Sometimes, races are just for training. Other times they're for testing.
Both were part of my workouts the last few days.
On Saturday, I returned to my "long run" with a scheduled 1 hour, 5 minute run. (And yes, when you're marathon training an hour-long run feels like a day off. But I'm not marathon training right now and I haven't run longer than 45 minutes in some time.)
Also on Saturday was the Tuscarora 10K held in Lewiston in conjunction with the Tuscarora Nation Picnic & Field Day. Sue had run this race before and was planning on doing her tempo run there. Knowing my paces and the distance I figured I would finish the 10K in about 1:05, especially if I wasn't intent on racing it. And what better way to return to the long run that with a supported run?
The course was great -- a large 6.2-mile rectangle with a few rolling hills but nothing too taxing. The race was small and most of the people running were doing the shorter, 2.5 mile run instead. Still, I was amazed at how well it was supported. At the beginning of the race they announced there would six water stops on the 10K course.
Six water stops? Over 6.2 miles?
I thought that might be hyperbole.
Oh, but they did have water six times on the course. In fact, by the time we reached Mile 4, I couldn't take any more sips of water as I felt on the verge of sloshy stomach. But still, I was impressed and grateful for such a well-supported race.
I actually walked some of the water stops. Saturday was humid with terrible thunderstorms on the horizon. This was a training run. No need to hurt myself. I tried to keep a steady rhythm and luckily found an old friend who was happy to run with me at my pace.
I crossed the line in 1:03.45 for a 10:16 pace -- a little bit harder than my easy pace, but a solid run nonetheless. Especially since as we crossed the finish line, the rain drops started.
The rain became a downpour with thunder and lightning cutting short post-race festivities, at least for me. Instead, I took my parents to breakfast -- a nice reward for all of us -- though that means my second-place in my age group award went unclaimed.
Monday night, the race was a different story. I entered the Loghrans 5K as a testing run. I wanted to see if I had improved my VDOT
-- a formula developed by legendary coach Jack Daniels to calculate appropriate training paces.
My instructions were to do a 10-minute warmup with three different 30-second pickups.
Then I could run the race however I wanted.
My friend Karyn was running with me and kindly decided to keep my pace and run with me, even though she's a bit faster than I am.
The plan was to start out slow. Well, that's always my plan -- start slow and finish strong. In runner's parlance it's called "negative splits."
That's the theory I start with. It doesn't always work that way.
The first part of the course slopes down hill and our first mile was pretty quick.
Whoa, I thought. We really could slow down.
In a 5K, the hardest part for me is that second mile -- the middle of the race. I want to keep a good pace but want to make sure I have something left. And if I'm running hard, this is where it starts to really hurt.
The evening race was warm and what I've learned over the past year is that I'm much better in cooler weather. The wind would kick up every now and again, too. But I tried a steady pace.
We reached the Mile 2 marker and Karyn started giving me a pep talk.
"We have 10 minutes to break your PR," she said. "You can do anything for 10 minutes."
I nodded. I wanted to chat but couldn't. I wasn't in easy-paced chat zone and I so wanted to finish strong.
The cruel thing about the Loghrans race, which was duly noted to me before, was that it's an uphill finish. In that last half mile the road has two rollers.
Harmonious hill, I kept saying to myself.
Once back on Main Street, it's a straight shot for about two blocks before the race turns on a side street for the finish.
Run strong, I thought.
"You're going to crush your PR," Karyn said.
My best 5K was a 28:15 at the Polar Bear Run in Olcott, in a steady snow.
As we turned the corner, I saw the finish line clock.
27:43 ... 27:44 ... 27:45 ...
I had 15 seconds to beat 28 minutes. The sprint was on.
And I made it.
27:59. My best 5K time by 16 seconds.
Unfortunately, it didn't change my VDOT by all that much.
But my training has been, and continues to be, for distance rather than speed.
And yet, my 5K time dropped by 16 seconds.
That was worthy of a pierogi at the post-race party.