Sunday, August 29, 2010

No PR at Greek Fest, and that's fine with me

For the past several months, I've felt stuck in a rut when it comes to 5Ks. I've been frustrated. Things came to a head on Saturday: Despite a reasonably cool day (for August in the South, at least) and a flat, fast course at the Yiasou Greek Festival 5K in Dilworth, I ran a full 25 seconds slower than the PR I set back in May at the Right Moves for Youth Twilight 5K.

I hung around afterward, but laid pretty low. I like supporting my friends, but this was the second straight 5K in which I couldn't get down under 21 minutes after three races in the 20s; I was miffed ... and, quite frankly, a little embarrassed.

Then I happened to walk by the Greenapple Sports & Wellness tent, where I said a quick hello to Dr. Clay Gasparovich and Dr. G himself (Scott Greenapple). Dr. G was hanging out with Meagan Nedlo, who had just finished second in the women's race with a 17:05 but feared she may have developed a stress fracture en route. He asked how my race was, I told him not great, and he replied, with a smile (I'm paraphrasing here), "Well, you've got to stop all that marathon training."

In other words: If you want to improve your 5K times, you need to start incorporating workouts that are designed to help improve your 5K times.

By the time I got into my car and started driving home, my whole perspective had shifted. I recalled my last six 5K times -- 21:08 in January, 20:38 in February, 20:41 in March, 20:37 in May, 21:06 in July, and then the 21:02 this weekend. All within a range of less than 30 seconds.

I realized I'm not -- as I had feared -- in a rut. I've just peaked. Or, at least, this is as fast as I'm going to get unless I change my training habits.

For more than a year now, I've almost constantly been marathon-focused. I trained for the New York City Marathon, which was last November; then I went straight into training for Thunder Road, which was in December; then I did Shamrock in Virginia Beach in March and Rock 'n' Roll San Diego in June. Currently, I'm training for the Ridge to Bridge Marathon on Oct. 30. Distance has been my priority, endurance. I do some speed and tempo work, but it's focused on building marathon speed.

Of course, even if I did switch from marathon training to 5K training, I realize I can only get so fast, that there's a limit to my physical ability. Maybe it is in fact 20:37. More likely (hopefully?), it's about a minute faster.

But here's some context that has helped me put my recent times in perspective: In her past five Run For Your Life Grand Prix Series 5Ks, Danielle Crockford -- one of the fastest women in Charlotte -- has run 18:31, 19:10, 18:38, 18:49, and 18:09 at Greek Fest Saturday. She ran the 2009 Greek Fest in 18:20.

Or consider Bobby Aswell Jr., one of our area's top masters runners: 18:30, 18:24, 18:49, 18:50, and 18:19 at Greek Fest Saturday. At Greek Fest in 2009, he clocked a 18:22.

I started running a little less than two years ago, and for the first year-plus, it was fun to PR every time out. But that streak was never going to last forever. I mean, I bring up Danielle's and Bobby's statistics to demonstrate that not even the best runners around can PR in every race. They can only work as hard as they can work; they grind it out in training, and sometimes there's a reward and sometimes it's "Shoot. Maybe next time."

Anyway, a great weight was lifted off of my back as I drove home from the race on Saturday. I decided that one day -- maybe -- I'd like to temporarily dedicate myself to 5K training. One day -- maybe -- I'll take a break from focusing on longer distances. One day -- maybe, just maybe -- I'll get down under 20 minutes.

But I'm happy running the way I'm running, and training the way I'm training. So today, my friends, is not that day.

Photo by Mike Beigay (I'm waving at his 1-year-old)


Richard Hefner said...

Theoden... It's amazing how much my first two years of running has been similar to yours, and I too am in the same situation as you, except slower. After having run quite a few 5k's under 21 minutes and getting a PR of 19:51, I've settled into a steady stream of races about a minute slower. I'm currently training for the NYC Marathon and I think that's made me slower in the 5k races, but realistically, I've probably peaked. Bob Nelson mentioned to me recently that I needed to decide whether I wanted to be a good 5k runner or a good marathoner, because most regular people have a hard time being good at both. There are exceptions, of course, like Bobby Aswell, but most of us mere mortals probably do better by concentrating on one or the other. I think you and I are both still relatively new and running, and although the initial get-a-PR-every-other-week excitement is gone, there are still plenty of running adventures ahead for us.

Aaron Linz said...

No better example than Billy Shue. We was stuck trying to break 17 min while training for marathons. About 2 months ago he shifted his training focus to 5ks and the results have been fantastic. Billy had a great race at Greekfest and is now a 16.34 5k runner! Richard is on the mark with his comments.

Todd Daczkowski said...

I was in a "rut" early in the year when I ran about 4, 20:48s in a row.I started adding speed work and followed a program to lower 5k times,and It worked at knocking 30-40 sec off.Only problem was my training was starting to become like work.Now I'm in a new 5k rut cause I started running 8,10,and 15k races,and always choose trails over road.I upped the mileage and s-canned the track work,and yadda yadda yadda.
I echo Richard.A new guy like me is still trying to find his way.I can enjoy being a jack of all trades but I started racing way to late in life to be a master at any race distance or style.
Now I have commited to 2 trail half marathons on the horizon and the training woes are starting all over again.
Just give me an 8k trail race every Saturday and I will be a happy camper.

Danielle said...

If you want to run the best time you're capable of, you need to focus on training specifically for that event. Most of us don't do that because there are so many things and races we want to do. I am very guilty of that "sin."

Ruts are really difficult to deal with, but everyone does at some point. Mine started in mid-April and it appears finally has ended after a good run (new pr!) at Greekfest. That is a long time. I'm sure my running friends were tired of the 4 months of complaining, but they helped to constantly remind me to keep plugging away, do the training, and don't get down on yourself. The times will come.

You've made amazing progress so far. Your problem now is your PR is too fast to easily beat :) I still think sub-20 is in the not too distant future! Thanks for the very important reminder that not every race can be a PR (well, unless you're Chad, Billy, or Alice) but that's ok.