With an extra three weeks of training after my New Years Day race, I was feeling a little more fit. A couple of weeks before the race, I tried doing a four mile tempo at 5:30 pace, which went terribly. I couldn't understand why I had so much trouble running four miles at a pace only a little bit faster than what I ran for 26.2 miles last month. I only ran three miles of it before bagging the workout. I was debating skipping this race, but last week, I got in another four mile tempo and ran 5:25s and felt somewhat strong. I didn't know where I was at fitness wise but I was hoping to at least break 16:00.
Ted Towse ran this race a couple of years ago and told me the course is very hard to run fast on. It takes place entirely in the Nashville Zoo and he said after the first few minutes, you are constantly making short, fast turns. That worried me a bit because I'm a rhythm guy and have trouble when I am constantly changing gears.
When I was warming up, I was trying to scope out the competition. I wasn't sure if I saw anyone or not and to be honest, I was hoping to be out front alone to get some racing kinks out. The temperatures were in the low/mid 30s and I had trouble getting loose on my warm-up. When the gun went off, I waited to see if anyone would take the lead and after about a minute or so, I moved out front. Ted told me the course had 1k markers and he split right at 3:00 for the first kilometer when he ran. I didn't think I had those kind of wheels yet so I was shooting for somewhere around 3:05. I felt like I was moving and when I checked my watch at the marker, it only read 3:09.
I was pretty discouraged because that's only 15:45 pace and the first 1k was the fastest segment of the race. I really didn't want to run over 16:00, so I tried to push the pace even more. But anytime I really got rolling, I would immediately have to slow down and make a sharp turn. And what made matters worse is that since we just got over a freeze, the pavement was still wet in most parts, which made the turns even worse.
Being the severe ADD person that I am, the course gave me a major headache. I could never get in a rhythm and there were signs with arrows every few feet pointing which direction to go. One part of the course ran by a carousel and I didn't know what the sign was telling me...I couldn't figure out if I was supposed to run around the carousel or what, so I just stood there for a second with a confused look on my face and got moving again. I approached the first mile and split 5:08.
5:08 is just under 16:00 pace but without much room to spare, so I had to keep moving. The second mile continued to run in a zig-zag fashion around the zoo. I must have kept my rhythm pretty well because I split 10:17 at two mile, which gave me a 5:09 second mile. If I could keep my last mile under 5:10, I had sub 16 in the bag. But Ted told me the last mile is insanely zig-zaggy (is that a word), so I knew I really had to hammer.
I tried to push as hard as I could. I would reach a point where I was nearly in an all-out sprint pace and then I had to slam on the brakes, losing all my speed in the process, and then sprint again. With about a half mile to go, my shoe came untied. I knew that if I tied it, I'd lose close to ten seconds, so I ignored it and hoped it wouldn't fall off or that I wouldn't trip over my laces.
When I finally got out of the zoo and reached the parking lot, I knew I had sub 16:00 in the bag. I always feel like a complete dork if I'm sprinting all-out with no one around, so I just cruised it in, crossing the line in 15:51. That meant my last mile was 5:03. With all of the turns, I really don't think I ran a 15:51 5k and feel this is closer to a 16:00-16:10 performance, especially with opening up in a 3:09 first kilometer. While today wasn't the fastest time, I felt fine when I crossed the line and with all the rhythm changes, it gave me confidence that I'm around 15:30 shape. I'm racing Ryan Snellen in a couple weeks, so I really need to be firing on all cylinders soon.