This morning I PR'ed in the 10th annual Harris County Hospital District Med 5k with a time of 20:31. After December's underperformance in Arizona, I was eager to get back into 5k shape. As with the December race, I was shooting to beat my previous PR of 20:45 with a 4:13/km base pace.
My race plan looked very similar to December's:
First 500m: 1:53 (a 3:47 pace out of the gate, gradually slowing to base pace)
Four kms at 4:13 each (The course is pretty flat.)
400m: 1:36 (picking it up to 4:00/km pace)
100m: 17s (final sprint at 2:57/km pace)
This would yield a 20:39 PR time.
It was gorgeous running weather this morning: clear and sunny - a little chilly (4C / 38F), but I knew that would be an asset as soon as we started running. There was a lot of wind but, since much of the course is out-and-back, it would help/hinder runners the same. Katie and I arrived with plenty of time this year to go to the bathroom and warm up with no stress. At 8:30 we were off!
I came out strong in the first 500m, finishing in 1:49 with an average heart rate of 158. I was 4 seconds ahead of my race plan. The next km went very smoothly and I finished in 4:08 with an average HR of 172. I was 9 seconds ahead of my race plan. After a major left turn, the next km slowed a bit to 4:16 but still with an average HR of 172. At the halfway point I was 6 seconds ahead of my race plan but I had slowed and it seemed clear that I wasn't going to pull 4:13s moving forward. So much for a PR!
The next km was really bad, 4:22 and an average heart rate of 174. I was now 3 seconds behind my race plan - only 2 seconds ahead of my PR. At this point the race course U-turned ... and so did my performance! The next km breezed by in 4:09 at an average HR of 177 - I was back in business, 1 second ahead of race plan.
What accounted for this change in performance? I have a few hypotheses: 1. I just dug in deep and found extra juice - but I don't think this is what happened. 2. There was a slight elevation increase over the previous two kms and a slight decrease over this km - not enough to account for this difference, though! 3. The previous 2 kms were going one direction and this km was going the opposite direction - so perhaps this was the effect of the wind?
Regardless, I was feeling good and had slowly passed several runners and caught up to several more. I turned it up a notch for the next 400m, completing them in 1:30 at an average HR of 182 and passing all the runners in my cluster. At this point I was 7 seconds ahead of race plan but didn't have nearly enough blood going to my brain to realize that! I kicked it hard to complete the final 100m in 17s at an average HR of 198, my HR peaking at 207, both of which are all-time highs for me.
My final chip time was 20:30.7, a PR by 14 seconds and 8 seconds ahead of my race plan. This was the #28 finish overall (98th percentile), #26 among men (95th percentile), and #3 within my M 30-34 age group (96th percentile).
My actual base pace averaged out to closer to 4:14; the strong start and finish were the legs that gained me seconds over my race plan. If I can lower that base pace to ~4:06, I'll have a legitimate shot at breaking 20 minutes, which is my goal for this year! My next two races are 10ks, though, so my training focus will turn to that distance over the coming weeks.
I'm pleased with the performance - 24 seconds faster than my time on the same course last year! Katie did really well too, beating her goal time by more than a minute. To celebrate we crushed pancakes and omelets at Buffalo Grill and watched Star Wars Episode I in 3D!