This year I was shooting to go sub-17 on a course that is mostly flat leading to a long climb at the finish. The previous years' results were 17:45 and 17:30ish progressively. I also knew that I did not want to sell myself short, so I was going to run aggressively at the start and see who was there one mile in, to hang around and race the remaining distance.
On the count of "three" we were off heading toward the downhill start. Out of control was the theme here and I seized the lead early. Halfway, through the hill I was passed for a short time but quickly used the control fall to reach the flat of the course at half a mile, in the lead. It was not long until I heard nothing but my own steps and my own breathing.
Slowly the burn was beginning. I ran right on this edge, pushing when I could and relaxing back when the waters seemed to be boiling too soon. Approaching the halfway turnaround I threw in a surge to get as big a gap as possible as I passed the oncoming, pursuing pack. For the first time I could see my lead was about 200m. I was getting tired, but still okay.
The next half mile was more reasonable. Gliding along to the 2 mile mark and having gathered myself for the final push, I knew I was the strongest hill runner on the course I wanted to reach the base of the half mile climb with a big gap and effectively shorten the course. So, I pushed and pushed and now, with the accumulation of effort- the burn began in earnest. Oh yeah- back to the 5k:)
Heaps of Pain
The acute burn begged me to ease off, but I was not going to listen. Recalling the hard hill running and fartlek training of the winter I celebrated the season of cold weather training by breaking out my best assault on this hill. For sure, I was getting heavy legged on the final third of the ascent but I knew it would be over in just a minute or so. I went as deep into the pain as I could go, exploring the acute sear. Relishing in the moment I had earned.
As quickly as the pain had come, I was across the line and tearing off my tag strip for the volunteers. Breaking the tape in 16:46, a :45 second improvement in my previous time on the course and the win:) 3 years in a row:)
I was left with the idea of running slightly over the edge, and how easy this can seem on the simple combination of base training, fartlek and tempo, over hilly courses. The resulting confidence makes the 5k distance seem like a blink of an eye. Greet your discomfort and realize it for the improvement it signifies.
Have faith in your fitness and use races to see what you can do with that fitness. Don't allow yourself to be complacent and run the same race each time out-
Farewell, Lovely Sirens, You've Served Us Well...