery jogs were 400m each in this third and final set. I wanted to be sure I was ready, so my actual pace was faster than the required target on most of my quarter mile intervals. At the end of this workout, I was confident that I could try for a PR at the Cookie Dash.

When we lined up at the starting line, I wanted to make sure that I wasn't too far up in the field (to avoid blocking the fast guys) and not too far back (to avoid early tripping in a field of almost 600 runners). I remember asking a couple of guys ahead of me in the starting area about their goal finishing time. I decided to try to make sure to keep them in sight, if I wanted to stay close to my goal pace. I also made sure that my favorite little training tool (GPS watch) showed my overall average pace prominently on my first data screen. Realizing that the GPS watch distance often differed from the actual distance, I decided to try to make sure I kept my goal pace at 6:10 to give myself a small cushion in case my watch was way off the actual distance. As it turned out, that was very important, indeed.

The entire Fleet Feet Racing team was obviously lined up ahead of me along with some other faster guys and when Regena sent us off running, I tried to stay relaxed early and not get sucked in too much. I kept checking my watch often early on and I completed my first mile in just over 6 minutes, feeling extremely comfortable. Just half a mile later, I was still feeling great, but I was now laboring and breathing heavy. I remember thinking, I don't think I would be able to carry a conversation right now...definitely not training pace:-)

Eric Fritz ("el presidente") and David Rawlings were ahead of me seemingly running my goal pace, so I decided I'd stop checking my watch so much and just try to stay with them. We were about 2 miles in and I was feeling great. I passed David just before we entered the greenway and I stayed close to Eric. In case he didn't know it yet, he helped me tremendously in my PR attempt. It truly helps to find someone of similar pace to run with or run behind to keep you going...until it is time to decide where you want to finish this race:-) I was starting to fade a little and so was Eric, I believe. With about half a mile or less to go, I decided to pass him. I really didn't ant him to do the same to me, so I realized I had to not only pass him, but pass him strong and continue to push...probably all the way to the finish. Passing him went as planned, but just a few seconds later, I started to get some stitches in my right side. Oh great, that's what you want for the last quarter mile of a race. I tried to relax my breathing and my body while holding on to my pace. I expected Eric to pass me again any second. That made me try to speed up a little more. Now I have to hold on until the finish. It felt like forever. I saw the finish line, but I just couldn't get there fast enough. Crap, this is hard! I kept pushing and when I finally crossed the line, my watch read 19:28 (new PR!) and Kathy Youngren gave me a congratulatory pat on the back. Which I accepted...just not very gracefully. I started dry heaving a couple of times as soon as I stopped running, reminded of why I don't eat breakfast before racing. I'm sure Kathy appreciated it too:-)

Final thoughts, I believe Huntsville has a new fastest 5K course. Regena and her crew of volunteers and bakers did a fantastic job, from course creation, to race organization, to cookie fueling before and after the race. I am already looking forward to next year's event, hopefully less nervous about racing a 5K, but still wanting to go after yet another PR...all while staying healthy and raising awareness of the danger of blood clots, DVTs and PEs and how to possibly recognize and prevent them.

A new PR!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Great story! So happy for your comeback :) Thanks for choosing the Cookie Dash as your PR 5K! I'm glad you and your family enjoyed the race and we welcome you back next year. Your kind words are much appreciated!





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