Friday, February 24, 2006

Breaking 20 minutes in the 2006 Superbowl 5K (Redondo Beach)

My quest to break 20 minutes in the 5K came to a halt Feb 5th.

Even though I had been in better shape some 18 months ago, and had a personal best race, in 10 miles, that suggested a sub-19:30 5K, I did not get to race one until three months later, in early February 2005. The problem then was that I came with a stubborn upper respiratory infection that lasted four weeks and my legs did not see any training. Attempts to get back into shape one week before the race proved futile. My only wish was to average 7 mpm pace last year. I managed to cross the finish line in 21:39, a far cry from my worst 5K (20:08 and my first one, circa June 2000). I should note that in 2005 3rd place in my AG was 20:07.

I had raced this event three straight years. The clock said 20:06 in 2003, 20:05 in 2004 and 21:39 in 2005. This year I was in really good shape, or so my training log seemed to imply. After all I had been averaging over 40 miles per week with at least three quality runs: tempo, speed dork, and the long run.

My last speed dork took place on a bike trail marked every half-mile. Here, it was tough to gage pace and I ended up running 2:52 for the first repeat; my lungs were burning and with good reason for I had been doing them in 3:00 flat with a 90 second interval rest on a 400-meter track. So I knew that if my lungs ‘burned’ during my upcoming 5K it was time to slow down. I ended up averaging 2:55 for the six repeats I did that day.

One thing that came handy in this race was a tip my namesake munoz-del-rio gave me a few years ago, and that was to check my pace at 400 m and to adjust accordingly. The problem was there was no marking for 400 and having no measuring wheel I ‘guesstimated’ by walking 5 minutes, figuring I walk about 20 mpm. I made a mental note of where this location was and decided that 95 seconds would be a reasonable time.

Now, having ran this race three times before is an advantage, for I felt I knew the course. I lined up just behind the first row. The horn blew and we were off. The landmark I had ‘marked’ came in at 87 seconds and I knew I was running too fast so I slowed down. We made a 90 degree turn about the half-mile point (mostly flat until now) which was a descent for the next 100 yards or so. Then another turn, still descending and then an ascent (about 3%) for the next 200 yards. My watch showed 6:15 for the first mile. Great, I am following what I was hoping to average. However, the second mile is either long or it’s rather difficult as shown from my previous 5Ks here. We continue on a moderate climb and I pass a few runners. We make another right-angled turn, which is downhill and make another turn, this time left, and start climbing once again. I pass a couple of more runners. The pace seems a bit too easy, closer to tempo pace. We pass the two-mile marker, 6:33. Oops, TOO SLOW. I need to really pick up the pace, but I know only an injury will prevent me from breaking 20. We continue on a mild uphill and make a 180-degree turn; I hate these turns. I pass another runner, a master. The downhill begins. I zero in on a teenager. I close in on her. I pass her and tell her that she’s doing great. No response. I plod on. Make an sharp turn. Slight downhill and hit my split in 6:08. 0.1 mile left and I know I have achieved a 5-year plus goal. BUT, in running, anything can happen. I make another turn and the finish line is within 50 or so yards. I see that I cannot catch a group of four runners, one of whom was in my AG. I cross the finish in 19:34 by my watch and 19:35 as shown by
the official results. So I lost one second to the officials; I can livewith that; after all, I am one happy dude.

I cooled down with two easy miles and headed to the beer garden. I checked the results and finished fourth out of 157; third was in that group just ahead of me with a 19:29... so no hardware for me :-( Oh well, the fast guns showed up as opposed to last year.