Well, I got closer to my goal than I thought I could faster than I thought I could.
Yesterday I ran Milwaukee’s Summerfest Rock N Sole 5K in a personal best 20:12.
That time placed me 18th overall out of 1,645. Thankfully the event also featured a quarter marathon and a half marathon that kept the hardcore distance runners away from the short distance, which likely thereby helped prevent me from being bumped down the standings. It’s always a boost to the self-esteem to see yourself finish that high up in a race with that many people.
My time was also a mere 13 seconds slower than my desired 5K goal of sub-20. Considering that my fastest previous time, 21:21, came during a race last fall in the town where I live, and that I’ve had three slower races than that since then, I was beginning to wonder if I’d peaked with that 21:21 last fall.
Apparently not. Somehow I managed to best my best by 1 minute and 9 seconds.
Not only that, but I improved 1 minute and 42 seconds over my time in this same race last year. I ran last year’s Rock N Sole 5K in 21:54. It was fitting this year’s run there was the first time I broke 21 minutes considering last year’s was the first time I broke 22 minutes.
The course was mostly the same (the last 0.15 or so miles were slightly different—just a bit of a tweak to the finish line area, so not enough of an overall difference to have an impact), although the weather was different.
Temperature-wise, yesterday’s 5K was cooler than I’ve ever run a 5K: it was about 60 degrees at race time. It was also cloudy and wet from rain all morning leading up to the race. Last year’s Rock N Sole was about 79 degrees and sunny—and that’s despite a 7:20 a.m. start.
My 21:21 last fall came on a sunny day that was approximately 70 degrees.
Last year when I first started doing 5Ks, my trainer told me to track things like race-time temperature and the amount of rest I got to help determine my optimal state for running and use that to my benefit. (Also: food. But eating right has generally been its own separate thing in my pursuit to be as fit as possible.)
Let me tell you this much: tracking those things hasn’t helped anything. If anything, I’m more confused. I always seem to feel more comfortable running in warmer, and even hotter temperatures, but if I’m basing my results solely on race-time temperatures, these results indicate to me the cooler the better.
But not cold. In March I ran a 7K at a 7:18/mile pace. Race-time temp that day was about 28 degrees. Now I don’t believe the extra 1.2 miles to be that big a of a difference to prevent me from comparing my pace in that 7K to the pace of my 5Ks. My previous slowest 5K pace (excluding my first ever 5K, which I don’t count because I didn’t know what I was doing… not that I do now… but I DEFINITELY didn’t then) was 7:15/mile. Yesterday’s 5K was a 6:30/mile pace. My previous best was 6:45/mile.
This makes me wonder what my actual optimal running temperature is? 55 degrees? 50 degrees? Or is it really about the temperature?
Maybe it’s my training?
Or my diet?
It’s really hard for me to know. I recently moved across town, so my training took a hit a few weeks ago while I was doing that. I felt like I was squeezing workouts in more than focusing on my workouts. But this past week I worked out pretty hard. I set a schedule, maintained it, and focused hard on my workouts. I did everything right where that’s concerned. Which is what you want heading into a race.
At the same time, Stephanie’s really got me eating cleanly. We’re talking as much organic as possible, as many fruits and vegetables as possible, chia seeds in my water, and only healthy things. Even when she makes “non-healthy” foods, there’s no such thing as empty calories—nutrient-rich snacks, no bad carbs… the whole deal.
I can only imagine all these things—healthy food, good workouts, course familiarity, and cool temperatures—contributed to me getting so close to my sub-20 minute goal and setting a new personal record yesterday.
But now I wonder what it’ll take for me to achieve my goal?