When I started running a couple of years ago I had little to no interest in running for speed. Upon entry to this world of running I was mesmerized with thoughts of spending as much time as possible running, in the woods, working hard; thus, I chose to pursue longer and longer distances (running a half marathon after 3 weeks of running, a 50 miler after only a year) without much attention paid to how fast I was moving. Only on one or two occasions have I gone out to the track and done formal speedwork, but that is all about to change- maybe.
It started the Sunday before last, April 1st, in Knoxville, TN where my family, coaxed me into day-before registration for a 5k race. You can read a little more about that here. In summary, I achieved a 7 second PR from my last and first 5k attempt, the Turkey Strut, in which I finished in 19:14.
A couple of days after this race I had worked up some real soreness in my shins. This was likely due in part to the fact that my legs are not accustomed to running quickly or on roads, but could have something to do with the running on the beach that took place in the days following the race. Sand tends to aggravate my lower legs...
The Bunny Hop 5k in Kill Devil Hills, NC (Outer Banks) was scheduled for Saturday (4/7), and I figured to give it a go despite the lingering soreness and see if I could drop the time down to 19 minutes.
The gun fired and, as always, I wondered why everyone was running so stinking quickly and why I felt the need to keep up with them... A quarter mile in, however, I had dropped back behind the 5 leaders with another guy at my side. It was a pleasure to run next to someone and develop a bit of a relationship in the short time we spent together. Just under the 1st mile mark he was breathing pretty frantically so I decided to speak to him, "Keep your body moving smoothly right on my heels, but focus your mind on your breathing and get that in check". In about 30 seconds he had re-calibrated his respiration and, having a watch, was able to share our mile split with me, a 5:52. It was faster than I had anticipated, especially given the amount of time early on in which we were victim to the morning's 20 mph winds.
I did most of the pulling for the next mile, cruising down a hill with the wind at our backs, winding alongside the sound until we reached a greenway. I think we were both surprised to see that our second mile had been run in 6:11- we felt we'd been working harder than that. About half a mile later we came to a turn around on the greenway. I was slow to accelerate after making an about-face and he snagged a couple of seconds on me right away. An uphill into the strong gusts welcomed us as we turned off the greenway and it made my partner-turned-rival seem lightyears away. After the climb my legs felt as if all the speed had been sucked out of them so I enlisted all the support I could garner from my core and just focused on pumping my legs through the final bit. I'm not sure exactly in what time the 3rd mile was run, but it was faster than the second and I was able to finish 7th overall and grab a 40 second PR, making my time 18:27.
I was pretty astonished when I found out the time. There was no clock at the finish, and my ears probably weren't working when it was announced and I was pushing myself through, but I had figured it was right at 19:--, maybe over maybe under. Needless to say, this effort did not improve upon the state of my shins and, surprise surprise, worsened them. But it did open up a door for me to dream, if I complete speedwork with regularity, stay healthy, and run hard, just how fast could I run? Perhaps after the Run Rabbit Run 100 in September I'll turn my focus toward training for a Turkey Strut, but right now I need to focus on that beast of a race and I don't think that quarter repeats are going to be that integral to my success there.
Something that caught my interest and excited yet frightened me about running these 5ks is that no matter how well trained I am, as long as I'm running the very hardest my fitness will allow, be it shooting for 19:00, 18:30, or 17:00, it is always going to be, relatively, just as grueling and difficult, every time. That is awesome, because even though during these 5ks I had cursed the activity more than once, it is so so gratifying to truly bust your gut to try to accomplish something that seems out of reach.