Sunday, June 10, 2012

Tier 1 or bust! (5k at NBB Twilight Meet #4)

A year and a half ago, I broke 18:00 in the 5k for the first time with a 17:40 at the JCCRI 5k, which qualified me to join New Balance Boston. It was a turning point in my running career, the moment when I first felt that I was really, seriously "legit."

In Fall 2009, I ran under 19 minutes for the first time. In Fall 2010, I ran under 18 minutes for the first time. I really wanted to run under 17 minutes in the fall of 2011, but I did not, and it has been a serious goal of mine ever since. To have my finishing time start with a 16 -- that would be unreal.

It would also mean that I would qualify as a Tier 1 athlete for New Balance Boston. (Follow the link if you care what the difference between Tiers 1, 2 and 3 is -- basically, more shoes.) The tier standards are nice because they give me goals in every race distance, from the mile to 10k. When I ran the 10k a few weeks ago, I thought the Tier 1 10k standard was 35:45, so I was thrilled to break it by 10 seconds when I ran 35:35. However, it turns out that the standard is 35:30. Oops.

As of this time yesterday, I was 18 seconds away in the 3k, 8 seconds away in the 5k and 6 seconds away in the 10k. Clearly, I get better as the race distance increases. I wanted to break 17:00 in the 5k because that would be awesome, but if I didn't quite do it, I could still achieve the Tier 1 standard of 17:05.

Saturday was warm and sunny. The 5k was the featured event and so was last, but the men's field was more elite than the women's, so the women's 5k was before sunset. Running well in the heat is not my strong point, but I was determined not to let it matter. This was my chance, and I was going to make it happen.

The race started and I tucked in behind Joanna, whose goal was to run 80-second laps and then pick it up in the last mile. My goal was a more modest 81-82 seconds per lap, but I knew that sticking with Joanna would be the right choice. We ran the first two laps in 81 seconds each, perfect. Then we caught up to Kristin B of the Dirigo R.C. and ran as a pack of four, including Ivette M. of CPTC just behind me. Kristin led on the rail, with Joanna on her outside shoulder, and then me on the rail on Joanna's inside shoulder, and then Ivette on my shoulder. It was very efficient.

Kristin took us through 1600 in 5:25, perfect. On the fifth lap I was telling myself, "this feels fine, one mile down and it's feeling easy, I can do this," but in the back of my mind I thought the pace was probably too slow since it felt so easy. Indeed, we came through 2k in 6:48, which was an unacceptable 83. Joanna passed Kristin and I followed suit, staying glued to Joanna's back.

Joanna led the next few laps (for our pack -- a few runners were well ahead of us and irrelevant to my race) and it was all I could do to stay focused on her back and make sure I stayed right behind her. When I tried to figure out our pace, I fell behind and then had to catch back up, so I stopped calculating splits. (Yes, I am a mathematician, so basic subtraction should be trivial -- and if I weren't racing at the time, it would be.)

I had calculated in advance the times I wanted for each 1600 -- 5:28, 10:56 and 16:24. We were three seconds ahead at the 1600, so when we passed 3200 in 10:58, two seconds slower than my goal, I knew we had been running significantly too slow. I passed Joanna and led the next lap in 80. After just one lap, Joanna passed me and took over the lead.

I was not paying attention whatsoever to what was going on in the rest of the race, but at some point Kristin and Ivette fell behind. We also passed Emily, in pink, who had gone out with the leaders but then slowed down enough for us to catch her.

We passed three laps to go in 13:01, which means I would have to run 3:59 for the last 1200 to get 17-flat or 4:04 for 17:05. We passed two laps to go in 14:22 and I knew I had to kick from there, rather than waiting until the bell. I passed Joanna and ran hard, holding her off all the way around the track. At the line, Joanna passed me again and built a sizable lead around the turn. With 300 meters to go she was well ahead of me, but all I cared about was running as fast as I could.

My time was 16:25 with 200 to go, and knew I could run under 40 seconds for the last 200, but probably not under 35. I kicked absolutely as hard as I could, and at the last second glanced at the clock just before I crossed the line -- 17:03. Well, that was that!

Joanna was not happy with her race because she had wanted to run 16:30, but I consoled her with the fact that she had helped me run a PR. She told me that if I hadn't pushed the pace on the ninth lap, she would have run 17:30. Considering that Kristin and Ivette ran 17:37 and 17:24, respectively, that assessment is probably correct. I just wasn't going to accept 83 seconds per lap; I was dead set on running 17-flat, and I was fortunate to have Joanna there to push the pace right along with me. (She ran just over 17:00.)

The aftermath of this race wasn't nearly as exuberant as after the 10k, probably because most of the people I was with had actually run the 5k and had their own performances to mull over, whereas in the 10k most of the people I was with had stood by the track and watched me run a huge PR and look good doing it (it always looks impressive when you run an even pace and pass people as they slow down).

Also, it's hard to get really excited about your finishing time (17:03.79)  being less than an arbitrary number listed on an obscure web page (17:05). On the bright side, every time I run with my Irish or Kiwi friends they ask if my race was a PB, and I was once again able to answer in the affirmative. No one runs PRs like I do! I am perpetually in the best shape of my life!

I also with two new people during the cooldown, bringing my 2012 running buddy count to 86. Pretty good for June 9.

Beginning of the race:

Watch more video of 2012 New Balance Boston Twilight Meet #4 on

The rest of this race (I am not in this video at all):

Watch more video of 2012 New Balance Boston Twilight Meet #4 on

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your new PB