Saturday, April 22, 2006


I had fun at the 5K today. I laced up my new, lighter Asics DS trainers (lighter than my Brooks Adrenaline boats with spongy insoles at least) and lined up alongside some of Tucson's fast runners without a single speedy workout in the legs, so I really had no idea how it would go. The plan: Get out fast but not too fast, get a good position, hold on for dear life and look for opportunites to move up.

The race went by in an anaerobic blur. We went out at a sensible pace, but mostly because we were running on sandy desert trails which don't lend themselves to 5 minute flat miles. I fell into the front of the second pack, and watched helplessly as the first group of 7 or so started to trail us off. It felt great to run fast, but the lungs and legs are not used to working overtime so I was pretty much at the limit when the first mile went by. Soon everyone settled in, and I was able to start clawing my way forward. I have some strength. I could tell this by the way I seemed to be able to pass people while clawing up steep hills on loose dirt or while sinking into deep sand thorugh the various desert washes on the course. It was only on the faster sections that I seemed to just tread water and not be closing on the runners in front of me. On the second loop, towards the end of mile 2 I passed another runner and found myself in 4th, though I couldn't shake him. I was faster through the tough stuff, he was quicker on the flats and downhills. We went back and forth a bit, then we came to the last big hill, where we ran up side-by-side and I surged ahead just after the crest. From there I just tried to keep my turnover up and ran it in hard.

I did finish 4th, though I only had time to run a mile cooldown before racing home in the car to get ready for work so I'm not totally clear on the results. Everyone else who stayed behind got to enjoy a potluck, a keg, and a great picnic atmosphere. Our team must have won the team competition, as our first 4 placed 2nd (Jason), 3rd (Dan), 4th (me), and 7th (Lucas).

The good: The team won, I can race in faster/lighter shoes and not kill myself, I felt strong (although I flailed a bit from the lack of coordination speedwork brings).

The bad: Positive splits (though that seemed the case for everyone given the course) of 5:29, 5:34, and 5:47 (update, I guess I ran 17:31, results are now online here). What's worse, I think I got psyched out. When I raced bikes, all I cared about was first place. Regardless of the pace, I would go with whatever strong move I thought would win the race and hold on for dear life. If I blew up and fell back, who cares, I was going for the win. Often I would make the move myself, even though there was always the risk of a counter-move coming and blowing my doors off. In running I just can't get there. In some races, especially when the Kenyans or some fast university kids show up, the leaders run away from me immediately and I have no chance of staying with them, even for a mile. That I can live with. Today wasn't like that. Today the three in front of me were just dangling within 5-10 seconds for the first mile and 10-20 seconds for the second. The three in front of me are certainly faster, all have 5K times that are well over a minute ahead of my best. When I got into the second pack and let them get away I guess part of me figured that's where I belonged in the race. BUT THEY WERE RIGHT THERE! So what if they're faster? Give it the gas, tag on the back and go for broke. So what if I blow up? So what if I get 10th instead of 4th and run 17:40 instead of 20-some seconds faster. Yes, my heart was in my throat but at least I could have tried to hang for the first mile. This isn't me saying I could have beaten any of those guys if not for my mental weakness and poor tactics, because judging by previous race times I'm not in their league. This is me saying I should have done everything in my power to put myself in the position to try to beat them, and in hindsight I probably didn't.

I can't get it back, but I can learn from it. If I want to run with the guys who have faster times, either they have to slow down or I have to speed up. I can only control one of those variables. The same Roosevelt quote I always go back to still applies- "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." Next time I go.

One last thing. This is where I'm supposed to keep my chin up and channel some "Lydiardisms" to make me feel better. I know I have lots of speedwork ahead, I know I will get significantly faster over the next 5 weeks. I know Lydiard training is all about timing your conditioning to peak at exactly the right time, and that those running faster at the beginning of the season will come back to me as I get closer to the end of my season. But the mental toughness should be there year-round.

Congrats to Angie, who PR'd on the same course today, as well as her husband Johnny, who had a good race despite wrecking his calf just in time for his next ultra.

Racing: 3 miles warm-up, 5K race, 1 mile cool-down


rarriola said...


Nice job today. Because of your finishing time and place, you get some super cool awards. First place in your age group gets you a $20 gift certificate here at The Running Shop. Plus, Dragons was the winner of the team division. You guys all get a $25 g.c. to Old Chicago. Neat!

Oh, and we think you need to run again this afternoon. 7 miles just won't cut it.


edinburghrunner said...

Good effort Mike, and definitely a good sign that you're looking for even more. Maybe at the same point in the next L cycle there won't be a group ahead of you?

angie's pink fuzzy said...

Good job Mike! I got two pics of you as you came to the finish - thanks for your cheers! I thought Johnny went faster than he actually did, so he was a little bummed about that ("I agggravated my calf for that?!), but I think he should be okay for ZG next weekend. Watching the guys finish was a blast!

Mike said...

Thanks my Scottish friend, I hope you're right. Randy, will 28 tomorrow do instead? I've got some heartburn from lunch. You and the shop did a great job. Angie, I hope I don't look as awful as I usually do near the finish, though I suspect I do. Good job yourself!

Eric said...

Okay, fine, you live in the desert right next to the mountains...but can't you run a flat 5k on pavement sometime? Please?!

As much as you are annoyed to have to wait five more months for me to run a marathon, I am equally impatient to see you fork and knife that 5000 time of yours.

Dragons! What a great team name. It sounds like you guys have a lot of fun. Cheers!

Duncan Larkin said...

Mike, you have a great attitude that is contagious. You ran hard on a tough course and you had fun. Nice ran man.

Paul said...

Nice race Mike. I can't wait to see how you do in the interval phase.

Yvonne said...

you know, I feel positively exhausted after reading your race report. i just can't fathom speeds like that...

good work, and even better write up. i love your intelligent analysis of your training and racing.

Blaxabbath said...

You are my favorite addition to Dragons.

Also, I think your kids are adorable.

Mike said...

Oh, Sebastian, you know just what to say! Sorry I didn't get to meet the whole team. Good job, especially after reading about the hydration schedule an evening or two before.