Saturday I set a new PR at the Houston Great Pumpkin Run 5k. In the week leading up to the run I had a sore throat and even lost my voice (while yelling all night at a Huey Lewis and the News concert, so it's my own fault), so I made a morning-of decision whether or not to run. The good news about this was that I had been planning to taper my running later in the week anyway, so I rested up, got plenty of nutrition, and hoped to be in good form Saturday morning.
Race day came and, while I still had no voice and still had a stuffy nose, I felt pretty good so I decided to go ahead with the run. It would start downtown and proceed along Allen Parkway for an out-and-back course. The course was pretty flat and the weather was great (sunny and ~50 degrees F) so, other than the lingering cold, it was a great situation for a PR.
My race plan - as always - was to start off with a fast launch, finishing the first km in 3:59. I would then settle into a 4:12/km pace for the next 3.65 km, at which point I would kick up to a 4:00 pace for 250 m and an all out sprint for the final 100. This would bring me in at 20:39, 6 seconds under my previous PR of 20:45.
The starting line was close to my office so I camped out and stretched in my building until ~15 minutes before start time. Then I jogged to the starting line, warmed up a bit, and positioned myself near the front. 0.6 seconds after the gun went off, I was across the starting line and tearing off down Walker Street.
The first km went basically as planned. It included a bit of a downward dip, so I found myself speeding along (always trying to flow with the downhill grade rather than resist it) a bit more than anticipated early on. I finished the first km in 3:51 with an average heart rate of 171 - higher than anticipated, especially given the low temperature. By comparison, my first km in my previous three PR 5ks were: June (3:58, 166 BPM), April (3:53, 167 BPM), and February (4:01, 165 BPM). This didn't worry me much, though; I was feeling good.
The second km breezed along too, finishing in 4:06 at 175 BPM. I was then 14 seconds ahead of my target. I was still feeling pretty good but it was starting to feel clear that I wasn't going to keep this speed up forever. I was hoping, though, to stick to my 4:12 target for the remaining kms.
The third km is where things got funky. It turns out that the race organizers had not marked the turnaround point! The runners in front of me turned around at the near side of Montrose (which is where the course map had specified), but there was nothing to indicate whether this was right or wrong. If I had been paying close attention to my GPS, I would have noticed it telling me that I was still 70 m short of 2.5 km, but I wasn't. And, even if I had been, I wouldn't have trusted it since lord knows it has made errors before. It turns out that the correct turnaround point was just beyond Montrose. Some people turned early - as I did - and some kept going all the way to Waugh, which was way too far. Epic fail, race organizers.
I finished the third km in 4:15 with an average heart rate of 177 and the fourth km in 4:23, still at 177 BPM. At this point I was still 2 seconds ahead of target but clearly I was losing steam. I'm not sure if this reflects my fitness level simply not supporting such a fast burn up front or if this is a result of the sickness I had been battling (and possibly still was) - maybe a combination of both.
The next 650 m went by in 2:48, a 4:18 pace. As I began the final ascent I kicked it up a bit but, owing to the shortened turnaround, all of a sudden I could see the finish line rushing toward me. I sprinted the final 100 m, passing a couple of tapped out runners along the way. My official time was 20:02, which would have been a PR by a long shot if it had been for a full 5k. My GPS showed that I had run 4.86 km by the time I crossed the finish line. I estimate that, at this rate, I would have finished around 20:40, which would still have been a PR, but I guess we'll never know.
I feel good about the race, especially given the circumstances. Katie and I have already signed up for a December race so there will be another chance to shoot for a new PR before the year is through. In the meantime I'll work on bringing down the pace of those later kms!