Well, this has been an interesting ride!
The 5K distance has always been a challenge to me.
Early on, it was tough to find the endurance to run non-stop for 3.1 miles. Once I had the distance mastered, next came the task of running those 3.1 miles a little faster. Then, it was only a natural progression to run that distance even faster - but not too fast - to ensure a true "racing" experience. Fifteen years later, I still don't have it mastered.
Truthfully, it's a distance I've never really trained for. Well, I did have to train my body to run the distance, but any 5K-specific speed work has never taken place. I have gotten somewhat faster over the course of my 15 years as a runner, but my finish times have never been consistent.
In the wake of all the COVID-19 race cancellations, a slew of virtual races and racing series emerged. I quickly jumped on the band wagon and signed up for the UN-Canceled Project series. Affiliated with Run the Edge, the UN-Canceled races offered various race distances with different themes each week. There was a Facebook group and a user-friendly site to submit your "finish times" for each of your races.
Since all of my Spring 2020 races were either canceled or postponed (from mid-March and on), these virtual races gave me a new focus for my training. And, since the 5K has been such a nemesis for my running self, I thought this was the perfect time to face it head-on.
Enter the Weekly 5K Time Trials!
March 30th- Crushing Covid virtual 5K
This is where it all began. The Crushing Covid Virtual 5K was a local event, put on by our area parks and rec department. My friend, Barb, texted me on a Sunday evening (March 29th), asking if I was interested. The catch was that we only had until March 31st to run it and submit our times (it had been in the news for a couple weeks, but neither of us had seen it). Since I always do a #nevermissaMonday run anyways, why not? She and I met up, after work, the next day. There's a central area on the college campus that's perfect for such a "race." One lap around the campus is about a mile, so running three laps (plus a little extra) will get you a 5K distance with no traffic to worry about. The weather was beautiful, and the run went off without a hitch. We finished with a respectable 26:38 and all was well.
April 6 - UN-Canceled Project - Hope 5K
A couple days after that first 5K, I learned of the UN-Canceled Project. The "races" officially began on April 1st (which was a Wednesday). I scheduled the Gratitude 10K to happen that Saturday, and set my sights on doing the next week's 5K on Monday. That's when the idea came to me to do these 5K's every Monday, so I'd have a week in between each of them, and I'd run them all on the same route. I was curious to see if I could potentially run these faster each week, and since I was using the same route, any differences in my finish times would be totally on me (and not the change in terrain, etc.). So, I ran the Hope 5K on my own, also after work, and didn't bring any music along. The temps weren't as nice, and my legs felt heavy. Try as I might, I just couldn't seem to get my body to go; the entire race felt like a struggle. My finish time was 27:07, which was better than expected, but it certainly took a lot more effort than it should have.
With Hope being the theme, we were asked to site what we were hopeful for. My answer: That we all have Gratitude for what we have, that we show Kindness and Respect towards others, and that Grace is freely given. This COVID-19 situation is different for each of us, and we all need to remember that everyone is dealing with it in their own way.
April 13 - UN-Canceled Project - Humor 5K
I also ran this one on my own, sans music. The temps were chilly and the wind was insane. Although the 18mph wind was a nightmare, it was the gusts (upwards of 25-30mph) into the headwind (three times, don't forget, on those three laps) that nearly had me at a standstill. The crosswind made it difficult to stay vertical, and my legs kept wanting to criss-cross. Even the tailwind was tough...making me feel like I was trying to sprint down a steep mountain, like I was going faster than what I could personally control because the wind was pushing me so forcefully. Ugh. My finish time was substantially slower than the first two week's trials (27:27), and my splits were all over the place (8:44/9:03/8:50). So much for my goal of running these faster each week (LOL).
It was only too appropriate that this week's theme was Humor. The joke was definitely on me with the crazy wind. I'm just glad I could laugh about it.
Barb joined me for the Inspiration 5K. The temps were a bit warmer, but we still had the wind (out of the west, again) to battle. Fortunately, the wind was "only" at 14mph this week, so there's that. This race seemed to feel better, but with the wind it still was tough. Although this week's finish time (27:16) showed an improvement over the previous two weeks, it still didn't really reflect the effort it took in getting there. Battling the wind is such a buzzkill! At least, for the first time, I managed negative splits (8:53/8:49/8:43), so that gave me some hope that things were possibly on the upswing with these time trials.
As for Inspiration? I couldn't help thinking of all the Boston runners who had to sit it out on that particular day.
I was on my own for the Courage 5K, and I brought my music along this time. And, guess what? I not only had wind (again LOL), I also had heat! Now, it's no secret that I love my summer heat...but even I appreciate a bit of an acclimation period. At least a balmy wind isn't as painful as a cold one. Anyways, this run felt tough with the 77F heat, and I didn't think to bring water (it was only 3.1 miles after all). I was happy to finish slightly faster than the week prior (27:10), though, but my splits were a little jacked (8:47/8:55/8:38).
As for Courage? Well, as I mentioned, the 5K distance is not my forte.' It's been a little scary, but exciting, to show up each Monday and take on another 5K "race," many of which have come with wind. I was hoping, from the beginning, to better my finish times each week, so I've been sharing those as well... and everyone has seen when the finish times have NOT been what I had hoped. Oh well, I'm a strong believer in full disclosure and keeping it real.
May 4 - UN-Cancelled Project - Commitment 5K
May 4 - UN-Cancelled Project - Commitment 5K
I also did the Commitment 5K solo, and with the erratic weather (rain in the forecast), I opted to run it over my lunch. It probably goes without saying that there was wind (again), but this time it was out of the south/southeast instead of the west. The temps were also bordering in chilly (how does 39F grab you?). Same song and dance...1/2-mile warm-up run, get my GPS signal, and GO! Maybe it was because the wind was from a different direction, or the time of day, but this run didn't feel as tough as most of the others. It wasn't easy, by a long shot, because I was trying to keep a steady "fast-ish tempo-like" pace, but I didn't find myself as out of breath, or my legs as fatigued, by the final stretch. I finally managed a sub-27 finish, for the first time since that very first 5K (six weeks ago). My splits were also decent (8:44/8:42/8:38), so maybe these time trials are paying off after all (believe me, I was starting to have doubts).
It's most appropriate that Commitment was the theme for the sixth week of these 5K's. Even though the 5K thing feels like a routine now, that doesn't mean I eagerly look forward to another potentially frustrating experience. We all know I love running, and if it was a real race I'd be showing up regardless of the weather. But for a virtual race, that I really don't have to do, it's a little different scenario when the weather (again) is less than ideal.
Let me just say, I'm still not a fan of the 5K. Like any distance, it has its own nuances that make it tough. For someone who is more endurance-blessed, the 5K is a good challenge to get out of that comfort zone. My biggest fear of the 5K is that first mile. I worry about going out too fast (and then crashing in the third mile), and I worry about not going out fast enough (and then not being able to make up for it by the finish line). These 5K time trials have given me a great opportunity to face these fears and throw a little caution to the wind (quite literally LOL).
I have to admit that I have been pretty lucky with the weather, too. Granted, there has been more wind than not, but there hasn't been any rain (yet). I might start doing these in the mornings, with the increased daylight. Don't worry, none of these will be happening on the 'mill, so wish me luck that the "dry" Mondays continue.
So, where to go from here? The UN-Canceled Project -2 starts next week! Of course, I have registered and these 5K time trials will continue for another six weeks. If this was a normal spring racing season, I wouldn't be doing 5K time trials every week (and certainly not for 12 consecutive weeks), but this spring is like none other. The timing is ideal in that I'll be officially starting my 26.2 training for the Air Force Marathon (Sept. 19th) in late June/early July, so these time trials will transition well into that.
Anyways, that's my 5K time trial story, and I'm sticking with it.
Are you taking on any comfort-zone-violation worthy challenges right now? Have you been doing virtual races? Ever done a 5K time trial (or several)?
I'm linking this with Meranda and Lacey for the Friday with Fairytales and Fitness link-up.