These past couple of years, I've focused on the roads. My schedule doesn't really allow time for heading to a track for a hard workout, so I've been a slave to the roads. While I don't get to run with them as much as I want, there's a solid group of guys who train together in Nashville. The club's elder, Ted Towse proposed a youngans' vs. seasoned veterans grudge match over 5000 meters at the Vanderbilt Invitational. I've always loved a good bet, so I was definitely in. The youngans' team was comprised of Connor Kamm (the 2010 D3 National 5000m champion), Ken Sullivan (3:45 1500m guy, who is getting back into it after starting law school) and Ryan Chastain (has run 14:34 and 3:48 1500m). All three of those guys weren't in great shape yet but if they were, the race just wouldn't be fair. They were going against myself, Ted Towse (one of the fastest old guys I know) and Jeff Edmonds (chasing PR's, despite graduating college 13 years ago.) I figured the race would be very close and would come down to the wire.
Mary had her teacher-of-the-year luncheon that day. When it comes to food, I can eat pretty healthy if "bad" food isn't there. But if it is...oh boy. Before it was all said and done, I downed a few pieces of fried chicken and had to sample the pecan pie, apple pie and the fudge pie (twice). I spent the rest of the afternoon with a full belly and was hoping it would disappear by race time.
I warmed up with Connor and Ryan and put on my first new pair of track spikes in about 10 years. I was seeded first, with a couple of other guys seeded under 14:50 but unfortunately, those guys didn't show up. I was hoping some college kid who just read "Once a Runner" or recently got a sweet new running tat would be pumped up and take the early pace. When the gun went off, I kept it relaxed and waited to see what would happen. We covered the first 200m in 34-35, which was the pace I wanted but I was hoping someone else would be setting it. I then accepted the lead, crossed the first lap in 69 seconds and then got focused on my quest.
My legs felt like they were turning over insanely fast but I felt in control. I continued to click off the 68-69 second laps and ran the first 1600m in 4:35. The second 1600m was much of the same but after about seven laps, I started to feel the beginning of the wobbly legs and lung-searing burn that the 5000m requires. I went through 3200m in 9:11, which gave me a 4:36 second 1600m. I then knew sub 14:40 was in the cards and made my assault on 14:30.
Over the next two laps, things went from primarily in control to misery. While training for the long events, I try to train myself to stay relaxed and press through things but in the 5k, things are forced and you must make them ugly. They say lack of conditioning will make a coward of us all, and that statement became true. I quit worrying about my time and just wanted to be finished. Instead of making a run at a potential sub 14:20, my goal was now just to set a new PR. My legs hurt, my breathing was going down hill and I felt every bite of fried chicken and pie in my stomach,.
I crossed the line in 14:26, giving me a three second PR. I was a little bit lukewarm about it at first, but after reflecting, it was a decent performance. I think going from feeling good to being in pain so quickly shows I'm not in great 5k shape. When you are fit for an event, you don't go from white to black like that. You're able to hang in strongly and stay in the gray portion for quite some time. And if the weather was 10 degrees cooler, along with having some company the entire race, I felt like that 14:26 would have been a 14:10-14:15.
Ted and Jeff also had strong races but we ended up losing the bet to the youngans' by a mere four seconds. Before the race, I pegged Ken at around 15:30 but he showed me up with his 15:16 to spoil our parade. Overall, it was a fun race. I felt a little bit like a lab rat in a cruel experiment and much prefer the openess and freeness of the roads, but I'll return to the track again at the Music City Distance Carnival on June 2nd. Maybe I'll be able to get another 5000m PR this year.