I make three goals for every race: An A-goal that’s incredibly tough, but still
possible; a B-goal that’s lofty, but do-able; and a C-goal that draws the line between acceptable and “I shall weep into my free beer now.”
You never expect you’ll really need your C-goal, especially for a race as short as a 5K, which has far fewer variables than, say, a marathon. My C-goal for the Crystal City Twilighter 5K was to run it in 24 minutes and change. Indeed, I went 24-high (24:43, to be exact), and the goal became bouncing back quickly, because really, who wants to be the middle-of-the-pack runner who takes herself so seriously, she cries into her free beer over a rough race?
So I shook it off after a minute or two of disbelief, then had a blast at a cool post-race party with my running buddies. Steve, who was also about a minute off the time he’d hoped to run, did the same.
Read my full race review for Examiner.com here. Here’s how the race went down for me:
It was one of those runs when I just felt heavy from the start, like I had somehow gained 10 pounds from the car to the start of the race. But I shook off that feeling, and just enjoyed the sight of a horde of smiling runners, dripping-wet from the pre-race downpour, making their way through Crystal City. I used some of the positive self-talk I learned during my recent weeklong mind-games series , and felt pretty great.
Then, I passed the 1-mile marker — in 7:54. Um, excuse me? This is my go-to pace for a hard 5-mile training run, making it unacceptable for a 5K I’m trying to run quickly. My 5Ks have never been particularly speedy, and I consider it my toughest distance. But I can usually go 23 and change, which seems respectable enough to me.
To my credit, I quit trash-talking myself about this pretty quickly and picked up the pace, running the next mile in 7 minutes after my nice little warmup. I felt like death, though — hot and heavy and slow. I felt that way until the moment I crossed the finish line, where Steve was waiting for me with his own disappointment.
To be fair to my body: I have been laying low to get ready for Marine Corps Marathon training, eschewing the long runs and speedwork until August, per my running doc’s orders. And I usually do go slower in the heat. And, as my husband and I discussed after the race, spending the day laying out by our pool probably wasn’t the best way to rest up beforehand. I’m not sure why I expected to run a fast time, other than to say that I’m an eternal optimist.
Greg Dale, director of sports psychology and leadership programs for Duke Athletics, who I talked to for a story last week (for more of his tips, click here), says it’s important to feel disappointment about a bad race, then let the feelings go while thinking about what went RIGHT during a race.
And I did a lot of things right. I’ve got my pre-race nutrition plan down to a science, with homemade pizza for the last big pre-race meal, then a Luna bar or low-fat muffin with a latte about two hours before the race. I’m psyched that the prospect of running in the rain no longer annoys me or gets me down, because I’m back in the mode of training no matter what the weather. I also did a good job of shaking off that first slow mile, even though I ultimately didn’t save the whole race.
Most importantly, I did a great job of keeping the race in perspective. Steve and I had a great time with our running buddies after the race. Then, on the Metro ride home, we started looking for our next 5K.